Unlike most of the other award selections that preceded it, coming into the process, I knew the identity of The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2010 at the major league level. We all did. It has to be Adam Wainwright.
Though the accomplishments of the 29-year-old right-hander are considerable, Wainwright can also become the winner by simple process of elimination.
Adam Ottavino, P.J. Walters and Blake Hawksworth didn’t see enough time in the role. Brad Penny started out strongly before a somewhat-mysterious shoulder ailment ended his promising season prior to Memorial Day.
Kyle Lohse went down with injury the day after Penny. While Lohse returned for the final seven weeks of the season, his pitching was inconsistent. Former Cardinal Jeff Suppan was added to help fill some of the gap, but also missed time due to injury and can no longer go deep into games.
The Lohse-Penny uncertainty directly led to the acquisition of Jake Westbrook at the July 31 deadline. While the veteran right-hander was solid, he received substandard run support and his record suffered as a result.
Of the ten starters in 2010, we are down to rookie Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter and Wainwright.
Garcia certainly made the most progress year-to-year. Not even thought to be ready to make the team coming into camp, Garcia locked down a rotation spot in spring training and never looked back. His 13 wins (against eight losses) was tops for a National League first-year player while his 2.70 ERA makes him a legitimate Rookie of the Year contender.
At the other end of a stellar career from the first-year player Garcia, Carpenter still showed he has plenty of fuel remaining in the tank. At age 35, Carp remained healthy and productive, leading the league in starts and placing second in innings pitched while logging 16 victories.
Wainwright stepped up to a higher level of performance to become the staff’s true ace in 2010. The right-hander finished second in the NL in wins (20), ERA (2.42) and complete games (five). He tied for second in shutouts, was third in innings pitched and fourth in strikeouts, while allowing the third-fewest walks per nine innings.
After coming close in 2009 with 19 victories, this was Wainwright’s first 20-win season. It is a milestone Carpenter reached once, during his Cy Young Award season of 2005. Both Wainwright and Carpenter were named 2010 National League All-Stars.
They each experienced bumps in the road, however. Wainwright and Carpenter seemed to run out of gas together beginning in mid-August as the Cardinals slid from contention. Over is nine starts between August 14 and September 25, Carpenter went 2-6 with one no-decision and a 4.60 ERA. Wainwright’s rough period overlapped, but was six starts in duration compared to Carpenter’s nine. Between August 18 and September 14, Wainwright went 1-5 with a 4.73 ERA.
Wainwright looks to improve from his 2009 third-place showing in the NL Cy Young Award voting to perhaps second in 2010, but that six-start slip most likely cost him the big prize. Roy Halladay of Philadelphia is widely considered to be the front-runner.
In closing, the following table shows each starter’s stat line in 2010 including starts, quality starts, individual record, the team’s record in their starts, average innings pitched per start, strikeouts per nine innings and run support.
Congratulations are offered to Adam Wainwright, The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com 2010 St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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