Young Starters Dominate in St. Louis

Although they converged on today’s game in wildly different fashions, both the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates entered Busch Stadium finishing lost seasons. The Cardinals roster contained one of the most formidable front end starting rotations along with two of the game’s best players in Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, and they will be forced to watch the Cincinnati Reds play in October. The Pirates have been by far the league’s worst team, entering at 55 games below .500 and waiting for the merciful end of a six-month death march.

At least both teams received some encouragement this afternoon in the form of two excellent performances from the starting pitchers, P.J. Walters of the Cardinals and James McDonald of the Pirates. Walters earned the win, going seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and a walk and striking out four. McDonald received a tough-luck loss despite allowing only one run in six innings (on an Allen Craig HR) and striking out seven against no walks.

For Walters, this was merely building on a successful minor league season. Walters threw just under 125 innings for the AAA Memphis Redbirds this season, compiling a 3.81 FIP in the hitter friendly PCL and a very encouraging 8.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over that stretch. Walters doesn’t have much in terms of velocity – his fastball averages around 88 MPH – but he flashes a curveball, a changeup, a slider, and a cutter. With that arsenal combined with solid control, Walters has seen success at every level, most notably in 2009 and 2010 at AAA.

For McDonald, this is just more of the same. As I wrote about two weeks ago, McDonald has done his best impression of an ace so far this season, and although he probably yields too many fly balls to keep up this kind of pace, he’s showing the potential to at least become a top-half of the rotation starter, something that will be key to McDonald’s success. After today’s start, McDonald has struck out 61 batters and only walked 24 in his 64 innings as a Pittsburgh Pirate. It’s hard to imagine that Neal Huntington could have imagined much more when McDonald was acquired at the trading deadline.

Of course, each team did have a relatively poor lineup on the field today, as can happen in late September with expanded rosters. The Pirates, although they’ve played better of late, aren’t a good offensive team, and the Cardinals were sitting their superstars Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Still, these performances are impressive against Major League lineups of any quality, and both clubs must be very happy with their young arms today.



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Dick Dave
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

MLBtrade rumors is a shit baseball website. Go Fan graphs!

Pip
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

Yeah, Tony La Russa was really geeked up about Walters’s performance. He talked about how he varied his approach to each batter as he went through the lineup multiple times. I like Walters to contend for a rotation spot in 2011.

Bad Bill
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Bad Bill
5 years 10 months ago

“Walters has seen success at every level.” Well, every level but MLB, that is. His ERA entering tonight’s game was close to 8, his WHIP was somewhere above 1.7, and he has had serious gopheritis. Maybe he learned something in Memphis; maybe he’s turned a corner and will be effective. It’s going to take more than one good start, and against the Pittsburgh B team at that, to convince me.

matt w
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matt w
5 years 10 months ago

The sad thing is that wasn’t really the Pittsburgh B team. Identical lineup that knocked Walters out in 4 innings his last start, I think.

Anyway, it’s only his fourth start or so; too soon to judge his MLB numbers.

matt w
Guest
matt w
5 years 10 months ago

Where by “knocked Walters out in 4 innings his last start” I mean “scored several runs off him when he pitched four innings of long relief after Kyle Lohse screwed the pooch,” of course.

Still, reinforces the point about his major league ERA — he hasn’t pitched that many innings, and they’ve included mop-up jobs like that.

Spock
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Spock
5 years 10 months ago

Jack:

Let’s not confuse thorough analysis with what can be construed as a thinly veiled attempt of PR pandering to get a job with the STL Cards front office when you graduate.

PJ Walters effort, while commendable, did come against a weak club within a weak division while playing at home.

Having seen PJ Walters pitch several times this year, this performance is an outlier.

For him to survive beyond being merely a AAAA pitcher, he will need to exhibit superior command & complimentary pitch sequencing as he simply does not have a MLB fastball to play “swing & miss”.

His best asset is to show his FB while changing speeds & locating his CB to precise spots within the strike zone.

So, unless he’s suddenly discovered the Greg Maddux formula to success, I’m not convinced yet to proclaim he’s ready for prime time.

I’d suggest you provide a deeper analysis, than PR, by digging a bit deeper with the pitch data available on this site.

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