Suppan - Worst Case Scenario

The Cardinals are expected to announce soon that they're exercising Suppan's $4 million option for next season. Worst case scenario? Will the Cards sign Suppan, only to ...

The Cardinals are expected to soon announce that they're exercising Jeff Suppan's $4 million option for next season.

Suppan had his best season ever in 2005 and no one seemed to noticed. Tagged the "Best Bang for the Buck", free agent, in 2003 by Birdhouse, before the Cards signed him, Suppan has delivered in his first two seasons with St. Louis.

Suppan finished the 2005 regular season with a 16-10 record and a 3.57 ERA. His 16 wins tied the career high wins total he set last season and his 3.57 ERA this year, was his best ERA, in any full season of his career.

There's a $1 million buyout attached, making it an easier decision for the Cardinals. Suppan will join Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder in next year's rotation.

No one seemed to notice, but down the stretch it was Suppan who was the staff ace. In Jeff's final 10 games of the season, dating back to August the 25th, he had a 6-2 record with a Gibsonsque 1.98 ERA.

Despite his strong second half finished, going 7-3 with a 2.78 ERA after the All-Star break. Suppan made only one start in the playoffs.

In the first round of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres, Cardinals Manager, Tony La Russa went with Matt Morris over Jeff Suppan. A move that was contested by many fans.

According to a lot of people, to include me, La Russa took loyalty too far by starting Matt Morris in Game 3 when Jeff Suppan would have been a better choice with Jason Marquis starting in Game 4 and Morris going to the bullpen.

It was Game Four of the NLCS, when Suppan finally did get into a game, as he took the mound against the Houston Astros.

In a game where everyone else seemed to lose their cool, Cardinals Manager, Tony La Russa and center fielder, Jim Edmonds, were both tossed from the game, while Suppan pitched a gem of a game. Allowing only three hits in five innings, and one earned run, it still wasn't good enough for Suppan to pick up the win. The Cardinals were unable to push across a second run in game four, putting them a step closer to elimination, as the Astros defeated the Cardinals by a score of 2-1.

Suppan, along with starter Chris Carpenter, were the only Cardinal starters not saddled with a lost during the 2005 postseason. Suppan, while only starting in one game, led the starting staff with a 1.80 postseason ERA, allowing only three hits and one earned run in five innings pitched.

Suppan, the 30 year old right hander, (he'll be 31 on opening day next season), has exceeded the expectations of the Cardinals front office in 04 and 05. With back to back 16 win seasons, Suppan will again be one of the "Best Bang for The Bucks", among starting pitchers in 2006.

In his first two seasons with St. Louis, Suppan has been there when the Cardinals needed him. In 2004 down the stretch Suppan won 13 of his final 18 decisions, and again he was the Cardinals best pitcher in the post season, with a 2-2 record and a 3.80 ERA.

Bernie Miklasz, of the St. Louis Post Dispatch may have described Suppan the best earlier this year. "Suppan isn't nuking bats with 95 mph fastballs. Overwhelming talent doesn't flow from his fingertips. He just grinds away, a hard-working pitcher giving his best, honoring his craft with constant professionalism. Suppan is reasonably content to be underestimated as long as he's given the starting assignment every fifth day."

On Suppan from outside the organization; "Intelligent baseball man," said Tony Muser, his manager with the Royals. "He studies hitters. He understands swings. He holds runners. He does all the things pretty darn well. You've got to be with Soupy for a full season to appreciate him. And I think St. Louis does."

The Cardinals do appreciate Suppan and in the best case scenario, he will remain a member of the rotation next season, behind Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder.

There fans can expect Suppan to still eat up a lot of innings (180-200) next season and finish with about 14-15 wins, and an ERA around 4.00,

Jason Marquis and Anthony Reyes could occupy the final two spots, but the Cards may try to re-sign Morris and then trade Marquis. They could also bring in a veteran or two to compete with Reyes.

Or there is a worst case scenario, that is, that the Cardinals sign Suppan and then because he has a higher trade value than Marquis, Suppan is traded for an outfielder and then Cardinals keep Marquis or Morris in the rotation.

Suppan's back to back, 16 win seasons and cumulative postseason pitching stats, a record of 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA in five starts, should go a long way in helping the Cardinals get back into the World Series, of course a little hitting, a little offense, wouldn't hurt the Redbirds chances either.

The bottom line is, the Cardinals need to get this deal done and move on to re-tooling the Cardinals, keeping Suppan in the rotation and moving Marquis, if necessary.



Ray Mileur can be reached at

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