St. Louis Cardinals: On keeping or dealing Luke Weaver

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 8: Luke Weaver
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 8: Luke Weaver /
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 15: Shelby Miller /

Larry and Dan debate the value of St. Louis Cardinals young arm, Luke Weaver.

LARRY: Dan, one of the great things about prospects and early-career major leaguers is our ability to fairly debate who they are and who they’ll become.  So your comparison of Weaver to Shelby Miller is a great place to start, even if I find it somewhat misplaced.

First, the players joined professional baseball at very different ages, almost four years apart.  The year Miller joined the big league club he was already in his third year of throwing over 100 innings at the professional level.

Despite his great college prowess, Weaver still hasn’t gotten to that point. So as Dan notes, his pro growth curve is still exceptionally fresh, making his prediction curve something far from certain.

Second, the only expectations that Miller really left short for the Cardinals was whether he would or could be an ace, not whether he could be an effective mid-rotation major league pitcher.

Despite the reduced strikeout totals in 2014, there was nothing wrong with his overall performance; it was essentially major-league average. His FIP had risen, to be sure, but there was no indication he couldn’t once again demonstrate the very dominant pitching he flashed in 2013.

And remember, Dan, the primary reason he was dealt was because of the tragic death of Oscar Taveras. That hole left the Cardinals shocked and in a quandary about how to fill out their everyday lineup in 2015.

The move for Heyward was a necessity, and it was only by surrendering the then-prized Miller that they landed both one year of Heyward and the seemingly capable Walden, whose mysterious arm ailment cut his career short to the Cards’ great disappointment.

It must also be noted that Miller, despite his bizarre 6-17 record in 2015, was a National League All-Star, and he actually recovered his strikeout touch to some degree.

Though certainly not at the K-per-inning clip of 2013, Miller had 44 more strikeouts in his first year with the Braves than in his last year with the Cards, in only 22 more innings. Interestingly, his hits per nine innings never varied from 2013-2015: It was either 7.9 or 8.0 each of the three years.

But even before his swoon-plus-injuries in these last two Arizona years, Miller never accomplished what Weaver has done in his combined minor and major league career, which is to blend extremely high strikeout rates with low walk totals.

Despite superficial similarities in their pitches, Weaver’s K/BB ratio is one that all but the most accomplished major leaguers never realize.

The worst result in this category for Weaver in the minors was 3.0, and most of his years have been in the high 3s or 4s. By contrast, Miller’s major-league K/BB is a rather pedestrian 2.2. To be fair, some of that derived from the last two ugly seasons, but he’s never topped 3.0.

Guess who else has never topped 3.0? Ok, 3.06, to be exact? Carlos Martinez. Michael Wacha achieved a 3.42 in his first season of 2013, but has never topped 3.0 again.

What does this all mean? A few things. Since his inning totals are still growing, there’s no need for Weaver to try to change to a contact guy yet. He’s not yet tested whether he can grow his innings while maintaining one of the best K/BB ratios in the majors.

At his 4.03 ratio over the last two partial seasons, guess where he stands among active pitchers? Behind Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Steven Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, and Clayton Kershaw, and right above Max Scherzer.

Now, no one here is claiming he’ll be those guys, but given his power and command, he COULD be. Miller even with his strikeout prowess didn’t have that combo.

And that, Dan, is why he’s different than Shelby, and the main reason why I wouldn’t trade him now. But before I get to that, let’s get back to your view on including Luke in a trade…