St. Louis Cardinals right-handed
pitcher Todd Wellemeyer made his last start of the 2008 season on Saturday,
September 27th, a game in which he was the winning pitcher. During the FOX Sports Midwest’s
post-game “Cardinals Live” show that evening, Wellemeyer mentioned that the
191.2 innings he pitched this season were his career high.
That comment motivated me to a)
compare his 2008 stats with the other members of the Cardinals’ rotation and b)
look into just how his career high in innings pitched may have impacted those
So, how did Wellemeyer’s 2008
performance compare with his rotation mates?
Well, first we need to clarify
which starters are being compared.
While there were several pitchers that made spot starts, this comparison
is between the four principal pitchers comprising the Cardinals’ rotation along
with Wellemeyer for the majority of the year: Kyle Lohse, Braden Looper, Joel Pineiro
and Adam Wainwright.
Now let us look at several
Innings Pitched –
Wellemeyer’s career high of 191.2
innings pitched was a close third on the staff behind leader Lohse (200) and
Wellemeyer had a 1.25 WHIP, which
is a Major League best for him and placed him second behind Wainwright’s 1.18
H/9 IP –
Wellemeyer’s 8.36 H/9 IP was
barely second behind Wainwright’s 8.32 H/9 IP. Wellemeyer and Wainwright were the only
two starters that allowed less than a hit per inning
BB/9 IP –
Control has been one of
Wellemeyer’s bugaboos and his average of 2.91 walks per nine innings pitched
placed him fifth among the five starters.
(Wainwright was fourth with a 2.32 BB/9 IP average.) However, this average is a career best
for Wellemeyer and is more than a walk per game better than his career average
K/9 IP –
Wellemeyer led the staff both in
total strikeouts (134) and average strikeouts per nine innings (6.29). The latter number edged out Wainwright’s
6.20 K/9 IP.
It is no coincidence that
Wellemeyer and Wainwright also have the lowest Air-Out-to-Ground-Out ratios on
the staff, 0.83 for Wellemeyer and 1.22 for Wainwright, since there is a general
correlation between fly ball pitchers and strikeout pitchers. There also tends to be a correlation
between fly ball pitchers and home runs allowed. (However, Pineiro led the rotation in
both AO/GO ratio – 1.83 – and home runs allowed per game – 1.32. When he lost it, he lost it.) But I digress.
Average – Wellemeyer held the opposition
to a .245 batting average, which tied him for first with staff ace
Wainwright. Both Wellemeyer and
Wainwright were almost thirty points better than the next best starting pitcher,
Kyle Lohse and his .272 BAA.
On-Base Average –
Wellemeyer allowed base runners at
an average rate of .308, which was good for second place behind
Despite giving up the second-most
home runs/game (1.20), Wellemeyer held opposing batters to a .416 slugging
percentage which was good for second place behind
So, Wellemeyer had a pretty good
year in many statistical categories.
Now let us look at his performance when compared to his cumulative
innings pitched for the season.
Below are Wellemeyer’s cumulative
innings pitched (major and minor) from the time of his Major League debut in
2003 through last season:
2003* = 115
2004 = 46.1
2005 = 86
2006 = 78.1
2007 = 80.1
*Wellemeyer started exclusively in
the minors and only became a reliever upon his Major League debut. The 2003 season was the last time he
started consistently until the 2008 season.
Looking at Wellemeyer’s 2008
performance on a month-by-month basis, his overall performance was seriously
impacted by his June and July numbers.
When reviewing his game log, a few things stand out.
Wellemeyer started only three
games in June due to arm ouchiness.
He had an excellent start against the Nationals on June 5th in
which he posted a game score of 66 and lowered his Earned Run Average to
2.92. Wellemeyer had pitched 80
innings through June 5th or within six innings of his Major League
high of 86 innings for an entire
season. His next start was
pushed back a couple of days to June 13th due to arm soreness. Wellemeyer then had a true ‘Friday, the
13th’ outing in Philadelphia where he gave up eight earned runs
in only 3.1 innings for a game score of 12. He did not pitch again until June
26th, almost two weeks later.
Wellemeyer faced the Tigers in Detroit and pitched well enough to win with a
game score of 62, blanking the Tigers through five innings. He had pitched 88.1 innings through the
end of June, his most innings in five
As the calendar turned to July,
Wellemeyer took his regular turn in the rotation the entire month. Entering new territory in innings
pitched as a major leaguer, Wellemeyer posted five consecutive starts with game
scores of 50 or below (19, 40, 50, 42, 46). His opponents included such noteworthy
teams as Pittsburgh and San Diego. Beginning with his July 29th
start, he then posted game scores above 50 in nine of his ten starts (52, 62,
54, 72, 52, 41, 69, 66, 55, 56).
That included a game score of 62 against his nemesis Philadelphia on August
While a definitive reason for his
mid-season drop-off cannot be given, it is entirely possible that Wellemeyer
went through a ‘dead arm’ phase due to his switch from relieving to
starting. His performance took a
marked upturn beginning on July 29th, an upswing that was sustained
well into September.
What does this bode for
Wellemeyer’s future performance?
That is impossible to say.
He pitched well over his previous career-high in innings, which can be an
indicator of future arm issues.
However, this increase occurred when Wellemeyer was 29 years old, which
is well after the age range (25 and under) that has been used as a precursor for
arm injuries due to a significant workload increase.
Wellemeyer’s 2008 season exceeded
his previous standards in most categories.
Whether he is likely to either match or exceed those numbers in 2009 is
open to question. However,
Wellemeyer may become a free agent after the 2009 season and his 2008
performance may be enough for the Cardinals to try and lock him into a two- or
three-year contract that buys out his initial free agency years.
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