I hope I don't jinx him by saying this, but it has been really great seeing St. Louis Cardinals starter Michael Wacha pitch so well again.
At this time last year, some fans were howling for Wacha to be sent to the bullpen after a mediocre start to the 2017 campaign. From May 25-June 15 he had failed to make it past four innings pitched in five of six starts and saw his earned run average balloon to 4.78 by the middle of June, when he finally started to find himself.
While he had a bit of a swoon late in the year, statistically speaking, Wacha not only seems to have found a way to keep his troublesome right shoulder healthy. He's also been mixing in his curve with more effectiveness to prevent batters from sitting on his fastball and ignoring his curve.
Thanks to a dominating start Tuesday against the potent Milwaukee Brewers offense, Wacha improved to 6-1 for the season with an ERA of 2.71. He allowed only two hits in 6 2/3 innings and, if there was anything to complain about, it was that he only struck out three while walking four. Wacha's walks against average per nine innings pitched is a career high 3.4 this season. But his eight strikeouts per nine innings average is right on par with his career rate and his walks and hits per inning average is 1.225, his best since 2015.
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I think a lot of people who wrote off Wacha fail to realize that he's only 26, basically about the same age as more celebrated St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez. He won't even reach free agency until 2020. So the tall right-hander could be a force in the Cardinals rotation for years to come.
A lot of people have been pushing for the Birds to adopt a six-man rotation when Alex Reyes comes off the disabled list on Wednesday. But I'm not so sure that's a good idea. The theory behind putting an extra starter in the mix is to limit the innings of the hurlers to keep them fresh later through the end of the season. But do the Cardinals really need to do that? Reyes won't even make a start until the end of May. Martinez got an unscheduled vacation thanks to a pulled muscle. Wacha is the only guy who might benefit from a break. But might it be better to keep things consistent for everyone else and maybe skip a turn or two for one guy? With the exception of shelved former ace Adam Wainwright, St. Louis has a set of starters in their primes who ought to be able to pitch a whole season without being babied. By using a six-person rotation, they run the risk of causing their starters to be less sharp because of diminished repetitions.
I would prefer to see the team go with five starters, having an on-the-fly competition for the spots. The odd man out can be the long man out of the bullpen or go to Class AAA Memphis to stay stretched out for when he is needed.
On the other side of the ball, it's incredible how quickly Matt Carpenter has emerged from his nearly two-month-long slump at the plate.
Carpenter was hitting an unfathomable .140 on May 15. Since then, he's raised his batting average more than 80 points to .223 by the end of the month. It was a sorely-needed boost to the offense that have given St. Louis a chance to score enough runs to be competitive.
Is it a coincidence that Carpenter started to see results after he finally swallowed his pride and took the ball the other way a couple of times against the ridiculous defensive shifts that other teams are using against him? Carpenter has dropped down two or three bunts for hits over the past week and a half and has hit a few more balls the other way. He's also pulled some balls for extra base hits, proving you don't have to sell out to keep the other team honest. Carpenter was trying to pull outside pitches and getting himself out. Now that he refuses to be suckered, he is taking advantage of the situation when the opposition pitches him away — and he's punishing pitches when they try to come inside.