THE REDBIRD REVIEW
I’m in the mood to do something different. The Cardinals’ 2023 season was demoralizing, but I don’t know how many times I can rehash the pitiful experience of it all.
For now, I want to focus on something more positive. Something happier. Something that recognizes some special Cardinals during a special time for the franchise.
I’ll be selecting the “All DeWitt” team, choosing the top players at each position during chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.s 28 seasons as the head of the Cardinals.
In this first installment, here are my selections for the Top 10 St. Louis starting pitchers from 1996 through 2023.
It wasn’t easy to decide on some of the lower spots on the list, but I believe it’s important to give extra value to starting pitchers who played a meaningful role in the team’s postseason success. So please keep that in mind.
And over the last 28 seasons, few MLB teams can match or exceed the Cardinals’ postseason achievements.
With DeWitt as the owner the Cardinals:
– Are fourth in the majors with 2,415 regular-season wins behind the Yankees, Dodgers and Braves.
– Have won the most postseason games, 75, by a National League team and are second to the Yankees.
– Have competed in the most postseason games (150) among NL teams.
– Are tied for third among MLB teams in league pennants won since 1996. The Yankees have won seven pennants, followed by the Astros (5), Cardinals (4), Giants (4) and Red Sox (4).
– Are one of only six teams to win multiple World Series titles since 1996. Here’s the leaderboard: Yankees 5, Red Sox 4, Giants 3, Cardinals 2, Astros 2, and Marlins 2.
Here are my choices for the ten-best starting pitching during the DeWitt Era:
1. Adam Wainwright. He’s second to Bob Gibson in franchise history in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), strikeouts, quality starts, and games started. Wainwright’s 200 wins are third to Gibson and Jesse “Pop” Haines. Waino was virtually perfect as a rookie postseason closer in 2006, thriving in a pressure-loaded setting to play a leading role in STL’s first World Series championship since 1982. In the ‘06 postseason Wainwright didn’t allow an earned run in 9 and ⅔ innings, struck out 35 percent of batters faced, and notched a win and four saves.
In the annual Cy Young voting, Wainwright had two second-place finishes and two third-place finishes from 2009 through 2014. He received MVP votes in five seasons, was chosen for three All-Star teams, and won two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. What a marvelous career. What a wonderful man.
2. Chris Carpenter. Over the 28-season span, Carp had the Cardinals’ best ERA (3.07), was second to Wainwright in WAR and innings pitched and third to Waino and Matt Morris in victories. Carp is also the only Cardinal pitcher to win a Cy Young award (2005) during the DeWitt Era. era. He also finished third in the Cy voting in 2006, and was second in 2009. Carpenter was a three-time All-Star.
The 6-6 righthander was a massive presence in the postseason, winning a Cardinals franchise record 10 games. The Redbirds were 13-5 when Carpenter started a postseason competition. Combining his postseason stats in the run to the 2006 and 2011 World Series championships, the Cards were 9-2 when Carp started a game, and he had an individual record of 7-1 with a 3.02 ERA.
Carpenter memorably won a classic, heart-racing duel against Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay for a 1-0 victory in the decisive Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, and sent the Cardinals to the NLCS matchup with Milwaukee. He defeated the Brewers in Game 5 of that series, and was the winning pitcher against Texas in the seventh game of the World Series.
Bravo! Carpenter is a member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame and one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever covered in any sport.
3. Matt Morris. “Matty Mo” has been overlooked in the fan voting for the Cardinals Hall of Fame, and hopefully that will change soon. In the 28-season chronicle, only Wainwright had more starting-pitching wins than Morris’ 98. Morris was also third in WAR and innings. From 2001 through 2005, Morris was tied for seventh among MLB starters with 79 wins. And in 2001 he finished third in the Cy Young voting after going 22-8 with a 3.16 ERA.
A two-time All-Star, Morris had a 4.12 ERA in 11 postseason starts. The Cardinals were 4-7 in his 11 starts, but that’s misleading. In four of the team’s losses in a Morris start, he had a combined 1.82 ERA in 29 and ⅔ innings. Everyone around the Cardinals respected Morris for his desire to take the ball and pitch through painful injuries in more than a few postseason starts.
4. Lance Lynn. During the DeWitt ERA, the big man ranked fourth among St. Louis starting pitchers with 71 wins, and he was fourth in WAR, and his 3.39 starter ERA was topped only by Carpenter and Shelby Miller. Lynn averaged 6 innings per start for the Cardinals and worked in 24 postseason games – seven starts, and 17 in relief. That versatility enhanced his value. The Cardinals had a winning record (13-11) when Lynn played a part in postseason games.
5. Jeff Suppan. This recognition is mostly based on Suppan’s exceptional postseason work for the Cardinals. It can’t be downplayed. In 2004, he out-pitched Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the NLCS to lift the Cardinals to their first World Series appearance since 1987.
In 2006, Suppan had a 2.49 ERA in four postseason starts and the Cardinals won three of those four games. Against the Mets in the 2006 NLCS, “Soup” started two games and shut NY down by getting scratched for only one run in 15 innings. Suppan kept the Cardinals alive in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS by suppressing the Mets over seven innings, allowing two hits and one run.
The Redbirds went on to win that classic game in extra innings (Waino strikes out Beltran!) and advanced to the World Series. Suppan got the win in World Series Game 4, holding the Tigers to three runs in six innings to help set up the clincher the next night in Game 5.
Suppan had a 3.92 ERA and 47-32 record in the regular season for the Cardinals. But during the 28-season DeWitt Era, among Cardinal starting pitchers that worked at least 30 postseason innings, Suppan made nine starts and matched Carpenter for the best postseason ERA. 3.00.
Suppan was money. Many other starting pitchers had better stuff, but Suppan made great pitches when he needed them. And his competitiveness was as good as any team could want in the postseason setting.
6. Michael Wacha. A chronic shoulder condition prevented Wacha from having more longevity as a Cardinal. In the regular season (2013-2019) he went 59-39 with a 3.98 ERA. But Wacha will always be treasured for his work in the 2013 postseason. That year, in his first four postseason starts, Wacha allowed only three runs in 27 innings for a 1.00 ERA. Overall in the 2013 postseason he went 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA. Wacha got the Cardinals to the 2013 World Series by twice defeating Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in the NLCS. In his two starts against Kershaw, Wacha pitched 13 and ⅔ scoreless innings while giving up only seven hits and striking out 26.5 percent of batters faced. Wacha also led the Cardinals to a win in World Series Game 2 by limiting the Red Sox to two earned runs in six innings. The Cardinals don’t get to the World Series without Wacha, and there was more to it than the Dodgers-Cardinals NLCS. Wacha saved the Cardinals from a first-round elimination at Pittsburgh by pitching a gem in Game 4, giving the Pirates only one hit and one run in 7 and 1/3 innings with one strikeout. The Cardinals came home to win Game 5 behind Wainwright, who defeated Pirates rookie Garret Cole.
7. Woody Williams. Woody had a 3-1 postseason record for the Cardinals from 2001 through 2004. He helped pitch the Cardinals to the NL pennant with two postseason wins in ‘04. As a Cardinal Williams had a 45-21 record as a regular-season starter for a glistening .682 winning percentage. And in his 93 regular-season starts as a Cardinal, the team went 63-30 for a .677 winning percentage. That’s outstanding. Williams had a 3.52 ERA and ranked ninth in WAR among Cardinal starters during the 28-season DeWitt ERA. That 3.52 ERA was fourth best among Cards starting pitchers during that time – topped by only Carpenter, Miller and Lynn.
8. Andy Benes. He got the DeWitt years off to a strong start by going 18-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 1996 – his first season as a Cardinal. After getting acclimated, here’s what Benes did in his final 24 regular-season starts that season: 17-3 record, 3.11 ERA. He finished third in the 1996 Cy Young voting. Benes had an unusual – but excellent – 2002 season. After dealing with an injury and getting bopped around early, the Cardinals shut Benes down in mid-April. And his return seemed unlikely. But with the Cardinals desperate for starting pitching following the death of Darryl Kile and a sequence of injuries, Benes returned on July 16. From there, he made 15 starts, had a 1.86 ERA and the Cardinals went 10-5 when he pitched. An amazing turnaround in an extremely difficult year for the Cardinal family. In his five years with the Cardinals, the team went 4-3 in seven postseason starts made by Benes.
9. Kyle Lohse. He had, in my opinion, one of the most underrated seasons – ever – by a Cardinal pitcher. It came in 2012, when Lohse went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA … and finished 7th in the Cy Young voting that year. In his 33 starts that season, the Cardinals went 21-12. And it was Lohse who pitched well to get the win in the 2012 NL wild-card game over Atlanta. In his final two seasons with the Cardinals (2011-2012) Lohse went a combined 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA and made seven postseason starts, going 2-3. No question, Lohse was a prominent factor in a two-season campaign that produced the 2011 World Series title and a spot in the 2012 NLCS.
10. Jaime Garcia. The lefty’s injury issues were frustrating, but let’s not overlook the bigger picture. During the 28-season DeWitt Era, Garcia ranks fifth among STL Cardinals in wins (61), sixth in WAR, and 7th in ERA (3.54). He also started five games (4.21 ERA) in the 2011 postseason run to the World Series title. Garcia’s 61 wins are the most by a lefthanded pitcher during the DeWitt years.
A Tribute To Darryl Kile: You can put him on this list, but there’s no need to put a numeral ranking by his name. That reduces Kile’s impact to a cold, singular number and he deserves more than that. Kile is in a special category, and he should never be forgotten.
The Cardinals didn’t make the playoffs for three consecutive seasons (1997-1999) but made a crucial move to change the negative trend by acquiring Kile from the Rockies on Nov. 16, 1999. Kile was brilliant in his first season in St. Louis, going 20-9 with a 3.91 ERA and pitching 232 and 2/3 innings. In 2020 he was an All-Star and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting. He followed that with a 16-11 record and 3.09 ERA in 2001 and handled another big load of innings (227.1). In Kile’s 72 regular-season starts as a Cardinal the team had a 48-24 record (.667) and teammates revered him for his toughness and strong leadership. Kile made four postseason starts for the Redbirds; three of them were very good including his victory in Game 2 of the 2000 NLDS against Atlanta that positioned the Cardinals up for a three-game sweep.
In his final start, on June 18, 2002, Kile forcefully limited the Angels to one run in 7 and 2/3 innings for a 7-2 victory at Busch Stadium. Four days later, while on the team’s trip to Wrigley Field to play a weekend series vs. the Cubs, Kile died in his sleep in a Chicago hotel room at age 32. The grieving Cardinals were torn apart emotionally, and had to patch together a rotation hit by multiple injuries. But from the point of Kile’s tragic death, the competitively driven Cardinals pushed forward for a 57-34 record the rest of the way and won the NL Central division with a 97-65 record.
That 57-34 record in the aftermath of Kile’s passing was a powerful symbol.
Kile wore No. 57 for the Cardinals.
Honorable mention: Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez, John Lackey, Miles Mikolas. Todd Stottlemyre.
In my next installment, I’ll be back with a look at the best relievers …
Thanks for reading …
Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.