Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 3/26/12

From today's season preview of the Cardinals...

Burning Question
Can a rotation headed by Adam Wainwright returning from injury still be one of the top staffs in the National League, even if Chris Carpenter misses an extended period of time?

Before blowing his elbow out last spring, Wainwright was one of the best pitchers in baseball. In 2009 and 2010, he topped 230 innings in each season, struck out more than eight batters per nine innings, and had ERAs under 3.00. He combined for 11.8 fWAR over those two seasons. As he makes his return in 2012, Wainwright will be hard pressed to repeat those results. Usually, it takes about 18 months for a pitcher recovering from Tommy John to revert to his former self, so Wainwright will probably be at 100% in 2013. If you like looking at spring stats (which I don't), he's struck out nine and walked five in 14 innings without allowing a run. So he's still working himself into game shape.

But despite Wainwright's return, the Cardinals will be without ace Chris Carpenter for an indefinite time. The bulging disc in his neck is sidelining him currently, and the rock of St Louis's rotation will not start the year with the team. Injuries are nothing new for Carpenter. He threw a total of 21 innings in 2007 and 2008, and missed all of the 2003 season as well. But the soon to be 36 year old has been healthy for the last three years and has stablized St Louis's rotation, accumulating 14.3 fWAR over 97 starts. Without him in the fold, and with a recovering Wainwright, it will be hard for the Cardinals to repeat their 2011 numbers, which included a 3.69 FIP, the fifth best mark in baseball.

The quartet following the recovering Wainwright in the rotation include Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, and rookie Lance Lynn. Lohse is actually going to be the team's Opening Day starter, after a 2011 season that saw him post a 3.39 ERA despite only 111 strikeouts. His 2.5 fWAR season came a year after a 92 innings, 6.55 ERA stint with the Cardinals. The 33 year-old is probably a good bet to regress in 2012, as his 3.67 FIP was only the second mark below 4.00 in his 11 year career. His 0.76 homer rate was also a career low. Maybe he's finally putting it together late in his career. Or maybe, it was a flash in the pan and he'll go back to being the same old Kyle Lohse in 2012.

Garcia is the real gem in the Cardinals rotation past their frontline of Carpenter and Wainwright. The 25 year-old has two full seasons in the majors, and each have been 3 fWAR seasons. He was plagued by bad luck last season, with just a 66.8% strand rate, but still managed to post a 3.23 FIP. Westbrook on the other hand, was pretty much a disaster, relegated to the bullpen during the playoffs. He struck out only 104 batters despite not missing a start all season, and walked 73. The 34 year-old is pretty much the definition of league average, and you know what you're getting out of him at this point. Expecting him to have a renaissance as someone like Carpenter has is asking for a little too much.

Lynn is the wild card of the bunch, The 24 year-old was a beast for the Cardinals late in the season, mostly residing in the team's bullpen. He struck out 40 in 34 2/3 innings, and only walked 11. In AAA last season, he struck out 64 and walked 25 in 75 innings. I think at worst, he'll be a league average arm. Another young arm for the Cardinals, Shelby Miller, could make his debut later in the year after being cut early on this spring.

The general sense I'm getting from looking at this Cardinals rotation is that they're in for some hard times if Carpenter misses a substantial period of time. Wainwright is still getting fully right, and expecting him to perform like he did in the two years prior to his arm surgery is a tall order. Garcia is an exellent young starter, while Lohse and Westbrook look like they're nearing the end of time. Lynn and (eventually) Miller are young wild cards that could perform very well, but could also struggle and require more seasoning.

I don't think the Cardinals are going to have a top of the line rotation in 2012, with or without Carpenter. With him, they could be in the top third of the league. Without him, I think they're just an average staff.

[follow]

{loadposition content4}

This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Jonas Valanciunas, Greg Monroe get into it after hard foul

Steve Kerr present at arena in Game 4

Serena Williams fires back at Ilie Nastase’s racist comment about her child

Warriors F Kevin Durant to play in Game 4 against the Blazers

Magic Johnson will represent the Lakers at NBA Draft Lottery

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes suspended, fined for throwing at Manny Machado

Jerry Jones happy Tony Romo isn’t playing for another NFL team

Pitcher admits facing Tim Tebow is intimidating

Alfred Blue’s car discovered in Louisiana swamp

George told teammates he has dreamed of playing for Lakers?

Westbrook takes shot at Rockets for laughing at Roberson

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Where it went wrong: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 exits

20 of the best NFL Draft red carpet looks

Getaway Day: Wild, wacky and weird week in MLB (and that's just the injuries)

11 names you need to know for the NFL Draft

Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Best of Yardbarker: David Fizdale and the Grizzlies won't go down quietly

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Where it went wrong: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 exits

Getaway Day: Wild, wacky and weird week in MLB

11 names you need to know for the NFL Draft

Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker