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ESPN: Cards' rotation is 8th best in baseball

It goes without saying that the Phillies are going to win all the accolades for having the best starting rotation in baseball.

Their shocking signing of Cliff Lee gives Philadelphia an embarrassment of pitching riches with three guys who could contend for a Cy Young Award: Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Lee and Halladay already have Cys to their credit. That relegates Oswalt -- who has been a major thorn in the side of Cardinals hitters for years while he was the ace of the Astros -- to third banana status.

Roy Oswalt as the third-best option. Wow.

But I was surprised when ESPN's Buster Olney ranked major league rotations that he thought the Cardinals staff -- with a pair of Cy Young contenders of their own in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright -- only merited an eighth place tie on the list.

The Cardinals rotation carries a certain amount of risk, and that is the only reason I can figure for it being marked so low. Carpenter has spent more than his fair share of time on the disabled list and he has a nerve condition in his pitching arm that could cause him to go bust at any time. Newly re-signed hurler Jake Westbrook is only one season removed from missing almost two years to Tommy John surgery and Kyle Lohse has been a complete mess since signing a four-year big money contract with St. Louis two years ago.

But if you look at recent history -- and that's really the only thing you can do when it comes to major league players -- Cardinals pitchers have managed some spectacular results that seem to indicate they can pitch with anyone. And that they are pretty durable.

Chris Carpenter is 33-13 over the last two seasons with a 2.78 ERA with an average of 214 innings pitched. He seems to have put his injury troubles behind him. Wainwright finished in the top three of Cy Young balloting over each of the last two seasons with a combined 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA. Westbrook pitched 202 2/3 innings in 2010 split between the Cardinals and Indians. If he can return to his 2004-06 form of averaging 15 wins a season, the Redbirds are going to have a top three to match up with anybody.

Let's not forget the breakout season by youngster Jaime Garcia. He was no fluke with a 13-8 record and a 2.70 ERA. Perhaps he would have received more national attention if the Cardinals batsmen wouldn't have cost him three or four wins by steadfastly refusing to score a decent amount of runs when he was on the hill.

The big question in the Cardinals rotation is Lohse.

It is unknown if he will finally be back in form after surgery to open the sheath surrounding the muscle in his forearm. Finally able to properly execute his mechanics, Lohse and Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak have said they think Loshe is ready to return to his 2008 form when he was 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA.

I don't see another team with the upside in its fourth and fifth rotation spots as the Cardinals. They have a pair of guys who could easily win 15 games each. And, while I readily admit that Philadelphia has the unusual luxury of three aces at the top of the rotation, isn't the point to have a chance to win EVERY day?

Philadelphia may win the games on paper. But I think the St. Louis rotation is good enough that they ought to go ahead and play the games for real just to see what happens.

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