St. Louis Cardinals: The Pen is Fine, Do Nothing

Apr 16, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Seung Hwan Oh (26) pitches to a Cincinnati Reds batter during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Seung Hwan Oh (26) pitches to a Cincinnati Reds batter during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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ALCS game three was won thanks to great managing and a powerful pen.  The St. Louis Cardinals must examine their pen with the exit of Duke, but panic is not something that should occur.

If you missed the ALCS game three then you missed one of the best postseason games in history.  As a matter of fact, you missed history in which the Cleveland Indians pen entered the game in the first inning and held the Jays to only two runs and the win.  Is the St. Louis Cardinals pen as strong?

This is certainly the question facing the St. Louis Cardinals this winter especially now in light of the Zach Duke surgery absence.  Many of Cardinals Nation panicked at the news and assumed that GM Mozeliak would now target a reliever in his work this winter.  I hope this is not the case and hope that any reliever gained would come not from being targeted but as an auxiliary piece (if at all).

If the Cardinals do nothing in the reliever market this winter, let’s look at the seven likely pen arms who can be relied upon in 2017.

First up, Tyler Lyons.  Lyons will be 29 in the 2017 campaign and is under team control until 2021.  Lyons appeared in thirty games and 48.0 innings in 2016 and finished with a 3.38 ERA.  This could-be-starter has served the birds well as long relief and I look for him to continue as such in 2017.

Next arm up is Matthew Bowman.  Bowman, a rule-5 pick, far exceeded expectations in 2016 and was a shut-down guy out of the pen.  Bowman will turn 26 during the 2017 season.  He appeared in 67.2 innings and 59 games in 2016 for a 3.46 ERA.  In his 67.2 innings, Bowman struck out 52 batters.  Dear Cardinals, give this guy a 2-3 season contract.

Jonathan Broxton hasn’t always been one of my favorite pen arms for the Cardinals but he isn’t someone to simply write-off.  Broxton will turn 33 during the 2017 season and will be under the last year in his Cardinals contract.  I think this pressure will help him perform to either secure additional pitching years or to retire in style.

In 2016, Broxton appeared in 60.2 innings across 66 games.  If you are doing math at home, this means that he was used a few times to face a limited number of batters in a single inning.  Broxton surrendered fifty-two hits in his 60.2 innings and struck out 57 batters.  His 2016 era was 4.30.  This ERA is in keeping with his career average yet he is a good arm in the pen when managed appropriately.

This brings us to a what I’ll call a swing spot (if we are assuming seven relievers).  I believe that minor league players such as Dean Kiekhefer or Miguel Socolovich or maybe even someone like Sam Tuivailala will fill this spot.  This is the only pen location where I think the Cardinals could supplement with an auxiliary piece of a trade but I do not feel it is necessary.

Back to who we can safely count on in the 2017 pen, and at the back end of games to be exact… Trevor Rosenthal might have been experimented as a starter for 2017 but I think he serves the team best at the back end of the pen.  Rosenthal was injured in 2016 but did appear in 45 games and 40.1 innings for a 4.46 ERA.  While no longer a closer, Rosey can help close the back end of games with finesse.

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Zach Duke was a powerful lefty for the Cardinals pen in 2016 and will be missed.  Unfortunately this means additional pressure on Kevin Siegrist to sport the lefty needs.  Siegrist, to his credit, has been a great arm out of the Cardinals pen- again- when managed appropriately.  In 2016, Siegrist appeared in 67 games, 61.2 innings, commanded an impressive 2.77 ERA, and struck out 66 batters.  Kevin can make us all forget about Duke easily.

This brings us to our impressive closer from 2016 Seung-hwan Oh.  Wow, what a season in 2016, right?  Oh was not only shut-down but also became a fan favorite as the “Final Boss.”  In 76 games, 79.2 innings, Oh struck out 103 batters while allowing only 55 hits and 17 earned runs.  This was an impressive 1.92 ERA!  When Oh appears at the end of games, the games end.

Next: Use Matheny as Trade Bait

These seven arms prove that the loss of Duke, while it does hurt, does not require any knee-jerk reaction of a trade.  The 2017 St. Louis Cardinals, with these arms holding down games, should be fine as it relates to the pen.  Let’s let Mozeliak focus on something else of greater need!