If there is one main thing that I had to take away from the 2016 Cardinals' season, it's this: pitching.
Was the pitching good? Yes. Was the pitching bad? Also yes. The pitching that the Cardinals provided in 2016 was a true definition of a rollercoaster ride. There were pitchers that opened the eyes of many, and there were pitchers who didn't execute as well as the Cardinals have been known for.
Here, I will be breaking down who shined bright and who was an upset throughout the 2016 season.
*All statistics are from the 2016 season unless otherwise mentioned.
There is zero doubt in my mind that Martinez exceeded everybody's expectations this past year. The 25-year-old showed true leadership within the clubhouse, despite his younger age. Not only does Martinez have an outgoing and bubbly personality, his pitching also soars above and beyond. I know I praised him a lot in my last article, voting him in as the Cardinals' best pitcher of the season. But I love him and I want to brag about him more.
Although he didn't have the lowest ERA (3.04), he had a 1.22 WHIP and contributed nicely with a 3.61 FIP. If you paid any attention to the Cardinals' defense this past season, you'll know that it was not very good. Although, Martinez maintained the struggles of the Cardinals' defense and fought through every game he pitched.
Martinez ended up leading the starting pitching staff in wins (16), ERA (3.04), and strikeouts (174).
This is the pitcher that I'm really pushing for when it comes to being in the starting rotation forthcoming 2017. Watching this 22-year-old rookie was such a treat to every Cardinals fan. Reyes dominated the pitching mound and showed why he was named one of the top 10 prospects in 2016 (Baseball America and BaseballProspectus.com).
In 46 innings pitched in the MLB, the rookie finished off with a 1.57 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. In all honesty, if I were a veteran in the MLB, I would still be terrified to face Reyes. Reyes has an attitude that screams "I know I'm good and I'm going to show you why." This youngster is determined to make it big in the MLB, and every fiber in my body believes that he can. If you don't think that Reyes has potential to be in the starting rotation next season, rub your eyes, clear your vision, and look harder. Reyes is going to be something huge.
What a blessing this man has been to the Cardinals' bullpen. Despite the struggles the 2016 bullpen faced, Oh was the glue that held all of the Cardinals' broken pieces together. In my previous article, I named him the Cardinals' best acquisition. The way Oh pitched in 2016 always gave me a comforting feeling. As mentioned, he was the glue. He was a solid reminder that things with the bullpen may not be so bad after all (until proven otherwise...).
Oh finished off 2016 with a 1.92 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Those two stats alone explain how robust Oh really is. A tip of the cap goes to any player who had a home run or even a hit off of Oh - because this man's pitches were hard to hit.
The idea of Oh being a starting pitcher is floating around. Keep him in the bullpen. Oh is one of the most ideal relief pitchers you could ever come up with. There are enough qualifiers for the starting rotation as it is. Our bullpen needs help and keeping Oh in there is a good start to fixing it.
It's hard putting our beloved Waino under "The Bad" category. Although, this past season made it a harsh reality that Wainwright did not do the typical "Wainwright things" we're used to. It's like stepping on a Lego when you look back at Wainwright's performance in 2016.
Wainwright ended up with a 4.62 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. These are not shiny numbers that Wainwright threw. Unfortunately, Wainwright had a fairly low WAR of 1.0 (Yes, I am aware that you shouldn't critique a player solely upon WAR).
On the other hand, Wainwright had a change of mindset later in the season. He mentioned in an interview that he changed a few techniques and took in a very disciplined mindset. After he told media this, you could see a slow improvement in his performances. If Wainwright keeps up with this mindset, he could possibly return with the Ace performance he always carried.
2016 was clearly a rough year for Garcia. With all of the injuries Garcia had in previous seasons, I was nervous for 2016 and had a bad feeling in my gut. Garcia had a this-or-that performance. He either pitched very well or very poorly - he seemed to have no in between.
Garcia had a record of 10-13 and ended up with an ERA of 4.67. I would be lying if I said that those numbers scared me. I had a nervous feeling in my stomach every time he started a game. I will always have that little faith in Garcia. When Garcia is good, he can be scary.
The Cardinals bought out Garcia for the 2017 season for $12 million (with a buyout of $500,000). Although Garcia pitched poor performances in 2016, his previous performances that were excellent might have given the Cardinals some hope that he would be better. Although, this raises an important question: Will Garcia start off 2017 in the bullpen or the starting rotation? His salary screams starting rotation, but his performance might also scream bullpen. I believe it all boils down to spring training - how well he executes and how well he proves himself to be a starting pitcher.
I asked my Twitter followers a question that is hard to avoid: Will Garcia be traded in 2017, or maybe even in 2016?
Out of 50 votes, 78% said yes and 22% said no. Only time will tell what happens.
No matter what happens to Garcia within this next year, I have full confidence that he will succeed in whatever uniform he may be in.
It may be a bit unfair to put Wacha in this category, given the fact that he came off an injury. But sadly, at the end of the day, this is not the Wacha that we came to know and love.
A Wacha start was another thing that made me fairly nervous in 2016. He ended with a dangerously high 5.09 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Out of 14 games, it was shocking that he had a W% of .500, as I thought throughout the season that it would end up being a lower percent. As much as I try to pull for Wacha every season, it was hard to this year. That's all I have to say about that...
ALTHOUGH, I am optimistic that Wacha will have a better season in 2017. Wacha would strive as a reliever. Then, maybe down the road, the Cardinals can fit him in the starting rotation. As it goes with any other player, it depends how well he executes in spring training. It is important that he has a "must win" mindset no matter where he ends up. I believe he would be great in the bullpen.
I banter about Rosenthal. A lot. I banter because I care. A lot of people think I "hate" him as a pitcher (which I most definitely do not). I want Rosenthal to be great...that just didn't happen this year.
Rosenthal ended up throwing a 4.46 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP. Anytime I look at his 2016 stats, I let out a huge sigh. Why? Because I know he's better than this. Again, it might be a little unfair to consider his performance "ugly" when he's coming off an injury. Although, it's difficult to pretend this pitching is sunshine and rainbows.
Rosenthal wants to be a starting pitcher. I get it. We all get it. And guess what? I hope that sometime in the future he becomes a starting pitcher. However, 2017 may not be the year. I don't want impatience to get to his head, nor do I want him to get discouraged. He is capable of being a great pitcher. I think 2017 is going to be a big turnaround for Rosenthal - as it will be for a lot of the Cardinals' pitching staff.
The Cardinals have a lot of work to do in the offseason and spring training. With hard work and dedication, this pitching staff can be scary and hard to beat.
Thanks for reading. If you don't already, feel free to follow me @Carly_Schaber.