Rethinking the Shelby Miller for Roy Oswalt trade

As the 2010 non-waiver trade deadline was approaching, I tried to convince myself that trading Shelby Miller for Roy Oswalt would have been a good deal for the Cardinals.  Enough time has passed for an evaluation of that non-deal, and it now looks like Cards GM John Mozeliak made the right decision.   As for the deal that eventually happened, Ryan Ludwick for Jake Westbrook, well that’s going to be a bit more difficult to grade.

Oswalt vs Westbrook

Since their respective trades, Roy Oswalt has gotten 9 starts for the Phillies while Westbrook has made 8 for the Cardinals.  Their respective records are

Pitcher W-L Team W-L ERA
Roy Oswalt 6-1 8-1 1.98
Jake Westbrook 1-3 2-6 3.78

If the Cardinals had posted an 8-1 record, instead of the 2-6 they did with Westbrook, they would be nipping hard on the Cincinnati Reds heels.  We should have made that trade after all, right ?  Well,  it’s not quite that simple.

In the 8 Westbrook starts, the Cardinals scored a total of 30 runs (3.75 runs scored vs 3.78 runs allowed through just 6 innings). In only two of those games did the Cardinals score more than 4 runs, and they were both wins. In 4 more, the Cardinals scored three or less, including a shutout in Houston. Two of those would have been sure losses, even with the lights out performances by Oswalt. The other two would require the bullpen to be perfect, which they haven’t been lately. So let’s be generous and split those two. The remaining 2 games, the Cardinals scored exactly 4 runs. Like before, let’s be conservative and split those as well. That gives us a projected Oswalt-as-a-Cardinal record of 4-4. OK, that would put the Cards two games closer than the 2-6 under Westbrook, but hardly the 8-1 record that the Phillies have posted. I think it’s safe to say that losing Shelby Miller is not worth a 2 game differential in the 2010 Win-Loss total.

The Ludwick Factor

Oh, but the Oswalt deal wouldn’t have cost the Cardinals their most productive hitter with runners in scoring position, Ryan Ludwick. That’s true. Let’s see how that might have changed things.

Player Runs Home Runs RBIs Avg OPS SLG OPS
Ryan Ludwick 14 4 16 .216 .305 .351 .656
Jon Jay 18 1 14 .252 .308 .341 .650

Well, that’s about as even as two players can be.  While Ludwick’s struggles were totally unexpected, everybody had to expect Jay to regress to a more realistic performance level.   While we will never know how Ludwick would have played in St. Louis, and whether or not it would have had any impact in the results, a head to head comparison between him and Jay suggest that they are about equal since August 1.

So no help there.

Looking to 2011

Clearly there is still some gas in the Oswalt tank.   It would be nice to think of that as a third or fourth starter for the Redbirds next year, but not if that would put an Albert Pujols contract extension at risk.

Jake Westbrook has been as good as advertised in his short time in St. Louis.   He’s not a “shut the opponents down” type of pitcher, but he does keep the game close with ground ball after ground ball after ground ball.  Just like Joel Pineiro but without the late season fade.  If Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan return in 2011 and the Cardinals field a bit better middle infield defense,  Westbrook could enjoy a career year in St. Louis.  I suspect that his signing will be a priority for the front office, to make up for losing a fan favorite (Ryan Ludwick), but the $11M per year that he’s currently making is totally out of line for a 4th or 5th starter.  We already have that tied up in Kyle Lohse, so another $10M+ arm doesn’t seem like a good investment while Pujols remains unsigned and the infield needing several upgrades.  Perhaps the Cardinals could offer arbitration and get a more reasonable deal for Westbrook, but the Cardinals would be better served with salary constrained players like Blake Hawksworth or Lance Lynn in the 5th spot.

John Mozeliak’s trade record mirrors that of the Cardinals [lack of] success with Jake Westbrook, but it appears that he made the right decision holding onto Miller.  I really look forward to seeing the young right hander pitch with Springfield next year, and them maybe Memphis the following year.  Maybe a starting rotation of Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller in 2013 might make us forget the summer of 2010.  Maybe.

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2 Responses to Rethinking the Shelby Miller for Roy Oswalt trade

  1. Erika says:

    It is exciting to look to the future – especially with Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller both finishing so strongly this season in the minors!

    And let the record show…. I still think the Ludwick trade was an absolute disaster. 😦


    • They both finished strong, suggesting that help for the big club may be closer than some think. Did you get a chance to see Eduardo Sanchez pitch ? It sounds like his stuff has been absolutely electric since being being promoted from Springfield. 31 strikeouts in 27 innings – yikes! I’ve heard his slider called a video game slider – that must be something to see.

      For the record, I agree with you. I don’t think that Westbrook has been that much of an upgrade over the way Hawksworth was settling in. Ludwick’s clutch hitting plus his defense had to have helped the Cardinals in this recent funk. Or if not, at least it would be one thing less thing about the front office for us to question. I don’t see how we resign Westbrook, so we gave up Ludwick for essentially a dozen starts. Not worth it. AT least offer arbitration and then trade Ludwick for something we need in 2011.


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