(The Chirp) -- When it comes to pitching, the 2013 season has certainly been a story of two staffs. While the Cardinals continue to have issues with their relievers, the starting rotation has been outstanding. Over 90.1 innings the Cardinals starting rotation of Wainwright, Garcia, Lynn, Westbrook and Miller have delivered a collective ERA of 2.19, which is second in Major League Baseball.
But on the other hand, the relief corp continues to rank dead last at the bottom of the league, with as staggering 6.08 ERA over 12 games. Of note, the bullpen has only recorded two saves on the season.
But back to the starters. Wainwright goes tonight against the Phillies. He's 2-1 and is coming up of Saturday gem, a complete game shutout over the Brewers. Garcia is 1-0, but should be 3-0, with two of the wins coming of the road where Garcia has traditionally struggled.
Lance Lynn is still trying to hone his mechanics. His record of 2-0 is nice, but his ERA (5.40) is a bit of concern. Lynn's success has also been anchored by the recent offensive explosions.
The surprise so far this early in the season has been Jake Westbrook. Westbrook has pitched 15 and 2/ 3rds innings so far and has an ERA of 0.00. His last start was washed out in Pittsburgh, but so far he has managed a few issues with finding the strike zone (10 walks issued, compared to 4 strikeouts in two starts) by continuing to induce outs.
And then there is the story of Shelby Miller. Miller is a rookie but he appears to have the poise and confidence of a veteran. When we asked manager Mike Matheny about what he was seeing in Miller during Spring Training, Matheny said "more maturity."
I think Matheny is right.
And it appears that Cardinals baseball writer and blogger, Corey Noles agrees. Today he published the following article:
Rookie Shelby Miller living up to his billing
By COREY NOLES
Every year we hear about the next big thing in baseball. Names like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper get floated around each year. Some of them turn into super stars and some go by the wayside.
After years of hearing about Shelby Miller, the Cardinals are getting their first consistent look at the young right-hander and they have a lot to be excited about.
While there's still a relatively small amount of data to draw from, there are some interesting trends to pay attention to.
To date, Miller has made four major league starts over 24.1 IP. Here are a few tidbits about what we know so far.
Batters haven't figured him out
So far, batters seem to think he is borderline unhittable.
In 32 major league innings to date, Miller has surrendered only 20 hits - total. Opposing batters are hitting only .175 against the young right-hander. As they make their second round through the NL Central teams, some batters will figure him out, but he should still be able to dominate.
As for now, they don't seem to be able to get solid contact on anything he throws. To have surrendered only six runs and one home run overall is quite impressive.
He's definitely a strikeout pitcher
Shelby Miller isn't a contact pitcher. If that's what he's going for, he needs to get blowing baseballs past the hitters.
At this early point in his major league career, Miller has more strikeouts (34) than innings pitched (32). That's a good stat for a young fastball pitcher.
He seems to even have improved command of his off-speed deliveries, specifically his curveball. He's starting to use it more, but seems to be relying on it more for his kill pitch.
According to Brooks Baseball, he's getting swings on it 52-percent of the time and called strikes 23-percent.. That's a higher percentage than his fastball.
When he is looking for contact, which doesn't seem to be often given his 0.91 WHIP, the curveball has become his go to pitch. His changeup, while he's not throwing it often, is really improving as well.
As good as he looks, just remember, he's still growing as a pitcher. There will be struggles on occasion, but he has what it takes to labor through.
He doesn't seem easily shaken
Possibly the most inspiring thing we've seen from Miller so far is the fact that he seems to keep a level head on the mound.
He's not melting down after a couple of hits or giving up a run. Keeping his focus is a big deal for Miller and it's good to see him staying in the zone when he's on the mound.
Despite some of the concerns we read about coming out of Memphis in 2012, he appears much more mature at this level than I expected this early.
It's normal for young pitchers to have their hiccups, but he seems to have been humbled by his problems at Triple-A. That's good.
It's much better to be humbled in Memphis than in a St. Louis playoff race.
For now, he's doing what he needs to be: following his catcher's lead. Yadier Molina understands young pitchers and likely knows their capabilities and quirks better than they do themselves.
Miller seems to understand that and isn't shaking him off-not by order this time, but out of respect and a keen understanding for Molina's knowledge of the batters he is facing.
All in all, Miller seems to be living up to the reputation that Cardinals fans couldn't wait to see for the past three years.
Corey Noles is a Cardinals Writer and Columnist for The Daily Statesman. His work is featured in numerous publications, as well as both regional and national websites. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coreynoles.