St. Louis Cardinals: Starters in the ’80s will never be seen again
By Matt Graves
Starting pitchers on the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s were a different breed. Starters like that will likely never be seen again in the MLB.
Much like Whiteyball St. Louis Cardinals of the 1980s was a statistical anomaly that hasn’t been replicated since, the starting pitching of that era also is something that fans will not see in 2020 and may never see in the league again.
The starting pitching of the Cardinals in the 1980s was one of their marketed strengths, but the factor I’m talking about was not unique to the Cardinals. Starting pitching innings may never be the same as they were in the 1980s.
The biggest difference between starters in the ’80s and now are innings counts. Starting the decade with Pete Vuckovich and Bob Forsch throwing 222.1 and 214.2 innings respectively, the Cardinals had roughly 35% of their starters throw for 200+ innings. That was some very rough math, but doing the same for the 2010s, the Cardinals had just 22% of their starters go for 200 innings.
The top starters for the Cardinals in the ’80s were Joaquin Andujar, John Tudor, Danny Cox, and Bob Forsch among others but the highlights of the decade were from Andujar and Tudor.
From 1982-1985, Andujar put up seasons of 265.0, 225.0, 261.1, and 269.2 innings pitched, all while having a 3.31 ERA. He made 145 starts and pitched 36 complete games during that time.
Tudor joined the Cardinals in 1985 and threw 275.0 innings during the regular season with a 1.93 ERA and then added another 30.2 innings in the playoffs. Quick side note, in 1985, Tudor still finished second in NL Cy Young voting to Dwight Gooden who threw 276.2 innings with a 1.53 ERA!
You just don’t see pitching like that anymore, and you likely won’t ever again.
More from St Louis Cardinals History
- What Happened to the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals? Matt Holliday Edition
- The St. Louis Cardinals avoided disaster with Jason Heyward
- St. Louis Cardinals: Stan Musial’s time in the Navy
- Cardinals: Looking back at why St. Louis did not sign Bryce Harper
- Cardinals: Looking back at the terrible Marcell Ozuna trade
In 2019, Justin Verlander led the MLB with 223.0 innings pitched. That was the most since 2016 when Chris Sale threw 230.0. For the decade, The innings leader was again Verlander when he threw 251.0 innings in 2011. That’s a pretty good mark but the league averages now are nowhere near what the league averages were for innings pitched back then.
Jack Flaherty is a great pitcher, but he may never be able to put up the innings counts of old. That may be a good thing too.
The rate of Tommy John surgeries is rising at about “6 percent a year” per Craig Davis of the Sun-Sentinel and it’s almost reaching epidemic levels. Why the increase in injuries is occurring is a very deep rabbit hole, but it could come down to weight lifting, diet, pitching mechanics or any other number of factors. The biggest thing to pull from all this is that the 275.0 inning-a-year pitchers of the past are dead, at least for now.
Pitching, speed, and defense were the key to the 1980s for the Cardinals and in 2019, the Cardinals returned to this style in a way. Leading the league in stolen bases and being near the top in defense, they weren’t as good at it as the ’80s teams were. No team will be able to replicate Whiteyball or the innings counts of the pitchers during that era.