TCN 2017 St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year

photo: Carlos Martinez (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images)

OK, I will cut the suspense and name Carlos Martinez The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2017.

Most likely, you are not surprised. In fact, it is his third consecutive such honor.

However, the reality is that Michael Wacha was extremely competitive with our winner, with the two substantially above the other starters not named Luke Weaver. The latter, a rookie first called up in July, made just 10 starts, but had the 23-year old been able to maintain that initial pace for 30 outings, he could have topped both. In fact, in his limited action, Weaver logged as much fWAR as Lance Lynn accrued in over three times the number of starts.

The 2017 Cardinals had a stable rotation, with five members making at least 23 starts. Primarily filling in the gaps behind Adam Wainwright (injured) and Mike Leake (traded) were Weaver and another rookie in Jack Flaherty, who made five starts. John Gant and Marco Gonzales took the other three between them.

Let’s get into our first of two views of the numbers.

Starters W L G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP xFIP fWAR
Carlos Martinez 12 11 32 32 205 9.5 3.1 1.2 0.284 3.64 3.91 3.63 3.3
Michael Wacha 12 9 30 30 165.2 8.6 3.0 0.9 0.327 4.13 3.63 3.88 3.2
Mike Leake 7 12 26 26 154 6.0 2.1 1.1 0.306 4.21 4.24 4.01 1.8
Adam Wainwright 12 5 24 23 123.1 7.0 3.3 1.0 0.326 5.11 4.29 4.40 1.5
Luke Weaver 7 2 13 10 60.1 10.7 2.5 1.0 0.335 3.88 3.17 2.93 1.4
Lance Lynn 11 8 33 33 186.1 7.4 3.8 1.3 0.244 3.43 4.82 4.75 1.4
Jack Flaherty 0 2 6 5 21.1 8.4 4.2 1.7 0.322 6.33 5.27 4.41 0.0

The seven key starters are listed in fWAR sequence, from highest to lowest.

Remember when some claimed Martinez was too slight of build to pitch 200 innings? A year after the 25-year old tossed 195, he led the Cardinals with 205 in 2017. Weaver and Martinez were the only starters to punch out more than one batter per inning. Leake was stingiest in issuing free passes, with Wacha posting the lowest rate of home runs allowed.

While Lynn logged the lowest ERA, Weaver and Wacha had the lowest FIPs. Weaver and Martinez led with the lowest xFIPs.

In terms of fWAR, perhaps the most definitive measure, Martinez edged Wacha, ever so slightly. Still, those who want Wacha turned into a reliever should take pause after reviewing his 2017 results.

Starters Starts QS W-L StL record IP/start K/9 Run spt
Martinez 32 20 12-11 17-15 6.1 9.5 4.9
Wacha 30 15 12-9 15-15 5.1 8.6 4.3
Leake 26 14 7-12 11-15 5.2 6 4.4
Wainwright 23 8 12-5 15-8 5.1 7.1 5.7
Weaver 10 4 7-2 8-2 6 10.7 5.5
Lynn 33 18 11-8 14-19 5.2 7.4 4.3
Flaherty 5 0 0-2 3-2 4 8.9 4.6

The above offers further detail on the effectiveness of the seven starters, with any relief results removed. They are in the same fWAR sequence as the first table.

Martinez topped Lynn and all of the others with his 20 quality starts. His offensive support was only middle of the road, however. Only Wainwright and Weaver received more than five runs of support, on average. Not surprisingly, the two also had the highest winning percentages among the rotation members.

Martinez pitched deepest into games, on average. Yet despite his strong numbers, his record was just one game over .500 on the season and the team was two games over in the games he started.

The winner

Carlos Martinez (USA TODAY Sports Images)

In 2017, Martinez set new career-bests in starts (32), innings pitched (205.0), strikeouts (217) and opponent batting average (.232) in the first year of a five-year contract extension signed before the season.

He was named to the 2017 National League All-Star team by player vote, the second selection of his career (2015, Final Fan Vote).

During the season, Martinez ranked among the National League top 10 in shutouts (2, 1st), batters faced (858, T1st), innings (2nd), strikeouts (4th), quality starts (20, T4th), starts (T5th), opponent batting average (8th), opp. OBP (.302, 10th), baserunners/9 IP (11.33, 10th), walks (71, T7th), SO/9 IP (9.53, 9th), hits/9 IP (7.86, 9th) and WHIP (1.22, T10th).

His 217 strikeouts are the ninth-highest single-season total in Cardinals history and he is the seventh Cardinal to reach the 200 strikeout plateau. He and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton are the only Cardinals pitchers age 25 or younger to achieve that.

Beyond the strikeouts, when batters did made contact, Martinez had great success keeping the ball on the ground. His 52.0 ground ball percentage ranked third in the NL. He induced the team-leading 21 GIDP (T8th) and was 10th in the NL in GIDP/9 IP (0.92).

He buckled down when it mattered most, limiting the opposition to a .205 batting average against (33-for-161) with runners in scoring position, fourth-lowest in the league.

Congratulations to Carlos Martinez, The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2017.

Prior years’ winners

Our honorees over the prior eight seasons follow. This is Martinez’ third consecutive nod. Only Wainwright, with four, has more.

St. Louis
TCN Starter of the Year
2017 Carlos Martinez
2016 Carlos Martinez
2015 Carlos Martinez
2014 Adam Wainwright
2013 Adam Wainwright
2012 Kyle Lohse
2011 Chris Carpenter
2010 Adam Wainwright
2009 Adam Wainwright

These winners are also permanently recorded under “SEASON RECAPS/TOP PLAYERS,” located on the left red menu bar here at The Cardinal Nation.

For more

Link to master article with all 2017 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up will be our selection as the top position player on the St. Louis Cardinals as well as a comprehensive season recap.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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