Wellemeyer vs. Thompson: Thrive for Five


The Cards seem to be falling into place. Khalil Greene comes back, defends his new position capably, and shows some power. Brendan Ryan has been playing great and has earned a majority of the playing time at shortstop. Franklin remains solid as the closer. But Todd Wellemeyer still struggles, and it raises the question: When Lohse returns, who is the #5 Starter? The two candidates, Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer, have been pretty aware that they are fighting for this rotation spot in their last couple starts. They’ve both been working with Dave Duncan, and appear to be approaching each start the same way: Warm up, pitch poorly, repeat.

Their last starts:

Wellemeyer 5.2 IP, 5 ER, 2.47 WHIP, 2 K

Thompson 5 IP, 5ER, 1.80 WHIP, 0 K

Their Careers:

Wellemeyer 4.62 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and .490 Win Pct.

Thompson 4.26 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and .471 Win Pct.

The Incumbent:

Wellemeyer has had a particularly rough year. His fastball hasn’t been up to the mid-90s consistently, and his location and movement aren’t fooling anyone. He leads the National League with 107 hits and is 3rd in Earned Runs. His ERA is at 5.85, 1.23 runs higher career, and for every 9 innings this year, he’s allowed an average of 16 walks/hits. His Stuff number is 0, which is at the point where you’re encouraged to find a replacement. Cue up…

The Challenger:

Thompson started off as a very capable spot starter, but as the regularity of his starts increases, his performance has dropped off. His ERA stands at 4.72 and he’s allowing 11.9 walks/hits for every 9 innings. His ERA has increased every year since coming to the majors. His Stuff number is a stunning -12, and it’s much lower as a starter. He only has 2.4 K/9 this season to boot, which is the lowest number for a Cards pitcher this season.

So we can all see that the answer should be neither. However, looking down to Memphis, we see P.J. Walters and Mitchell Boggs as the possibilities, and their stats stack up about as unfavorably as our two main competitors.

In fairness, Wellemeyer’s BABIP has been .345, which is 80 points higher than the rest of the time with the Redbirds. Thompson’s, on the other hand, has been .264, which is about 25 points lower than his career. So the bad luck has all fallen on the shoulders of Wellemeyer, and statistically he has the better chance to rebound. Plus, he actually has the stuff to overpower and fool hitters, and showed that last year when his ERA was below 4 and his Stuff rating was +11. Thompson has been a contact hitter with no dominating pitches his whole career, and has stepped up favorably as a spot starter.

So there’s no right decision here. Even though stats show that Wellemeyer has the better chance to rebound, moving Wellemeyer to the bullpen to work on his velocity and command might be the best step to take.   If he knows he only has about 20-30 pitches instead of 80-100, he can throw harder, which should improve his strikeout rate and keep hitters off of the bags. Down the stretch, if Wellemeyer has found a better command, move him back to the rotation. But the fact of the matter is, he’s not ready to be in the rotation now, and Thompson can throw strikes and has a better likelihood of running into struggling offenses and getting them to get themselves out. Either way, it should be interested to see what LaRussa and company do when the decision comes across their desk.

Listening to: Todd Snider, Tales at Moondawg’s Tavern