Full Rotation: The St. Louis Cardinals and starters in the NL-Central
There’s been much concern about the starting pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018. With about 44 percent of the St. Louis Cardinals 2018 schedule — 72 out of 162 games — against their National League Central division rivals, assessing competitive strength versus their closest foes is a good place to start.
Why is that, do you ask? If the St. Louis Cardinals want to be a playoff team, don’t they have to stack up well against the entire league, not just the division? Well, surely, when it comes time for postseason play, the test will be broader and the challenges more extensive.
But consider this: with the most games against their NL-Central rivals, the Cards could overcome many other weaknesses with a strong showing in the division. Consider that if the team were to play .600 ball against the division and .500 against all others, that alone would get them to 88 wins, a decent enough place, maybe even a Wild Card spot.
And that’s hardly the whole story. Between midseason call-ups and trades, the potential abounds for improvement to stretch that win total. So if things are going reasonably well come end of July, we’re probably not talking about the team standing pat, but trying to enhance their potential not only for making the playoffs, but extending their run once there.
So getting an edge versus their division foes is an important exercise, and a big part of that is in building the starting pitching advantage vis a vis the other four Central clubs. With that in mind, let’s evaluate and grade the current crop of anticipated starters for the five teams.
We’ll do this with two different goals in mind. The first is the strength of what is at this point expected to be the Top Five starters for each of the teams. Then we’ll look at their depth, and how they are each able to withstand injury and poor performance by the presumed initial rotation. A grade is given for each.