2007 Cardinals Rotation - Experience Wanted

The St. Louis Cardinals' projected 2007 rotation lacks the starting experience of nine of the last ten World Series winners. Given a winter of free agent near-misses, that includes their own club from 2006 to no one's surprise!

Experience matters. Intuitively, we probably all accept that without argument.

For any Major League club to secure each season's ultimate prize, a win in the World Series, just how much of that experience does a pitching staff need? A definitive answer to that question is bound to raise a debate on any street corner or message board around the baseball world.

I decided to look at this from a historical perspective, rather than try to make projections. Given the desired role is performing as a member of a major league starting rotation, that is the metric I chose to measure.

For the last ten World Series winners, I have listed below the number of career regular season major league starts the primary five rotation members had at the conclusion of their World Championship regular season.

For example, while Pedro Martinez currently has 375 career starts, he had "just" 321 at the end of the 2004 campaign. So, the latter number is what is listed for him for the 2004 Red Sox.

I then totaled the number of regular-season starts for each championship starting five at the time their World Series was earned.

Total  Starter Starter Starter Starter Starter
Ten -year average 927
2007 Cards Carpenter Wells Reyes Wainwright Looper/
Career starts* 574 258 207 48 30 31
2006 Cards Carpenter Mulder Suppan Marquis Weaver
Career starts 1105 228 199 301 137 240
2005 White Sox Buehrle Garcia Contreras Garland Hernandez
Career starts 779 172 218 72 159 158
2004 Red Sox Lowe Martinez Schilling Wakefield Arroyo
Career starts 1152 120 321 370 283 58
2003 Marlins Pavano Penny Redman Willis Beckett
Career starts 397 118 109 95 27 48
2002 Angels Appier Ra. Ortiz Washburn Sele Lackey
Career starts 851 377 91 98 267 18
2001 Diamondbacks Schilling Johnson Anderson Ellis Lopez
Career starts 933 279 391 158 17 88
2000 Yankees Clemens Pettitte Cone Hernandez Neagle
Career starts 1386 512 190 380 83 221
1999 Yankees Hernandez Cone Pettitte Clemens Irabu
Career starts 1107 54 351 158 480 64
1998 Yankees Pettitte Cone Wells Irabu Hernandez
Career starts 779 127 320 274 37 21
1997 Marlins Brown Fernandez Leiter Saunders Rapp
Career starts 783 277 229 143 21 113
* assumes 30 starts each

Not surprisingly, experience does matter.

With the lone exception of the 2003 Florida Marlins, every World Series champ since at least 1997 sported a starting five with a combined 779 career starts or more.

The most experienced quintet was the 2000 New York Yankees led by Roger Clemens and David Cone with almost 1400 career starts among the five. The ten-year average winning staff had 927 starts worth of experience.

The 2006 Cardinals, with Mark Mulder counted among the top five, came in at 1105 starts, considerably above the average. Substituting Anthony Reyes for Mulder (each had 17 starts last season) would drop the total to 924, almost right on top of the average over the last ten seasons.

Extending this analysis to 2007 paints a fairly bleak picture for the Cardinals, though. Whether Braden Looper or Brad Thompson is the fifth starter doesn't matter here, as the two have just one MLB start between them.

Even when generously projecting that every one of the 2007 Cardinals five will get 30 starts, their total MLB starting experience level at the end of next season would be just 574 games.

In totality, the Cardinals crew lacks the major league starting experience of nine of the last ten champions and its total is barely half of the previous year's club.

Unless anyone sees a 2003 Marlins-kind of potential here – the likes of Dontrelle Willis, A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett and the others – one could draw the conclusion the 2007 Cardinals rotation is simply too short on experience to make the grade.

Yet, the 2006-2007 off-season is not over. Simply re-adding Jeff Weaver to the mix would push the Cardinals' starting experience level to well over 900 games, which would closely approach the ten-year championship average.

Not to harp on what might have been, but here are the career start counts for four former free-agent pitchers the Cardinals pursued but lost this off-season.


Career Starts

Jason Schmidt 12 304
Randy Wolf 8 190
Miguel Batista 12 185
Vicente Padilla 8 144

Clearly, any single statistic should not be used alone to draw specific conclusions, but this data likely does nothing to ease anyone's concern over the tenuous state of the 2007 Cardinals rotation.

On a related topic, over on our Message Board, posters "mikdo" and "Jmodene1" led a recent thread considering the number of innings-pitched, ERA and health expected from the top starters during a World Series-winning season.

The theory presented, while still under discussion, is that the 2007 Cardinals rotation as constructed lacks the necessary depth to lead the club to a repeat World Championship. A by-product of the depth problem is that the bullpen will become overtaxed and significantly negatively impact the team's overall record.

While not identical to this analysis, as its focus is depth, rather than experience, the subjects are clearly related. Make sure you stop by the Message Board to join in the discussion.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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