Scout Notebook - Mark Mulder

One of the game's elite hurlers, the 27 year old Mark Mulder is the new Staff Ace on a team that had four 15 game winners last season.

After losing four straight games to the Boston Redsox in the World Series last year, the Cardinals clearly needed a dominate staff ace.

Despite a limited payroll, Cardinals' General Manager, Walt Jocketty was able to go out in the off season and get one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in Mark Mulder, to add to the rotation.

In December the Cardinals acquired the 27 year old, 6'6" left-hander from the Oakland A's for pitchers, Dan Haren and Kiko Calero along with one of the Cardinals' top prospects, catcher Daric Barton.

Mulder immediately steps in as the staff ace on a team that experienced much success in 2004, with four 15 game winners and just coming within two outs in their final game of the season of capturing the NL ERA title. The Cardinals finished second with a team ERA of 3.75 behind, yes you guessed it the Atlanta Braves who finished the season with a 3.74 team ERA.

It was Mark Mulder's strange season last year that someone at Sporting News described as a Dickens-like "Tale of Two Seasons." There was the first half, when Mulder looked so dominate that it looked like he was on his way to earning a Cy Young Award. Then came the second half and he looked more like a left-handed version of Matt Morris, rather than one of Oakland's Big Three. (Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson & Barry Zito)

What seemed like a nightmare for Mulder and Oakland fans may turn out to be a dream come true for the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans.

It's highly unlikely that even the 2004 National League Executive of the Year, Cardinals' GM Walt Jocketty, could have pulled off a deal that would have landed Mark Mulder in St. Louis, if Mulder had earned the Cy Young Award in 04.

Mulder (17-8) joins a staff that includes four returning starters from the 2004 National League Champions staff; Chris Carpenter (15-5), Jeff Suppan (16-9), Jason Marquis (15-7) and Matt Morris (15-10). Together if healthy, this rotation can match up with the best of them.

Pitching

When he is on, Mulder has pinpoint control, with his fastball and breaking pitches. He makes his living with his big-breaking curve ball, which has been described by Scouts as nearly impossible for lefthander headers to read and it gives right-handed hitters fits with it's last second break.

Mulder has one of the smoothest deliveries in all of baseball which makes his 93-94 MPH fastball very effective as it blazes past the unsuspecting batter looking for the slider, curve or changeup.

At 6'6" and with his deceptive delivery, Mulder is able to keep the batters guessing until the last micro-second, hence the key to his success.

Mulder doesn't get a lot of strike outs like you might expect by a guy his size and having the stuff he has to be a staff ace. It's because he'll use his sinker to get outs early in the count, enabling him to work deep into the game.

With a history of some injuries, on the disable list (April 12-May 10, 2002; and August 20, 2003 - remainder of the season), Mulder has never worked less than 150 innings a season in his major league career and he has topped 200 innings three times already.

Defense A potential Gold Glover, Mulder will add to the Cardinals up the middle defense when he is on the mound.

A groundball pitcher, in 2004 Mulder handled an amazing 60 chances off the mound and registered 51 assists, both extraordinary totals. He also is adept at holding runners with an outstanding move to first, limiting base stealers to about a 50% success rate in recent seasons.

2005 Outlook

Of course the Cardinals are hoping that the Mark Mulder of the first half (12-2 3.21 ERA) of last season shows up this season, instead of the Mulder from the second half (5-6 6.13 ERA).

Most pitchers would love to have 17-win season, so it's hard be too hard on the 27 year old pitcher. Clearly Mulder is a great pitcher and he has the stuff to bounce back in 2005 and prove that the second half of last season was just a fluke.

2004 Rankings (American League)

1st in complete games (5)

4th in innings pitched and fewest pitches thrown to per batter (3.46)

5th in wins, pickoff throws

8th in games started

2005 Projections

Games Started - 32

W-L - 20-7

ERA - 3.57

IP - 210

Hits - 190

BB - 48

SO - 153

AVG - .248

WHIP - 1.18

Summary

Mulder blames his second have struggles last season to mechanics and insists he wasn't injured. Early reports out of spring training are very positive as Mulder appears to be healthy and has demonstrated a command of all his pitches.

We expect Mulder to regain the form that made him a two time All Star, with the Oakland A's and for him to lead the Cardinals back to another National League Central Division title and hopefully all the way to the Fall Classic.

The Cardinals needed a dominate staff Ace that could take them deeper into the World Series, if they get a second chance.

They got one, it's Mark Mulder.


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