Cardinal Nation is in turmoil. The St. Louis Cardinals have lost 5 of their last seven games. In the month of May, the Cardinals’ record is 13-17. Injuries have beset the Redbirds, but injuries are a factor that is out of the team’s control. While individual game box scores may tell one story, the bottom line is that Cardinal pitching has regressed in the month of May, especially in the bullpen. Now, having said that, and knowing that regression has in fact taken place, the situation is not as dire as many Cardinal fans seem to think. It hurts to lose, and it especially hurts to lose close games in late innings as the Cardinals have done in recent weeks. And when it hurts to lose, anger and overreaction on the part of fans tends to follow. The bullpen has issues right now, no doubt about it, but in looking at the big picture, sans the anger and frustration, one can see that calls for releasing or sending down pitchers is just not warranted. While it may seem to some that the 2012 bullpen is just a sequel to the 2011 bullpen of last April-June, that conclusion is far from reality. Let’s look at the numbers please.
In 2011, 4 relief pitchers whose performance was sub par were eventually released or traded by the Cardinals. Those 4 pitchers were Ryan Franklin, Brian Tallet, Miguel Batista and Trever Miller. For the sake of brevity, I am only going to use two stats, ERA and WHIP. I use these because they are the most recognizable by fans who are not sabermetrically trained. While those who do know the advanced metrics well might argue that other stats are more indicative of performance (and they would be right) for the broad purpose and point of this post, ERA and WHIP will have to serve. The following shows the ERA and WHIP of the 4 pitchers for their season with the Cardinals.
Ryan Franklin ERA: 8.46 WHIP: 1.843 21 games
Brian Tallet ERA: 8.31 WHIP: 1.923 18 games
Miguel Batista ERA: 4.60 WHIP: 1.568 26 games
Trever Miller ERA: 4.02 WHIP: 1.851 39 games
Now, if you look at the current 5 pitchers in the 2012 bullpen who have been with the team all season, excluding JC Romero, who was released, and Kyle McClellan, who is on the DL, and including Fernando Salas, who was recently sent down, the stats are as follows:
Jason Motte ERA: 2.70 WHIP: 0.850 18 games
Mitchell Boggs ERA: 2.08 WHIP: 1.200 21 games
Marc Rzepczynski ERA: 3.44 WHIP: 0.982 23 games
Fernando Salas ERA: 6.32 WHIP: 2.043 18 games
Victor Marte ERA: 3.86 WHIP: 1.114 23 games
With the exception of Fernando Salas, not a single one of these pitchers has come close to duplicating the numbers of the 2011 Four. Salas is in Memphis working on his pitching and hopefully will return a better pitcher. As for the rest of these guys, while they are clearly not pitching to the best of their ability right now, comparing them unfavorably to the 2011 bullpen of early last season is extremely disingenuous, and simply outside the realm of reality. It is understandable to be upset at the recent performance of the bullpen. What is not understandable is overreacting to the point of absurdity by calling for the ouster of some or all of these pitchers while exclaiming they are just as bad as last season’s bullpen. It just ain’t so.
Manager Mike Matheny stated in last night’s post game interviews that adjustments needed to be made with the pitching staff ( he was referring to the entire staff, not just the bullpen). When pressed he stated that these adjustments would be made by reviewing the recent performances of the staff to look for areas that can be improved upon. I have no doubt that these measures will be taken and hopefully the pitching will improve in the future. We as fans must be patient and try very hard to ride out this wave. The alternative, having John Mozeliak “fix it” by scrapping all or part of the current staff is just not feasible. The possibility of adding another LHP to the staff is not unreasonable, but aside from that, the performances of our bullpen staff have not risen to the level that “fixing it” requires the measures taken in 2011.
Let’s all calm down, shall we.