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Joe Kelly was called up last year out of necessity. The Cardinals needed a starter, and they hoped that Kelly would plug that hole. To be honest, no body in the media world (at least no one I saw) expected a whole lot from Joe, but he delivered: he gave the Cardinals a 3.53 ERA over 107 innings while striking out 75.
In spite of his solid performance in 2012, Spring Training saw Kelly lose his spot in the starting rotation. His time in the bullpen (where he was ill-used as a sort of modified long reliever) was not terribly kind to him, although his numbers aren’t atrocious: in 37.1 innings, he posted a 3.86 ERA while striking out 30.
On July 6th, however, the Cardinals made one of their best decisions of the season: they chose to give Joe Kelly a spot in the rotation.
Since that point in time, Kelly has been the one and only Cardinal ace. This is not a question or a postulation, this is a statement of fact. If you don’t believe me, here’s a chart proving you wrong. It shows the Cardinals’ starting pitchers and how well they’ve done since July 6th.
As you can see, Kelly leads all Cardinal starters with a 7-0 record, a 2.16 ERA, and only 14 earned runs in that time period. In addition, he’s second to only Waino in terms of WHIP.
Sometimes, it’s easy to think that Kelly doesn’t pitch deep enough into games, since he seems to only ever give the Cardinals six innings. But those six consistent innings are good for third among Cardinals’ starters since July 6th.
Now, this is not to say that Kelly is perfect, but he has played stunningly well. It would be nice if he’d strikeout a few more and walk a few less, but his consistency has outdone any other Cardinal pitcher since he’s become a starter.
Next season, he should have already earned his spot in the rotation.