St. Louis Cardinals: Cardinals bullpen stretched too thin

jwolfe
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 11: Manager Mike Matheny
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 11: Manager Mike Matheny /
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The St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff has caught the injury bug of late. This has caused our bullpen to eat up a few more innings than they bargained to pitch.

It is hard to be optimistic with the St. Louis Cardinals after a 2-3 week so far. Especially with a struggling bullpen that gave up one lead to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday and almost another on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Trust me, I even have to remind myself not to panic.

It can be easy as fans to ride the roller coaster so-to-speak when it comes to games in the short term. Being the long-term projector that I am, I am telling you we will be just fine. Clearly, losing Trevor Rosenthal will have its impact on the bullpen, and I think we can already see that. However, I argue not to take it out of proportion.

The first reminder I wish for us all to recall is that for a better part of the season Trevor Rosenthal was part of the bad-news-bears bullpen the St. Louis Cardinals put together for the season. It has only been recently that he started to find some success.

I should also mention, that it was not just him who started to figure it out either, but rather a collection of arms.

Trevor Rosenthal started his epic comeback of the rough season on the fourth of July. Prior to his injury game against the Boston Red Sox he had only given up one run in the fifteen appearances since.

Obviously he has played a major role for the St. Louis Cardinals being ranked 6th in ERA since the All-Star break, but he is not the sole reason. The only huge problem we are seeing now with him out is that there are more innings to fill for the others and our bullpen looks tired.

Rest is not easy to come by when our starting pitchers have only totaled 25 1/3 innings pitched the past five games. This has left our bullpen to cover the remaining 17 2/3 innings.

Matt Bowman is a great example. In twenty-two appearances since July 3rd, he has only given up five earned runs. Three coming just this week, one in the Boston bullpen meltdown game on Tuesday and the other on Friday struggling against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I give the benefit of the doubt to him in the Friday game. I mean come on, he surely could not have expected to pitch in a close game after being up 11-3. It was apparent he was either mentally or physically worn out. His control was not where it has been, but walking people is a sign of being tired.

Another great example has been the quality stretch run by Tyler Lyons. A surprising post all-star success story. Tyler Lyons has gone fourteen appearances since the All-Star break and has given up a goose egg. Yes, zero runs. Not pitching in Friday night’s game was probably due to the fact that we need to have arms for the rest of the series this weekend.

Seung-hwan Oh has continued to have his ups and downs, but has at least been somewhat reliable when in need. In his first game post-break he gave up three runs. He then went on a decent scoreless streak in ten straight appearances.

He has given up runs this week, but when needed, he has come through. In the Boston bullpen meltdown he threw a scoreless inning. Even better, he closed out a bases-loaded, one-run lead on Friday night. He struck-out the only batter he faced. Not saying he has been great, but somewhat clutch in big games.

Seung-hwan Oh is another primary example of being stretched thin on the back end of games. This was his third straight game to pitch in with no rest. The day before he threw 28 pitches and before that he threw 10 pitches. Now after pitching another nine pitches on Friday night, I do not expect him to be available on Saturday.

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John Brebbia has been great post break. In 14 1/3 innings pitched he has only given up three earned runs. I am not oblivious to the fact that he was awarded the blown save in the Boston meltdown game, but like Matt Bowman Friday, I give him the benefit of the doubt. It was a desperate situation when he came into pitch and he had nothing to lose personally.

Recently, John Brebbia has been taking a bigger role in the bullpen. This means more innings we have seen and also more important situations. This week shows it has taken its toll. He had pitched the first three games this week, so the last two days off was much needed.

With all that being said Friday night’s near bullpen meltdown was started by Mike Mayers who has not even pitched post All-Star break. Before we get our blame game started on Mike Matheny, who wouldn’t throw that guy followed by Brett Cecil in a 11-3 game in the eighth inning? Our guys in the bullpen needed rest and he felt like this was the game to do it.

I do not fault Mike Matheny at all. I may get some grief for this thinking, but so be it. This is on upper management on limiting Mike Matheny’s option for two reasons: not buying an arm of the waiver wire yet and not calling up the right guys who are better than Mike Mayers who could eat up some innings. This was who upper management gave him to use in that spot.

Be patient with our pitching. We have enough in the tank to finish this series by giving John Brebbia and Tyler Lyons a break Friday night and pushing through with others. We just need to make the right move and send Mike Mayers down and actually add a quality arm to eat some innings if need be who will also be successful.

Even more important, we need Michael Wacha to have a quality start and eat some innings.

Next: The need for arms

I am optimistic and we all should be after winning ten of the last thirteen. In the short term the St. Louis Cardinals will make us go crazy. We should be happy our boys squeaked out their second straight win after losing three in a row. We are now one win away from winning this series against a division rival. If that is not positive, I do not know what is. A win is a win at this point.

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