The pitching trait the St. Louis Cardinals prioritized this offseason
The pitching trait the St. Louis Cardinals prioritized this offseason? Ground balls, and that plays perfectly into their infield defense.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching additions this winter have been, in a word, underwhelming. While Steven Matz was a strong addition to the rotation, they did not sign Ryan Tepera, Brad Boxberger or Andrew Chafin like many expected.
Instead, they signed Drew VerHagen and Nick Wittgren to major-league contracts. They added T.J. Zeuch, Kyle Rhan and Zach McAllister either via trade or low-risk minor-league contracts.
The common trait they share? They’re all groundball pitchers, and that plays into the Cardinals’ elite infield defense perfectly. After all, they have three Gold Glovers in Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman and Nolan Arenado in the infield and Paul DeJong is no slouch defensively at shortstop, either.
The additions may not be household names, or what many fans had in mind after the lockout ended, but it’s clear that the Cardinals have a plan. They believe that they can allocate lesser resources to the bullpen because of that infield defense, and use them on other positions. They have a lot of flexibility come the regular season, so if the team identifies a player it really likes, it should have the financial resources available to make it happen.
The additions also fit into the bullpen model that new manager Oli Marmol wants, and that’s for his relievers not to have set roles. He wants them to pitch different innings, different situations on a daily basis to maximize matchups, something that is far different than what Mike Shildt did before he was fired.
It was one of the “philosophical differences” that led to Marmol eventually taking over. And in the front offices bullpen additions this offseason, Marmol will have plenty of opportunities to do it.
But not signing Tepera or Joe Kelly, two of the best relievers on the market, was a mistake — and could come back to bite them in the butt relatively quickly if this plan doesn’t end up working out.