It’s been a few weeks since we analyzed Kip Wells before and after his bullpen demotion. Has anything changed? For a refresher, this is how it stood after July 24:
Before the bullpen: 14 games, 76.2 innings pitched, 84 hits, 59 earned runs, 12 home runs, 42 walks, 57 strikeouts, 6.93 ERA, 1.64 WHIP
Bullpen and after: 7 games, 25 innings pitched, 22 hits, 6 earned runs, 0 home runs, 8 walks, 19 strikeouts, 2.16 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Since then, Kip has pitched three games, vs. Milwaukee, Washington and San Diego. Adding those three games to the “after” line above gives us the following:
Bullpen and after: 10 games, 43 innings pitched, 45 hits, 13 earned runs, 0 home runs, 15 walks, 34 strikeouts, 2.72 ERA, 1.40 WHIP.
The WHIP line is creeping up, but all those numbers were influenced by a less-than-stellar outing against Milwaukee. Even with that, it appears something is working for Wells. That’s why, even though it sounds crazy to talk about it about a pitcher with a 5.27 ERA, I think the Cardinals should give serious consideration to locking up Wells with an extension now, before he hits the open market.
First off, there is likely going to be a need for a pitcher next year. Adam Wainwright, Anthony Reyes and Mark Mulder will/should have slots locked up for 2008, leaving two openings. Braden Looper may get one of those slots, though again there is talk about moving him back to the bullpen. He’s pitched a little better lately, which may mean his arm is getting conditioned to starting. Still, I wouldn’t be very confident with him in the rotation without a solid Plan B.
Mike Maroth has had a terrible time in St. Louis, and it’d be pretty astonishing if he’s not DFAd at the end of the season. It’s possible he’ll come back from the disabled list and show the team something, but I’d be surprised if it was enough to save his job.
The minors don’t have anyone just pounding on the door to get a chance. I’d love to see Blake Hawksworth get a shot, but he’s been inconsistent in Memphis, so they’ll probably not give him a slot unless he pitches very well this month and then again in spring training. There are other pitching prospects in the organization, but most are at least a year away.
So there’s a place for Wells here. The general rumor now seems to be that LaRussa will be returning for another season next year, which means that Duncan should be coming along with him. (As excited as LaRussa has been about the return of Rick Ankiel, I can’t believe he’d turn down the opportunity to be around all season with him.) That apparently would be good news for Wells. St. Louis stayed with Wells, letting him work out of the pen instead of releasing him. I’d hope that would have built up some good will on his side as well.
All in all, it seems the smart thing to do would be to lock Kip up for another year, at least, before the market that was so crazy last winter gets a chance to go nuts again this year.