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Opinion | Why the Cardinals should use common sense, and start Daniel Ponce de Leon

"Ponce" gives you a better chance to win than Michael Wacha, so stop fooling around, and make the switch. At the end of the day, it's the smart play.
Credit: AP
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon throws to a San Francisco Giants batter during the fifth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Saturday, July 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Common sense is often overlooked or taken for granted these days. 

For instance, a baseball team should put forth their strongest foot to win games, so there is a chance they play for the ultimate prize later this year. Right? 

The St. Louis Cardinals are creeping into negligent land if they don't let Daniel Ponce de Leon start baseball games when action resumes this weekend. It's almost too simple. 

In limited action, Ponce de Leon has compiled a 2.16 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP in 25 innings of work with the Cardinals this season. He's done this while being sent back and forth between Memphis, where he has put together a 3.90 ERA in 11 starts with the Redbirds. In three starts with St. Louis, he has allowed a measly run in 15 innings while striking out 16 and walking eight. The walks are high, but they have gone down in recent appearances. With more work and consistency, they could continue to shrink. 

Here's the thing. He needs more work as a starter, because that's what he is and should be. Ponce de Leon was a starter before a baseball was lined off his head, and he's a starter today. If the Cardinals would stop messing around with his role, maybe he could settle in. Instead, he's the guy who slots in while the other troubled one tries to get right. The man is probably torn between barbecue, the blues, and square-cut pizza. 

The other guy is Michael Wacha, who has a 5.54 ERA with a WHIP of 1.64. I mention WHIP because it tabulates how many walks and hits a pitcher allows per inning. Wacha is putting on close to two, while the mean of Ponce's 0.92 mark here and 1.43 Memphis number puts him closer to one guy on base per frame. Less trouble on the bases usually means less runs. 

Per Fangraphs, Ponce de Leon is allowing less line drives, more medium contact, and striking out more batters than he ever has. He primarily throws fastballs, but like Lance Lynn, can mix and match his speeds and locations. He also throws a changeup and curveball on occasion, but his bread and butter pitch has cheddar on it. Hitters aren't having too easy of a time with him in 2019. 

Pitching may not be the team's biggest problem, but why let Wacha waltz out there and create more damage? Sure, he was good in recent starts against San Diego and Los Angeles, but he was abysmal against the Dodgers, Cubs, Pirates, Royals, Phillies, and Mariners. Check his last 5, 10, or 15 games, and try to find a good ERA over five starts. It's like searching for a needle in a haystack. Why bet on that?

Ponce de Leon may backfire. He could start walking a lot of guys, get too much of the plate with the fastball, and be blistered. Or he could do well. He needs starts to figure that out. Remember when people weren't sure about Dakota Hudson in April? He needed time to develop a skillset out there and now thrives. Ponce de Leon is the guy now. Austin Gomber, Alex Reyes, and Ryan Helsley aren't ready, so let's take a look at who is. 

Some will say, "well, he can't swing the bat, so who cares?" Those people need to remember Wacha blowing leads, walking seven guys in one game, or putting his team down early. It can be better, folks. Trust me. 

I can sling more fancy stats at you, or I can simply tell you Ponce de Leon gives you a better chance to win right now than Wacha. Run with that.

The Wacha experiment should be over, for all intents and purposes. The Daniel Ponce de Leon trial should be starting up. 

I mean, that's what common sense tells me.