St. Louis Cardinals: Who Should Start Opening Day If Martinez Doesn’t?

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Mar 1, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez (18) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez (18) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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The St. Louis Cardinals have announced their Opening Day rotation with the order to be determined.

The St. Louis Cardinals are going to rely on the following five pitchers to be their starting rotation for the 2017 season: Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha.

Among that group Martinez should be the favorite to get the ball on Opening Day.  He is the best of the five right now.  Last season he ended with 16 wins and a 3.04 ERA.  Even though he has not been at Spring Training, he has been performing well in the World Baseball Classic. It would be safe to say Martinez is ready to go.

There is always the chance that the Opening Day start goes in a different direction.  But with who? Lynn and Wacha can almost immediately be removed from the conversation because they are coming off of injury, therefore have been unable to earn their way to the top of the rotation.  Leake, with a 9-12 record last year and an ERA of 4.69, also is more than likely out of the conversation.

That leaves one pitcher:  Adam Wainwright.  For every other pitcher last season’s performance  matters, but for Wainwright it doesn’t.  That is because He has the one thing no one else in the rotation does, experience as the Opening Day starter.  He has started the last four season openers with five total in his career.

The St. Louis Cardinals are 2-3 in the games when Wainwright is the starter. So it is time to move on from Wainwright, but there seems to be a somewhat compelling case not to give up on the 35 year old righty.

Now, it is true that I recently wrote an article about the decline of Wainwright, which can be found here.  I still believe what I wrote.  But this is one game, and it is the farthest game from October there is.  Not to say it is not an important game, but Waino has won 134 games during his career. He can find a way to do it while his arm is still fresh.

There is also a case for history.  As it stand, Wainwright is tied for second most Opening Day starts with Dizzy Dean and Chris Carpenter.  A start this year would push him to stand alone at number two all time for the Cardinals.  Looking way up at the seemingly uncatchable Bob Gibson, who started 10.  Nine of Gibson’s were consecutive from 1966-1975.

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The career for Waino certainly can work in his favor.  If last season and his performance during Spring Training are seen as an anomaly, he has an extremely strong case to take the ball on opening day. For his career he has a 3.17 ERA, and a career WAR of 38.2.  Even in his down season last year he posted a WAR of 2.9.

His experience certainly cannot be overlooked.  He has been a beloved mainstay in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation for almost a decade.  This season will be his 10th year.  Even if he is not the pitcher of old, he still commands respect for the career he has put together.

Opening the season against the Cubs is a daunting task.  It can no longer be avoided, they have a very good team.  Last year Wainwright pitched against them three times.  The first time he gave up seven runs in two innings.  But the next two outings against them, he had a combined 12.2 innings, giving up six total runs.  Three in each game, getting the win in one of them.

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Over the years, the St. Louis Cardinals are 2-3 on Opening Day when Waino has the ball.  It is time to move on and give Martinez a start.  He has more than earned it.  Martinez has proven himself to be the best pitcher in the rotation right now.  If for some reason the decision goes in a different direction, there is only one pitcher who should be getting the ball, and that is Adam Wainwright.

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