In their illustrious history, the St. Louis Cardinals have only had two Cy Young Award winners. However, there have been several close calls.
Since the introduction of the Cy Young Award in 1956, only two St. Louis Cardinals have won the prize. Bob Gibson won the award in 1968 and 1970, and Chris Carpenter in 2005. Nevertheless, there is a list of Cardinals who have been close to, and maybe even should have won the award.
One could have easily won the award a second time, and another could have easily won the award twice. Additionally, there are a few Cardinals who made a strong case for winning the award at least once while they were Cardinals.
Actually there were four additional Cardinals who won the Cy Young Awards, just not while they wore the birds on the bat jersey. Steve Carlton won the award four times after the Cardinals traded him to Philadelphia. Let me say that again, in case you didn’t get it. Steve Carlton won FOUR Cy Young Awards after he was traded to the Phillies in 1972.
The second Cardinal who won the award, but not as a Cardinal, was Bruce Sutter in 1979. Sutter, who was a Cub in 1979, didn’t wear the birds on the bat until 1981
Pete Vuckovich played in St. Louis from 1978 to 1980, but won the Cy Young Award in 1982, after his trade to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1980. Vuckovich was involved in the famous seven-player blockbuster trade that sent Rollie Fingers and Ted Simmons to the Brewers in December of 1980. Fingers who won the Cy Young in 1981, doesn’t count, because he never really wore the birds on the bat.
Finally, Dennis Eckersley won the award as an Oakland A in 1992. The right-handed Eckersley didn’t arrive in St. Louis until 1996.
Now let’s look at some of the best Cardinal pitchers, who never won a Cy Young while they played in St. Louis. Most came very close to winning the award, and in some cases, maybe they should have.
Let me start out with the least obvious candidate, the right-handed Bob Forsch. Honestly, it’s hard to put Forsch in any Cy Young conversation during his career in St. Louis. However, while he was a Cardinal, Bob Forsch was a consistent and solid presence in the rotation.
During his 15 year tenure in St. Louis, Forsch was third in Cardinal history in victories with 163 and is the only pitcher in team history to pitch more than one no-hitter. Forsch achieved those no-hitters in 1978 and 1983, although, neither during his best season of 1977.
In 1977, the 27-year-old Forsch finished with a 20-7 record and an ERA of 3.48. Had he been able to add one of his two no-hitters to this season, then maybe, he would have been in the running for the NL Cy Young Award. Admittedly though, it still would have been hard for Forsch to beat out Steve Carlton in 1977.
Nevertheless, Bob Forsch is one the best Cardinal pitchers who never has won the Cy Young.
In the first half of the season of 1985, Joaquin Andujar looked like he was on the way to winning the Cy Young Award. He was one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers in that first half with a 15-4 record and an ERA of 2.37. Some were even wondering if he could be the first 30 game winner since Denny McClain in 1968.
But in the second half of 1985, Andujar’s season started to gradually unwind. During the month of August, he had an ERA of 4.95 and for the month of September, it was 5.76. He was ineffective against the Dodgers in the NLCS and is best remembered in the World Series for his meltdown during game seven vs the Royals.
It should be pointed out that Joaquin Andujar was no flash in the pan. The right-hander had a 20-14 record with a 3.34 ERA in 1984, and a 15-10 record with a 2.47 ERA in 1982. Between 1982 and 1985, Andujar averaged 36 games started per season. Per Wikipedia, a major league pitcher has not had more than 36 starts for one season since Greg Maddux started 37 in 1991.
If Joaquin Andujar had an unforgettable first half of the season in 1985, the same could be said of John Tudor’s season, starting in June of 1985. From June until Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, Tudor was, well, masterful.
Starting out with a 1-7 record and a 3.74 ERA through May, Tudor then went on a 20-1 tear with a 1.37 ERA the rest of the season. The closer the game the better as far as John Tudor was concerned in 1985. With less than two runs support, he had an ERA of 1.27.
He finished 1985 with a 21-8 record and a 1.93 ERA. Also, Tudor led the league in shutouts with 10, and WHIP with a .938. Overall, he was just dominant in that World Series year.
Unfortunately, Dwight Gooden of the Mets had a career year and beat out John Tudor for the Cy Young Award in 1985. Gooden had more wins (24), a lower ERA (1.53), and strikeouts (268) than Tudor, who finished second in the Cy Young voting.
Although John Tudor continued to be a good pitcher and kept his ERA low throughout the rest of his career, he really never came close to his 1985 numbers again. In his five years as a Cardinal, he finished with a 63-25 record and a 2.53 ERA.
Chris Carpenter, in 2005, was the last Cardinal pitcher to win the Cy Young Award and only the second in the history of the franchise. However, he came close to winning the award in 2006 and 2009.
In 2006, he followed up his 2005 Cy Young season, with a 15-8 record and a 3.09 ERA. The 31- year-old right-hander also led the league in shutouts (3) and WHIP (1.069). During the NLDS against the San Diego Padres, he was dominant in his two starts and pitched eight shut out innings against the Detroit Tigers in game three of the World Series.
But it was in 2009 that a case can be made that Chris Carpenter should have won his second Cy Young Award. Carpenter had just made four starts in the previous two years but returned to dominance in 2009. The 34-year old finished the season with 17-4 record, a led the NL with winning percentage (.810), ERA (2.24), ERA+ (182), and HR/9 (.3).
The balloting for the 2009 Cy Young Award was one of the closest in the award’s history, with the Giants Tim Lincecum edging out Carpenter. Due to Carpenter missing a month during the season, Lincecum had more innings (225 vs 192) and strikeouts (261 vs 144).
Oh, how I wish Adam Wainwright could have a Cy Young Award on his shelf at home. In fact, like his friend and former teammate, Chris Carpenter, he could have more than one. Maybe Wainwright should earn the reward as the best Cardinal pitcher who has never won the Cy Young.
Adam Wainwright has come close to winning the award four times in his career. In 2009, was the first time the right-hander came close to the award. He finished the year with a 19-8 record and a 2.63 ERA. He led the NL in wins, games started (34), innings pitched (233), and batters faced (970).
Nevertheless, he finished third in the Cy Young balloting behind Tim Lincecum and his teammate Chris Carpenter. He was only the second pitcher ever to receive the most first-place votes and not win the award.
His next chance came in 2010 when he finished second in the Cy Young balloting. Wainwright had a 20-11 record with a 2.42 ERA, five complete games, 213 strikeouts, 230 innings pitched, and a WHIP of 1.05. This time he lost the award to Roy Halladay, who had 21 wins and 219 strikeouts.
Adam Wainwright had another second-place finish in the Cy Young balloting in 2013. The 31-year-old finished with a 19-9 record and a 2.94 ERA. This time he led the NL in wins, games started (34), complete games (5), shutouts (2), innings pitched (241), and batters faced (956). But what’s a guy to do? Wainwright finished second to the Dodger’s Clayton Kershaw, who had a 21-10 record, a 1.83 ERA, and led the league in strikeouts (232).
Wainwright followed up his 2013 with another run at the Cy Young in 2014. This time, he finished the year with another 20 win season and a 2.38 ERA. Waino led the NL in shutouts (3) and HR9 (0.4). Again, his run at the Cy Young Award fell short, when he finished in third place behind Clayton Kershaw and Red’s Johnny Cueto.
Looking down the road
It’s been close, but no cigar for several Cardinals. Now it’s time to look down the road and see who the next Cy Young winner may be.
More from St Louis Cardinals History
- Cardinals: The best Silver Slugger performances at each position.
- The St. Louis Cardinals are in rare company with this free agency stat
- 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
The St. Louis Cardinals may have their next Cy Young Award winner on their roster already. The most obvious candidate would be Jack Flaherty, especially after the second half of his 2019 season.
Although he only finished at 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA, the last 15 games he started, he had a 7-2 record with an incredible 0.91 ERA. This led to Flaherty leading the NL in WHIP (0.968) and hits per nine innings of 6.2. Consequently, Jack Flaherty finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting for 2019.
Maybe it could be Dakota Hudson, who finished 2019 with a 16-7 record and a 3.35 ERA. Or do I dare mention, Alex Reyes? Could it be Miles Mikolas if he returned to his 2018 form? Maybe it will be someone currently in the Cardinal minor league system.
Whoever it will be, and it does seem like it will be sooner than later, the St. Louis Cardinals should have a Cy Young winner more than once in a generation. The odds have to fall soon toward a Cardinal winning the Cy Young Award. I’d be willing to bet on it.