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Greatest Cardinals' Rotation of All Time

St. Louis Cardinals All Time Starting Rotation

Coming up with an All Time Starting Rotation for our storied St. Louis Cardinals was no easy task. There were so many factors to consider; the obvious, wins, ERA, time with the club. Then there were the not so obvious; post season record, were the teams they played on winners, etc. So after much thought and consideration for all of the criteria above, I unveil to you the greatest Cardinals Starting Rotation of all time.

1. Bob Gibson- Is there any question he is number one? He is considered by nearly everyone in baseball to be the greatest Cardinals pitcher of all time. He played all of his 17 big league seasons with the Cardinals, compiling a 251-174 record, with 255 complete games and 56 Shutouts. Gibson was the definition of a work horse. He surpassed 200 innings 12 times, 250 innings 8 times and 300 innings in 1968 and 1969. ( Note- 299 innings in 1965 and 294 innings in 1970) Gibson would go on to win two Cy Young Awards (finishing in the top ten two other times) and an MVP in his storied season of 1968 when he went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA, 28 complete games, 13 shutouts and 268 k’s. Gibson was an athlete in the purest sense of the word. He won nine Gold Gloves, and played for the Harlem Globetrotters earning the nickname “Bullet” Bob Gibson while becoming famous for his reverse dunks.

Gibson in the Post Season
These are all amazing numbers, but what puts Gibson at the top of any rotation in my opinion is his performance when it really matters, October. In three World Series Gibson went 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA completing 8 of the 9 games he started. He averaged 10.2 strikeouts per game in the Fall Classic and hit homeruns in the 67 and 68 series driving in a total of 3 runs. Gibson’s best series was in 1967 when the Red Schoendienst lead Redbirds defeated the Boston Red Sox in seven games. Gibson won games one, four, and seven while pitching three complete games, with a 1.00 ERA, and a complete game shutout in game four. In the deciding game seven Gibson would give up two runs on three hits while striking out ten to lead the Cards to their eighth World Series Title and the final championship of Gibson’s career.

2. Dizzy Dean- He was a Cardinal for 7 seasons from 1930-1937 going 134-75 with a 2.99 ERA, and 26 Shutouts. Dean was another Cardinals inning eater. From 1932-1936 Dean averaged 306.1 innings a season. He won the 1934 NL MVP award with a record of 30-7 and a 2.66 ERA. He would finish runner up in the MVP voting the next two seasons.

Dean in the Post Season
Dean made is World Series debut, and his only with the Cards at the age of 24 in 1934 versus the Detroit Tigers. In the ’34 Classic Dean went 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA and two complete games. He was the winning pitcher in games one and seven. In the deciding game Dean was magical, throwing a complete game shutout as the Frankie Frisch lead Redbirds defeated the Detroit Tigers to claim their third World Series Championship.

3. Mort Cooper- Cooper was the ace for the great Musial lead Cardinals squads of the early 1940’s. In his 8 years with the Cardinals Copper went 105-50 with a 2.77 ERA, 105 complete games and 28 shutouts. Cooper won the 1942 MVP for the WS Championship Cardinals going 22-7 with a 1.78 ERA, 22 complete games and 10 shutouts. He would go on to finish in the top ten in MVP voting two more times in ’43 and ’44. For those three pennant winning Cardinals teams Cooper went 65-22 winning 20 or more games all three years, throwing 23 shutouts while compiling a 2.18 ERA, and averaging 268.1 innings per season.

Cooper in the Post Season
Though Cooper pitched in three World Series, his best was his last in 1944. He would start two games going 1-1 giving up two runs in sixteen innings for a 1.12 ERA, 16 strikeouts and a complete game shutout in game five at Sportsman Park versus the St. Louis Browns. The Redbirds would go on to win in six games capturing their fifth World Series title.

4. Chris Carpenter- I know that his tenure is short, but it is undeniable good. From 2004 to 2006, Carpenter helped lead the Cards to three Central Division Crowns, Two Pennants and a World Series title in 2006. In those three campaigns Carp went 51-18 with a 3.12 ERA, 13 complete games and 7 shutouts. He took home the Cy Young Award in 2005 posting a 21-5 record with a 2.83 ERA, 7 complete games and 4 shutouts while pitching 241.2 innings. He is poised to take home his second Cy Young in 2009. As of today he is 15-3 with a league leading 2.28 ERA.

Carpenter in the Post Season
Carp’s post season credentials are impressive. In his two post seasons with the Redbirds in 2005 and 2006 Carpenter went a combined 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA. He pitched his best when it mattered the most, during the Fall Classic. In game three of the 2006 World Series versus the Detroit Tigers, Carpenter needed only 82 pitches to get through 8 scoreless innings striking out six and not walking a single batter. In fact, only one Tiger reached second base. The Larussa lead Redbirds would go on to defeat the Leyland lead Tigers in five games capturing their 10th World Series Title.
(Note- Carpenter missed the 2004 World Series due to injury. Imagine if he had started game one instead of Woody Williams.)

5. John Tudor- Tudor is the most over looked ace in Cardinals history. He didn’t throw hard, he wasn’t flashy, he didn’t pop off at the mouth, he just went about his business and out pitched anyone he came across. In his five seasons with the Cardinals Tudor carved a slow master piece through the National League going 62-26 with a 2.52 ERA, 22 complete games, 12 shutouts and a microscopic 1.08 WHIP. Tudor’s best year was for the 1985 Whitey Herzog lead NL pennant winning club. Tudor compiled a 21-8 record with a 1.93 ERA, 14 complete games and 10 shutouts finishing second to Doc Gooden in the Cy Young and eight in the MVP balloting.

Tudor in the Post Season
Tudor pitched in two post seasons for the Cards in ’85 and ’87 going 5-4. His best series was the 1985 Fall Classic versus the George Brett lead Kansas City Royals. Tudor went 2-1 winning the series opener and throwing a complete game shutout in game four to put the Cards on the brink of their 10th World Championship. The only game he lost in that series, game seven, a game that never should have happened. Every Cardinal fan knows why.

For all of the reasons listed above, Tudor deserves the recognition he earned as one of the great Cardinals pitcher of all time.

So, there you have it. The greatest one through five the Cardinals have. I know some of you may have an argument for the likes of Steve Carlton, Jesse Haines, maybe even Bob Forsch or Joaquin Andujar, but their numbers as a Cardinal don’t match up to the five I have chosen. If you want to argue, call me an idiot, or completely agree and shower me with praise, feel free to email me.

Thank you for reading.
-Will Saulsbery



  1. This guy knows what he's talking about! Will, I couldn't have said it better myself. Preach on, Brother!

    -Drink til Midnight, Pistol Dawn


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