Let’s Talk About Joe Kelly and 2014 Cardinal Pitching

There aren’t many blog posts in Cardinal nation out there that wanted to talk about Joe Kelly in May or June.  He wasn’t a hot topic like Matt Carpenter or Edward Mujica.  That’s because he was as well hidden as Roman Polanski for three months this season.  He worked out of the bullpen but looked like a disgruntled coal miner when he hit the mound.  Finally, last month, he was utilized.   He was inserted into the rotation when the world found out Chris Carpenter wasn’t coming back.   Since July 6th, Kelly is 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA.  He has been the Cards best starter by far.  He isn’t easy to watch at times, but the good thing is the man pitches his best when under pressure.  With men on base, his ERA drops.  He is the Allen Craig of pitchers.  With empty bases, he sort of tunes out.   When men reach base or worse, get into scoring position, he turns into a freak and shuts it down.  Today, he threw another solid performance on the board, shutting down the Cubs for 6 innings and helping his team win 4-0 at Wrigley.  A day after our team was shut out badly, Kelly takes the mound and rights the ship.   His last three wins have come after losses.

He is the stopper right now.  That is due in part because the team won’t score runs for Adam Wainwright and because the rest of the rotation is inept or just bad at winning games or overmatched.   Kelly is the man for the time being.  It probably won’t last and he won’t win pitcher of the month honors but this team may look uglier without Kelly this past month.  We may be in third place.   That’s an important guy that was wrongfully snubbed for 3 months.   After serving his purpose in 2012 in the rotation and pen, Kelly was passed over in 2013 for young guns John Gast, Tyler Lyons, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez.   Finally, when the Cards knew their hail mary Carp comeback was going to fall short of the end zone, they inserted Kelly.  He has been aces every since.  He isn’t a shutdown arm.  He won’t throw complete games.  He puts a lot of guys on base but he gets out of innings unscathed.  When was the last time Kelly was truly shelled in a start?  Call it.  It’s a rarity.  He is the reliable arm who gets zero attention because he doesn’t strike out 10 batters or dominate.  He is a blue collar rotation soldier.  In his last 9 appearances, all starts, starting on June 21st, Kelly has only allowed more than 3 earned runs in 5 innings or more twice.  It came on July 6th against the Marlins.  He beat the Cubs at Wrigley on July 12th.  He pitched shutout ball for 6.1 innings in Atlanta on July 27th and got nothing for it.  He won the lone game of the series against both the Pirates and Dodgers.  On Sunday, he allowed 4 runs to the Cubs in 5.1 innings but didn’t blow the game.  Today, he pitched 6 innings of shutout ball at Wrigley, a place where many Cards starters can’t seem to pitch well in 2013.  What he does isn’t pretty but Joe Kelly has been solid during a time where the rest of the team has struggled mightily.  He is worth talking about for 2014 or he may help net you a great shortstop in a trade.  Other teams can’t be blind to Kelly’s success in limited duty that can be stretched between the mound and pen.  The only true knock on Kelly from me is he walks a few more guys than I’d like.  55 K to 29 BB.  That’s not horrible but not too sharp either.  Still, he is a perfect 5th starter.

2014 will be interesting.   The sure things are(if Jaime “Band aide mind” Garcia makes it back fine) are Waino, Mr. Garcia, and Shelby Miller.  I still don’t consider Lance Lynn to be a lock for next season.  He could be trade bait.  He has a nice W-L record but he gets a lot of run support and fades in the second half.  He also lets a sudden round of misfortune affect an entire inning because he isn’t mentally strong.  He walks too many and likes to strike guys out too much.   I like him as a 3rd or 4th guy but not sure he will be here in 2014.  So you have Lynn and Kelly.  Michael Wacha may well be in the rotation in a week if Westbrook fades deeper into veteran oblivion and he keeps firing zeroes in the pen.  Martinez, Gast and Lyons are also there.  Total, not including the 3 certainties in the rotation, you have 6 starters hanging around in Lynn, Kelly, Wacha, Martinez, Gast and Lyons for 2014.  The Cards don’t need starting pitching or bullpen help in 2014.  They are set.  The real problem will be what to do with Edward Mujica when Jason Motte returns in April/May.   Mujica has been sharp and filled in well but the closer job is Jason Motte’s because he is paid that way and earned it with his work in 2011/2012 playoff runs.  Mujica could make good money on the open market as a closer so I doubt he comes back to the Cards knowing he will be headed for the 7th inning bridge role again.  That’s fine.  The Cards have a surplus of starting pitching that will seep into the bullpen.  This is where they will trade from in the offseason to acquire a shortstop.   Carlos Beltran can come back or not, but this team needs a legit shortstop.  Especially if they do lean on Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong for larger roles in 2014.  Pete Kozma and Ryan Jackson aren’t going to do it.  Daniel Descalso is a solid bench guy who can play 3 positions.  He is a keeper.  The offseason mission is deciding what to do with the end of your rotation and what shortstop you go after.  I still like the idea of making an offer for Jimmy Rollins.  Short term deal, more money than you’d like but less liability.  The Cards, once again, have very good problems to figure out.

Back to 2013.  Michael Wacha has pitched 3 innings out of the pen and struck out 7.   He looks good down there but still values higher as a starter.  Tyler Lyons is in your pen now as a long lefthanded arm so the Cards don’t have another blowout like the Miller Line Drive game.  They have Wacha and Lyons down there who can throw 2-4 innings if needed.  That’s the good thing about keeping those guys down there in the pen.  BUT….do you really give Jake Westbrook in the rotation after his last 3 outings.   Let’s say the Cards win the next three and you are going for a sweep in Milwaukee on Wednesday.  Does Jake really make that start?  He gets banged up in the first inning so you can have Wacha and Lyons on call but still be down 4-0 pretty quick.   I don’t see why.  I’d rather have Lyons or Wacha make that start but it won’t happen.   I am loving my stats lately but already gave them on Jake last night.  Let’s spin it this way.  HE SUCKS lately.  Not good.  Not worth it.  At all.  If he makes another start and stalls or puts his team in danger of a winning streak being broken, he must be banished to the back of the bullpen.   This is the majors Mr. Mike Matheny.  Your loyalty cost the Cards early on with Mitchell Boggs. Please don’t let it cost us late with Jake Westbrook.

The END!  1300 words on this team when I didn’t think I’d break 600.   That’s baseball.  That’s life in the summer for a Cards fan who likes to write.  Now I am ordering Louie’s pizza, getting the kid in bed, and considering watching some preseason football.   Goodnight folks.

-DLB

United Cardinal Bloggers

Wednesday Radio hits at 4pm on The Last Call at http://www.redwolfrollcall.com

@buffa82 on Twitter

 

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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