Memphis Redbirds 2012 Starter of the Year

In a first for The Cardinal Nation, a player has won the same award at the same level for a third consecutive year. Brandon Dickson is again the Cardinals' top Triple-A starting pitcher.

When naming The Cardinal Nation/ Memphis Redbirds Starting Pitcher of the Year, it all came down to two names in the end: Brandon Dickson and Joe Kelly.

By 77 points, Kelly's 2.86 earned run average topped Dickson, whose 3.63 ERA was the second best of any pitcher who logged at least one start for the Triple-A club over the course of the season. When you look closer, however, the two posted similar numbers.

What becomes difficult in a decision such as this is the sheer fact that Dickson (141.1 innings over 23 starts) tossed twice the amount of innings compared to Kelly (72.1 innings over 12 starts), who was promoted to the St. Louis Cardinals in June. Do you penalize a pitcher for pitching well enough to get called up early? Do you reward a starter for posting consistent numbers over five months for the same team and amassing twice the amount of innings?

Looking at other numbers, opposing batters hit .271 against Dickson and .278 against Kelly. Both pitchers induced above-average groundball tendencies, evident by Dickson's 1.62 groundout-to-flyout ratio and Kelly's at 1.91. Dickson struck out 17.5% of the batters he faced, while Kelly fanned 15.1% of his opposition.

The difference in earned run average between both starters becomes clearer when noticing that Kelly surrendered only two home runs with Memphis, while Dickson coughed up 17. However, Dickson allowed only 27 free passes, which was only six higher than Kelly's season total for Memphis in half the number of innings.

It's hard to penalize a pitcher in Kelly's case for getting promoted halfway through the season that subsequently limited his inning totals, but this is a reward for the best Redbirds pitcher of the year and not the best Cardinals organizational pitching prospect.

Something has to be said for a hurler who posts a 3.63 earned run average over 23 starts in the Pacific Coast League where only seven starters with 115+ innings pitched had an ERA below 4.00. Dickson sat third behind John Ely and Yusmeiro Petit in ERA in the PCL, though his win-loss record of 5-11 didn't look pretty pitching in front of what was arguably the league's worst offense.

Consistency is a major reason why Brandon Dickson has been named The Cardinal Nation/ Memphis Redbirds Starting Pitcher of the Year for the third consecutive season. The right-hander was a stable force in a Memphis rotation that saw many ups and downs.

Dickson's 1.26 WHIP was seven points better than Kelly and ranked second overall on the Redbirds for any pitcher who had 50 or more innings pitched. The Alabama native also walked a team low 4.6% of the batters he faced, amounting to 27 walks in 141.1 innings.

The right-hander was the sole Redbird to participate the Triple-A All-Star Game when Barret Browning had to bow out due to his promotion to St. Louis. Dickson tossed one-third of an inning of scoreless relief in the game.

As consistency was the key to Dickson's season, his month-by-month ERA is as follows from April through August: 3.29, 3.60, 3.34, 4.44, and 3.25.

Brandon also saw brief time in the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen upon being promoted in mid-May and late-August, though he did not fare well in his relief appearances.

In what could be his last hurrah with the Cardinals organization, Brandon Dickson has spent the third season in Memphis as a consistent and viable part of a rotation in a league most suited for hitters. The 27-year old closes out 2012 by winning this award for the third consecutive year.

Honorable Mentions

Joe Kelly made a case for himself this season and was a big piece of the Cardinals success down the stretch. The right-hander had ended his stint in Memphis with a 2.86 ERA, yielded only two home runs, and posted solid groundball numbers.

Tyler Lyons was promoted from Springfield in June and went on to rack up strikeouts and post a 4.28 ERA over 88.1 quality innings, walking only 18 batters. The Texas native fanned 89 batters with mid-90s velocity and will likely return to Memphis to start the 2013 season.

Shelby Miller's 2012 season began with a rough first half. The Texas native and top pitching prospect turned his season around in July to earn a promotion to the Cardinals in September, making a few relief appearances and one dominating start in the final game of the year. Miller left Memphis with a 4.74 ERA and 160 strikeouts through 136.2 innings, the latter ranking second in the PCL behind Ely, who tossed 22 more innings.

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

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