Springfield Cards 2012 Starter of the Year

Seth Maness earned a 14-4 record with a 2.97 ERA and walked just 10 batters in 27 starts between Palm Beach and Springfield in 2012.

Starting pitching was an area of strength for the Springfield Cardinals during the 2012 season. It would seem devastating for a team to lose all its opening day starters to promotion, transition or injury by midseason, but newcomers continued to fill the roles admirably. 15 players made at least one start for the Cardinals during the season. Of those 15, only Jaime Garcia and Scott McGregor held ERAs above 5.00.

With the field as a broad as 15 starters and the cycle of pitchers coming and going through the Double-A clubhouse all summer, it can be difficult to determine who had the most impressive performance of 2012. We will narrow our focus to a few key pitchers who had a tremendous impact on the Cardinals' successful championship run.

Similar to the top reliever qualifications, I set minimum qualifications for pitchers to meet before I would consider them for top starting pitcher honors. The minimum criteria:

* Started 10 or more games during the season
* At least 60 innings pitched
* ERA less than 3.50
* WHIP less than 1.25

We want to make sure the starting pitcher spent significant time with the club in 2012 and was not simply called on to make a spot start here and there. Not wishing the downplay the significance of the need for people who can fill holes and make spots starts, but longevity within the level should be a qualification for the club's top starter.

As it were, seven players made at least 10 starts for Springfield. These seven starters include Scott McGregor, Tyler Lyons, Carlos Martinez, Scott Gorgen, Trevor Rosenthal, Richard Castillo, and Seth Maness.

Not only should be top starter have built some longevity at the Double-A level, but he also should be going deep into his starts. At a minimum of 10 games started, at least 60 innings pitched is a reasonable expectation, as it would work out to an average of six innings per start. McGregor fell under the minimum by just one inning, so he is eliminated from contention.

Reasonably, the top starting pitcher should be expected to able to keep his ERA at or below 3.50. When taking a look at Springfield's starting pitching staff, only three pitchers fell into this category. These three pitchers happened to be the same three who also met the minimum WHIP of less than 1.25. The three finalists who met all the qualifications are Rosenthal, Maness, and Martinez.

Now, we must take a look at each of the candidates to determine who had the top year.

Rosenthal earned a midseason promotion straight to St. Louis and now finds himself throwing in playoff baseball as recently as Monday afternoon. He provided a very impressive shutdown ninth inning against the Washington Nationals as he touched as high as 101 MPH on the radar gun.

Rosenthal's season seemed destined for the spotlight as he started the season making his Hammons Field debut as the exhibition starter for the St. Louis Cardinals. As the season began, Rosenthal was very impressive. He made 17 starts for the Double-A club, owning a 8-6 record with a 2.78 ERA. In his 94 innings of work, Rosenthal struck out 83 batters but also walked 37 and had several high pitch counts early in the season.

Martinez arrived on the scene as one of the system's top prospects and with expectations through the roof. Fresh off the disabled list into Springfield, Martinez's pitch count was watched very closely early on. However, when the hard-throwing righty hit his rhythm, he began to soar.

Martinez made 14 starts in Double-A this season, earning a 4-3 record with a 2.90 ERA. In 71 1/3 innings pitched, Martinez struck out 58 batters while walking 22. His most impressive start came in Game 1 of the Texas League Championship Series as he bounced back from a rough first outing in the playoffs. In Game 1, Garcia went seven strong innings, allowing no runs on four hits and a walk while also striking out seven batters.

Maness was the most consistent starter for the Cardinals in the 2012 season. After making seven starts and posting a 2.15 ERA with Palm Beach, Maness made his Double-A debut. Overall, Maness made the most starts and threw the most innings of any pitcher for Springfield in 2012.

After joining Springfield, Maness made 20 starts, posting an 11-3 record. The right-hander threw one complete game, adding to his 123 1/3 innings pitched during which he struck out 83 batters. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Maness was his control and his ability to get out of key situations. In those 123 1/3 innings, Maness only walked nine batters. For his consistency throughout the entire season, Seth Maness is being named The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Springfield Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year.

Honorable mention

John Gast - The lefty was brilliant in his eight starts with Springfield before being promoted to Memphis. In those eight starts at Double-A, Gast posted a 1.50 ERA to go along with a 4-2 record and a 0.99 WHIP.

Scott Gorgen – Gorgen made 16 starts for the Cardinals in 2012 but none more impressive than Game 4 of the Texas League Championship Series. He threw six innings allowing no runs on four hits as the Cardinals clinched their first ever Texas League Championship.

Boone Whiting – Boone only made two regular season starts with the Cardinals and in those two starts, he threw 12 innings allowing two runs for a 1.50 ERA. Those two starts were capped off with a clutch Game 5 performance in the Division Series, as Whiting went seven strong innings, surrendering just one hit and one run.

Link to master article with all 2012 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series.

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