St. Louis Cardinals: A Plan From Within To Save the Bullpen
By Nathan Grime
The St. Louis Cardinals are currently carrying eight relief pitchers on their 25-man roster. These are the five that need to stay.
While Oh hasn’t looked nearly as lights-out as he did in his rookie season last year, he hasn’t done anything that warrants his removal from the closer’s role. He recently blew his second save of the year, but it was his first since the very first game of the season.
Before his blown save against the Giants last Friday, Oh had strung together thirteen consecutive outings in which he did not allow an unearned run. That streak lowered his earned run average from 9.53 to 2.61.
Though his 1.48 WHIP is up fifty-six points from his 0.92 mark a year ago and his K/9 rate is down from 11.6 to 6.6, he’ll be the closer moving forward.
Rosenthal has been the best relief pitcher for the Cardinals this season, hands down. After an ugly season last year, his return to dominance on the hill has been a welcome and needed development for the relief corps.
He’s settled into the role of eighth-inning set-up man, and has converted five of his six hold opportunities to go along with three saves in three opportunities.
He’s throwing his fastball as hard as he’s ever thrown it. It averages 99.2 mph, and has topped out at 101.7 mph this year. He also mixes in a plus-changeup and a plus-slider to keep opposing hitters off balance.
He’s struck out twenty-eight in just 16 1/3 innings pitched. That’s a rate of fifteen strikeouts per nine innings. All this he’s done while recovering from a lat injury he suffered in the spring as well as regular soreness in his arm after he pitches.
Bowman leads the team with nine holds this season. That’s tied for sixth in all of Major League Baseball. His one blown save was a result of an unearned run. He’s held opponents to a minuscule .191 batting average while walking only five and striking out fifteen in twenty-two appearances.
Bowman is Mike Matheny’s best option to protect a lead before the eighth inning.
*4 years, $30.5 million.
We all know how Cecil has pitched to begin the year. If Cecil signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals in the offseason, it’d be easier to talk about letting him go. Instead, we must be reasonable and consider the bigger picture.
Cecil isn’t going anywhere. It’s the first year of his contract. No one will want to trade for him. The Cardinals aren’t going to cut their losses and eat $30 million that’s due a relief pitcher.
Another reason for keeping Cecil is because of Kevin Siegrist’s struggles. Sure, Cecil’s struggled against lefties this season, but his major-leauge resume suggests he’s a better pitcher, especially against left-handed hitters than he’s let on in a Cardinals uniform.
Zach Duke will be on the disabled list likely for the remainder of the year, and Tyler Lyons is currently rehabbing from a rib cage strain. Those are the only other southpaw relief options the Cardinals have on their 40-man roster. Cecil is here for the long haul.
The bullpen’s struggles have been Sam Tuivailala’s opportunity. The most appearances he’s had in a single major-league season to date was 14, in 2015. He’s already taken the hill ten times for St. Louis in 2017. He’s 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA in those ten appearances.
He’s pitched in four of the Cardinals’ last five games, in part a sign that Matheny has growing confidence in Tuivailala’s ability. His fastball has always been good, but he’s displayed growing willingness in throwing his breaking ball, and it’s worked for him.
He looked completely in control during his last outing against San Francisco. He struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to finish off a 8-3 win against the Giants.