It’s not easy being a major league baseball manager, especially the manager of a team with a rabid following and lofty expectations. Mike Matheny last Friday decided to send down rookie Michael Wacha to Memphis (AAA) to make room for veteran Jake Westbrook. Westbrook rewarded Matheny’s trust by only pitching 5 innings, giving up 5 runs and had trouble getting batters out against the hapless Miami Marlins. So this begs the question, is Jake Westbrook the best option?
Why he is the best option?
Before getting injured, Jake Westbrook had a 2-1 record with a 1.62 ERA. He has spent 11 years at the major league level and that experience could prove valuable in the dog days of summer. It was also his first start since May 8th so to expect him to have his best game is asking too much.
Why he isn’t the best option?
In the last 3 starts, Jake Westbrook has surrendered 10 runs (7 earned) and his ERA in those 3 games is 3.94. His season’s ERA jumped from 0.98 to 2.05. Also he is not striking out opponent like he was earlier in the season. Jake Westbrook has never been known as a strikeout pitcher but in his first 4 starts, he averaged 3.5 strikeouts per start. In the last 3 starts, he is averaging 1.67 strikeouts per start. Westbrook didn’t record a strikeout against the Marlins and gave up 8 hits to a team ranked 28th in hits this season.
What should the Cardinals do about Westbrook?
Keep him in the starting rotation until the All-Star break.
If the Cardinals stick to their pitching rotation until the All-Star break, Westbrook will have 6 starts under his belt. That will give a more accurate assessment of what his abilities are in the Cardinals starting rotation. I know Cardinals Nation is enamored with Michael Wacha and his potential. However, Westbrook is the veteran with experience in the regular season and in the postseason. Westbrook is only signed through this season and I doubt the Cardinals are going to pick up his option. Keeping Wacha down in Triple A will help improve his consistency. Also it delays his arbitration date until 2016. Playing Wacha every 5th day would make him Arbitration eligible in 2015. That’s just not how the Cardinals do business. If Westbrook continues to struggle and the NL central starts to get away from the Cardinals, I could see them bringing Wacha back. The expectation should be that Michael Wacha stays in the minor leagues.