By Josh Mosley
If you couldn’t tell by my sweet writing and sense of humor, I was quite the casanova in high school. Whenever dance time came around, your boy had like four or five options at his disposal when said formal events were on the horizon. It was always hard letting the ladies down but as that wise and eclectic wordsmith Andre “3K” Benjamin once said: Keep your heart, 3 stacks. Keep your heart.
Actually none of the above is remotely true. High school was a lonely time with a lot of Friday night television watching and few dry spots on my pillow (from tears not the other stuff, sickies). Still I imagine the Cards can sympathize with the above situation when it comes to their pitching staff going into the playoffs.
Hard as it is to believe, the Wild Card era in Major League Baseball turns 15 next season. And while many (I’m pointing at you, Bob Costas) have whined like namby pambies about adverse effects, it hasn’t changed the one constant in playoff baseball: you ABSOLUTELY, UNEQUIVOCALLY need four good/quality starters if you even want to sniff an appearance in the World Series. As I wrote before, the top three staffs in the NL right now are, in my opinion, the Cards, Phillies and Giants.
Here’s the rub, Beasley: First and foremost there are the two STL hurlers who are battling that little grunge hippie Tim Linccecum for the NL Cy Young (but lets be honest: they’ll likely cancel each other out). Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have been stop gaps in every since of the word.
On the occasion that things in Tony’s house looked to be getting out of control (and there were a few times in this otherwise glorious summer), one of these two stepped up and waved the finger Dikembe Mutumbo style. Wainwright, in particular, came up HUGE (say it like Donald Trump for added emphasis) when Carp got knocked out for a month with an oblique injury.
The 1 and 1A (depending on how you score it) had their shares of playoff experiences earlier in the 2000’s, with Wainwright breaking out in the 2006 run to the title. Carp’s Cy Young fell in 2005, when the Cards seemed most poised to make it to the series but fell to Houston in six. Waino’s bullpen exploits in three years ago helped keep a team talented but mediocre team (if looking at records alone) afloat in the NL Pennant race. I mean, it wasn’t like Jason Isringhausen was getting it done. Dude packed it in after 2005 if you ask me and much of C Nation.
Anyway, those guys are the top two, followed by Joel Piniero locking it down as the number three guy, the likely elimination starter in a division series. Piniero’s record would sparkle something shiny if not for a few sub par bat displays by his homies in the dugout.
Kyle Lohse is the iffy guy in all of this. After coming out Thundercats style to start the season, he’s been sometimey in his bringing of the goods. Then he went on the DL with the thought that he’d come back and pick up where he left off. Didn’t happen. And then the Todd Wellemayer catastrophe didn’t pan out so some farm hands who may not have been raring to go yet got spontaneous call ups and subsequently got shellacked. Which brought on…
Mr. X Factor: He’s 42 years old. He’s a former Cy Young winner, World Series winner and is likely bound for the PGA Champions Tour after he hangs up his cleats. He also happens to be the winningnest pitcher (wins wise) in playoff baseball history. And the sick part of it all is this: there’s no telling where Tony and Dave Duncan will put him come playoff time. Of course I’m talking about John Smoltz.
Smoltz re-invigorated his career in the early parts of this decade as a lock down closer for the Braves in the latter part of the NL Eastern division dynasty. He’s the only guy in MLB history with 200 wins and 150 saves. With the uncertainty of Lohse combined with the stakes in this years run with this team, the decision with Smoltz. Three solid starters keeps you in it till the end. A fourth one makes you the favorite.
So essentially, the Cards enter the playoffs with five starters but only have use for four. Smoltz is invaluable for his flexibility. Like that buddy that goes out with no intention to party but can go in either direction when the time is needed. Smoltz has done it so many times for so long that given 24-36 hours notice, he will go out there and give you, more or less, exactly what you want from him.
If Lohse tanks it, John is there for a scratch start. But if the bullpen needs a setup (the job I’d rather he be in) who’d you rather have on the mound to get you from out 18 to out 24?