This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Jake Woodford
Stats: 2-3, 15 G, 47.2 IP, 61 H, 11 HR, 22 BB, 29 K, 6.23 ERA, 6.61 FIP, 1.741 WHIP, -0.8 bWAR
Statcast: 11.3% barrel, 35.1% sweet spot, 116.6 max exit velocity, .404 wOBA, .392 xwOBA, 13.1% K, 9.9% BB
Spring training is always a bit of a mirage. You have people getting great results against pitchers that are working on something or batters that are looking for particular pitches. It’s a bit like Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where the games are made up and the results don’t matter. Even by that standard, though, 2023 spring training was fool’s gold. Not only did the Cardinals win the whole league in Jupiter, completely belying their coming mark of 20 games under .500, but Woodford was one of their best pitchers.
He pitched in five games, made two starts, and had a 2.04 ERA while averaging a strikeout every inning. Given that this was going to be Woodford’s fourth year in the majors, it looked like perhaps Woodford had turned a corner and he was installed as the fifth starter when Adam Wainwright started the year on the injured list.
Instead of coming out of the tunnel, however, he was hit by the oncoming train. By time he was put on the injured list at the beginning of May, he had a 5.72 ERA and batters were hitting .316 against him. The rest of the year didn’t fair any better for him. He went on the injured list again and when he came off finally went to the minors, though rosters had expanded. You would be hard pressed to find a split that did him any favors. When you have a 7+ ERA at Busch, you know it’s a bad year.
In some years, even the struggles wouldn’t have been enough to change his employment status. The Cardinals would have pointed to the number of times he was on the injured list, note their need for veteran depth, and keep him around at least until the winter. (I can’t remember if he had an option year or not, but given he made his debut in 2020 I am inclined to believe he had used them all this year.) Instead, the front office decided that 2022 was an aberration (which it probably was), noted the lack of strikeouts and the fact he was walking four per game, and decided there was really no spot for him in St. Louis, which likely disturbed both Nick Castellanos and b_g_h, though for different reasons.
What’s in store for 2024: It’s hard to believe someone like Woodford would be done for at age 27, so you figure he’ll probably get picked up somewhere. Maybe Pittsburgh, maybe Oakland, but somewhere will offer him a minor league contract with a big league invite to camp and they’ll see if they can get something out of him the Cardinals couldn’t. Good luck to that team.