|How much will Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals rotation miss Chris Carpenter? (Getty Images)|
The news that Chris Carpenter almost certainly won't pitch in 2013 means that the Cardinals rotation just got a little thinner (and a little less intense). What are the implications for a team with legitimate designs on the pennant?
First and foremost, Cardinals partisans should recall that their team made it to within one game of the World Series while getting just 17 innings from Carpenter during the 2012 regular season. No doubt, Carpenter's leadership and powers of tutelage (to say nothing of his yeoman's efforts in the postseason) will be missed, but he contributed very little to the Cardinals' success in the 2012 regular season.
As for the holdovers, Adam Wainwright figures to improve now that his immediate post-Tommy John season is behind him. As well, as a command-and-location guy, Wainwright is the type of pitcher who tends not to recoup his skills as quickly following such a procedure. You may see a more vintage Wainwright in 2013. Elsewhere, the loss of Carpenter likely means that gifted rookie Shelby Miller will have a spot in the rotation to begin the season. He has a dominant fastball, a plus curve and enough of a "show me" changeup to thrive in a major-league rotation right now. He'll get better with each start.
As for Lance Lynn, the big concern is whether he can avoid the second-half decline that afflected him last season in his first year as a big-league starter. The good news is that Lynn's velocity stayed consistent, even after being temporarily dispatched the bullpen late in the season. The hope, of course, is that Lynn's 2012 was a "get him stretched out" year and that he'll be able to maintain effectiveness while shouldering a greater workload in 2013.
Jaime Garcia's injury concerns are still, well, concerning, and the Cardinals are certainly hoping he'll be able to stay healthy and be more effective than he was in 2012 (98 ERA+). Jake Westbrook was his solid-average self last season, and there's no reason he should be able to do what he does: make 30 or so starts and post an ERA around the league mean.
The real story for the Cards is that there is much in-house depth and much of it has ceiling. Joe Kelly was a highly capable spot-starter in 2012, and Carlos Martinez, after thriving at Double-A last season, should be ready for major-league detail at some point in the coming season. Trevor Rosenthal has the stuff to step into the rotation and thrive, and 2012 first-rounder Michael Wacha should be ready to help out in the second half, or perhaps sooner. John Gast is another name who can give the Cards innings. Same goes for Kevin Siegrist. As you may have noticed, that's a lot of arms, and not one of them strains the definition of "possible major-league starting pitcher in 2013."
The other thing to keep in mind is that the Cardinals once again figure to have a powerhouse offense. As such, the margin for rotation error will be greater than it is for most teams, and the front office -- one of the best in baseball -- can, if pressed, simply throw organizational depth at the problem.
The reality is that the Cardinals will miss the idea of Carpenter more than they'll miss the reality of what Carpenter gave them in 2012 and figured to give them in 2013. Perhaps they'll miss Kyle Lohse's 2012 innings (if not the reality of Lohse in 2013), but the strength in numbers is impossible to deny.
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