With just under two weeks remaining in Spring Training, the St. Louis Cardinals will soon choose the winner of the fifth and final spot in the pitching rotation.
Joe Kelly should be declared the victor.
Kelly is the most deserving as he’s pitched much better than his counterpart, Shelby Miller, this spring. While Miller is/was considered the prized pitching prospect in the Cardinals farm system, he’s yet to live up to those expectations. Kelly has the experience edge over Miller, having pitched over 100 innings last season compared to Miller’s 13.2.
Thus far, Kelly has pitched just one tenth of an inning more than Miller so it’ll be easy to size them up, even though the sample size is small.
In terms of ERA, Kelly holds a 2.25 versus the 7.04 of Miller — no contest there. More importantly, Kelly has three starts compared to just one in three appearances for Miller. Kelly has given up half as many hits, though Miller has struck out four times as many batters as Kelly.
The explanation for the latter is that Miller is a swing-and-miss pitcher while Kelly pitches to contact. When looking at WHIP, the difference isn’t that drastic as Miller has a 1.57 — a bit higher than you want for a starter — while Kelly’s is a bit more controlled at 1.25.
In terms their minor league career, both have managed to keep their ERA in the neighborhood of 2.50 when pitching under 100 innings. The interesting thing is that when both exceed 100 innings, their ERAs balloon over four.
The only difference here is that Kelly’s FIP is typically lower in those cases where his ERA is high, while Miller’s is much closer to his actual ERA. What does that mean? Well, it could mean that Kelly really didn’t pitch that poorly and he was the victim of some poor defense or just plain bad luck. Miller may have just pitched badly.
In any case, the Cardinals will get a good look at both as they will get a chance to further improve their case — or lower their chances — for the fifth spot Tuesday against the Miami Marlins.
I’ve got to give the nod to Kelly to start out 2013 as the fifth starter. Miller needs more time in Triple-A, not as a reliever with St. Louis. He’s got much more potential than Kelly but clearly isn’t ready for the big leagues just yet.
Kelly should be looking over his shoulder as upstart Michael Wacha is waiting in the wings as well. That will hopefully bode well for the Cardinals if Kelly can use that as motivation to give it his all to keep his spot in the rotation.