Waino less, has become more of a problem

By Gary Kodner

Can the Cardinals get to the postseason without Adam Wainwright? Yes. Can they continue to defend their Central Division crown without adequately filling the void of Wainos innings? Not likely. Sure, the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series without Wainwright’s services for that entire season. The 1968 Cardinals won a pennant after losing their best pitcher in the history of the franchise, Bob Gibson.
Broadcaster Tim McCarver commented recently that “baseball is NOT a team sport”. I have to disagree with Tim. Baseball IS by design, a team sport. Pitcher-catcher, nine-man defense, base running, the double-play, hit and run, bullpens, pinch hitters are all examples of team play. And no team better represents the team concept then the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals stay competitive year after year without relying on a single, star player. There wins come from contributions up and down the lineup. Some one different stepping up to contribute to each win.
The Cardinals have remained in first place despite losing their “ace” pitcher for the season. My Seventh Inning Kvetch colleague, Larry Levin, said there is no reason to panic. The Cardinals organization is deep and successful in developing and deploying quality players to fill the gaps. 
But there is reason for concern. The Cardinals have inserted a couple of young prospects to take the mound every five days in Wainos absence. G.M. John Mozeliack is taking the least disruptive and cost-effective remedy by dipping in to the organization. Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons have made what can be considered courageous attempts, but fallen short of filling the void of Wainwright’s absence.
The biggest shortfall is innings. Waino, when healthy gives the Cardinals 200 plus innings over the course of a season. He goes deep in to ball games, pitching seven, eight or even nine innings on occasion. This gives the offense a chance to lead and sets up the bullpen to be used most effectively in terms of innings and prescribed roles.
We do have a problem. We do not have a Waino sub giving us any more than four to five innings, and in some cases, far less. Manager, Mike Matheny has used his strong bullpen to fill this large shortfall of innings. Yet this strategy has limits. It can be a recipe for disaster. MO and Mike know as well as I do that they will burn out this relief corps by mid-season. The signs of systemic bullpen stress are already occurring.
So what to do? Mozeliak is not going to give up the farm or mortgage the future to obtain an ace pitcher like Cole Hamels of the Phillies. Nor will he pay for the ridiculously high, long-term contract that a pitcher of that caliber would demand. Regardless, something has to be done, now.
1. Tyler Lyons? He has had a few starts, can’t pitch deep in to games, not ready for primetime… He is not the answer.
2. Exercise a little more patience–wait and hope that Gonzales or Garcia can be a productive answer… Big maybe.
3. Go deeper in to the organization? Sam Tuivailala? I don’t think so.
4. Make a trade? The Cardinals are actively looking. But for who? How much will it cost?
Given the rising level of competition in the N.L. Central and the innings piling up for their bullpen, the Cardinals cannot afford to wait. Waiting means risking blowing out the bullpen bullpen for the season.