The St Louis Cardinals are toying with the idea of making Jordan Hicks a starter. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Spending money is hard. Just ask president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. Instead of signing a starter next offseason and shelling out some precious dough, the Cardinals are thinking of converting occasional bullpen weapon Jordan Hicks to a starting pitcher.
As Cardinals fans know, Hicks is a must-watch when he’s healthy, regularly leading all major leaguers in pitch velocity. The issue has been staying off of the injured list. Hicks has now had two Tommy John procedures done, and it seems the Cardinals’ idea is that having Hicks pitch every fifth day would be better on his arm.
The problem with this is that Hicks has issues finding the strike zone. We’ve seen the Cardinals’ starters this season have extreme issues with that, leading the major leagues in walks allowed. Putting Hicks in the rotation would only exacerbate the rotation’s walk obsession.
Hicks is also a one-dimensional pitcher. That’s not a bad thing in the bullpen, but in the rotation, you need more than the two pitches Hicks primarily throws. According to Baseball Savant, 195 of Hicks’ 207 pitches this year have been sinkers and cutters. It’s not a surprise that a FanGraphs study revealed that two-pitch hurlers usually don’t go deep into games and struggle much more against hitters after seeing them more than one time around.
For Hicks to be a solid starter, he would need to completely overhaul his repertoire and spend a lot of time in the minor leagues. The Cardinals need him to contribute in the big leagues, and the bullpen is the best place for him to do that.
It’s odd that Alex Reyes is not the one being considered for a rotation spot. While he is performing fantastically in the closer’s role this year, he has far more experience than Hicks in the rotation and possesses more of a starter’s arsenal.
If the Cardinals are desperate to put Hicks in a starting role, they could theoretically use him as an opener, a strategy invented by the Tampa Bay Rays. He could pitch the first inning or two of a game, then be replaced with a traditional starting pitcher. The downside, of course, is that the Cardinals then wouldn’t have him for clutch situations later in the game.
The fact that the Cardinals are even considering this option is ludicrous. Hicks is not the type of pitcher who should be starting games, and it further illustrates the Cardinals’ penny-pinching ways that they’d rather attempt to jam a square peg into a round hole than find someone outside the organization who fits a starter’s mold.