Last week, I wrote about Ryan Franklin and the misconception that he is a bad closer. However, I also put a disclaimer on that tag by saying that he has been very lucky in his last two years because he just does not have a good enough K:BB ratio to maintain that ERA.
Now Franklin has since blew another save. This is a tricky situation. The Cardinals do not really have any good options to replace Franklin. At the same time, we don’t want him to pull a Jason Isringhausen circa 2006 on us.
Also, Tony La Russa is not exactly using the bullpen the way it was constructed. Given Miguel Batista’s usage so far this season, he might become the closer if Franklin loses his role. Not only would that be ridiculous, it would be boderline insane. So how should the bullpen be managed?
I’ll start with the roster management of the bullpen. I’ll assume that there are 12 pitchers in the majors which gives me seven pitchers to pick from, same as now. Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Trever Miller, and Brian Tallet are all givens to make the roster just as in real life.
Much to my chagrin, I’ll keep Miguel Batista up as well knowing full well that if we were to cut him, he would probably leave the team altogether. I’d almost rather have depth in the minors in case of injury than otherwise.
I’d option Bryan Augenstein to the minors – but for a different reason. His talent belongs on a MLB roster, but I feel it is better used as a starter. For one, his arsenal of pitches is not that impressive as a whole. He’s not like Boggs whose fastball raises to 98 when he is in the bullpen. He would get conditioned to be the 6th starter, slightly ahead of Lance Lynn (who I feel is not quite ready) and would get promoted if someone got injured. Plus, we already have a long reliever type in Miguel Batista (theoretically).
That leaves a spot open for Fernando Salas. That’s an easy choice as Salas had 29 strikeouts and 15 walks in 30.2 IP. He also showed the ability to go multiple innings when necessary. I really don’t understand why he didn’t make the team in the first place.
Now, here is where the important part comes. How TLR manages to use the bullpen. First off, I’ll use clearly defined roles to make things simpler for the reader. The roles I’ll use are closer, set-up man #1, set-up man #2, left-handed specialists (2), long-reliever, and middle relief.
The closer is Ryan Franklin for now. I’ll give him one last chance before removing him from the closer spot. If he blows another save in April, then I’d yank him and give it to my set-up man #1 who is Jason Motte.
Setup man #2 goes to Mitchell Boggs, who will mostly pitch against righties in the 7th inning and the 8th when Motte is unavailable. Trever Miller is the go-to left-handed specialist and Tallet is the left-handed specialist who will pitch in less important situations.
Fernando Salas is middle relief pitching in any situation. He’s essentially filling the role of Kyle McCllelan with perhaps less of a workload. That leaves Miguel Batista as the long man. For those who dispute this claim that he is not a long reliever, Batista’s stats show a little bit why:
*FIP is a sabermetric stat called “Fielding Independent of Pitching” – Essentially it takes a pitcher’s strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed and tells us what a pitcher’s ERA would look like assuming normal luck.
Batista is a pitcher who does not strike many hitters out… and walks way too many. Relying on a pitcher who will walk one batter every two innings is just not smart. Relying on that same man to pitch in one-run games in the 8th inning is just asking for your bullpen to blow it.
So that’s my solution to the bullpen. Augenstein down, Salas up. Batista pitching in worthless situations. Franklin gets one more chance before I give it to Motte. Of course, the bullpen might be terrible no matter what but I feel this group of pitchers would give them the best chance to hold leads.
[Ed’s Note: This post was written previous to Augenstein’s injury]