This series was originally published at the Redbird Daily, but is now proud to call Cards Conclave home. This installment was written by Rusty Groppel.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Whether you’re kicking back and watching the parade, waiting out a halftime show, or simply decompressing from a filling meal, we’re glad you joined us here at the Redbird Daily. This next group of St. Louis Cardinals contains a cornucopia of pitchers, and an outfielder for dessert. Alright ya turkeys, let’s kick off the Top 50.
#50 – Larry Jackson, SP (1955-62, 3x All-Star)
Larry Jackson‘s career carries a unique distinction. His 194 career wins is the most by a right-hander since 1900 who never pitched for a first place team. That’s probably a big reason why his 8 seasons with the Cardinals from 1955-62 are easily forgotten. However, take nothing away from Jackson’s performance during those lean years.
Jackson was a 3-time All-Star with the Cardinals, including an appearance in front of the home crowd at Sportsman’s Park in 1957. It took Larry a couple years to establish himself in the majors, but once he did he was very, very good. From 1957-62 he averaged 15 wins and 235 IP per year to go with a 3.56 ERA, 66 complete games and 14 shutouts. He led the NL in innings pitching (282) in 1960 and FIP (2.87) and HR/9 (0.5) in 1959.
#49 – Ernie Broglio, SP (1959-64)
Speaking of the Cubs and trading for Hall of Famer’s, we turn to one half of perhaps the most famous trade in Cardinals history. That man is Ernie Broglio, who saw his Cardinals career come to an end in 1964 when he was traded for Lou Brock. While Brock would catch fire as a catalyst for the 1964 World Champions, Broglio would fizzle out in Chicago a few years later. It certainly proved to be a lopsided trade in the Cardinals’ favor, but that wasn’t the initial thought when the trade went down. That is because Broglio had been a very good pitcher in the early 60’s.
Working through growing pains on the the way to a 4.72 ERA his rookie year of 1959, Broglio hit his stride in 1960. That season he would lead the NL in wins (21), ERA+ (148), and H/9 (6.8). He also tossed 3 shutouts along with 188 strikeouts and a 2.74 ERA. The effort led him to a 3rd place finish in the Cy Young voting and a top-10 in the MVP. It did win him the “Sophomore of the Year” award, which would be discontinued in 1962. He took a step back in 1961, when he received 20 cortisone shots in his shoulder. He came back with ERA’s of 3.00 and 2.99 in ’62 and ’63, winning 18 games in the latter.
It was that 18 win campaign that made the Cubs feel like they were getting a steal in return for a yet-to-blossom Brock. The trade made Broglio a fixture in Cardinals lore, but his pitching put him in our list’s top 50.
#48 – Carlos Martinez (2013-Present, 2x All-Star)
Ah, a contemporary makes an appearance. I don’t think we realize how good Martinez really is. We are talking about a flat out dominant pitcher. With time, as his counting stats accumulate, he will find himself much, much higher on this list.
Martinez is the franchise leader in strikeouts per 9 innings (min 500 IP), at 8.81. You may think that this number was inflated by his time in the bullpen when he could let it fly. I thought so. However, he actually has increased his strikeout rate since becoming a starter with an impressive 8.9 K/9 from 2015-17, compared to 8.3 as a reliever in ’13 and ’14. For reference, Madison Bumgarner has a career K/9 of 8.84.
Martinez has earned an All-Star berth in 2 of his 3 seasons as a starter. Despite posting his worst ERA as a starter (3.64) in 2017, he dealt 217 strikeouts, a career low 1.220 WHIP, and led the NL with 2 complete games and 2 shutouts. His 217 strikeouts are the third highest single-season total by a Cardinals pitcher not named Bob Gibson.
This is a pitcher that is just coming into his own, yet has already been great.
Update: Unfortunately, Martinez has been unable to help his case for rising in these rankings with an injury plagued season. Given good health, Martinez will be in St. Louis for years to come and will surely rise even higher among the best pitchers in this franchises history.
#47 – Steve Carlton (1965-71, 3x All-Star, HOF)
To those outside of Cardinals Nation, “Lefty” is remembered mostly as a Philadelphia Phillie. However, his Hall of Fame career began with 7 strong years in St. Louis that landed him among our greats.
Carlton was good in limited duty in ’65 and ’66 before establishing himself among the best in 1967. Starting with that season he would post ERA’s under 3.00 for 3 consecutive years, capped by a nice 2.17 mark in ’69. From ’68 to ’71 he averaged 249 innings pitched, 184 strikeouts, with a 3.14 ERA, 53 complete games, and 13 shutouts. He won 20 games in his final season with the Cardinals in ’71.
Carlton was a 3-time All-Star while in St. Louis and a dominant #2 behind Bob Gibson for pennant runs in ’67 and ’68, winning it all in ’67. In 1969 he struck out 19 Mets while setting, at that time, the modern-day record for strikeouts in a 9-inning game.
After a salary dispute, Carlton was traded to Philadelphia in arguably the worst trade in Cardinals’ history. Although he was traded for Rick Wise, one of the best pitchers in the league at the time, Carlton would go on to 15 Hall of Fame season in Philly while Wise would pitch just 2 years in St. Louis. To pour salt in the wound, Carlton won 27 games with a 1.97 ERA across 346.1 innings on his way to the Cy Young award in his first season out of St. Louis.
#46 – George Hendrick (1978-84, 2x All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger)
Nicknamed “Silent George” due to his refusal to speak with the media, Hendrick amassed a very solid major league career. He collected 1980 hits and 267 homeruns, becoming the 9th player to hit 100 in each league, across 18 seasons. His most memorable, and longest, stop came during his 7 seasons in St. Louis. During that time, George slashed .294/.345/.470, marking the best overall stretch of his career. During his time with the Cardinals he earned two All-Star bids, two Silver Sluggers, and finished in the top-15 of the MVP voting every year from 1980 to 1983.
One of the few Cardinals in the early ’80’s that didn’t steal bases (he stole just 19 over 7 years), he did provide the biggest power threat. He led the team in homeruns every year from 1980-83 despite hitting more than 20 only once (25 in ’80). He also drove in 97 or more runs 3 times in that span. In 1979 he had an impressive 20 outfield assists. His 122 HR’s as a Cardinal ranks 18th in franchise history.
Hendrick also did very well during the 1982 World Series run, hitting .317 with a .364 OBP in the postseason. In 10 games he scored 7 runs and drove in 7, including at least 1 RBI in each of the final 4 games of the World Series.
Hendrick’s Cardinal career ended when he was traded for John Tudor in 1984.
Interestingly, George Hendrick is considered to be the first MLB player to ditch the high socks and wear his pant legs down to his ankles.
Thanks for reading!
Come back tomorrow for players 45-41!