Oli Marmol made a very bold claim about the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen. He believes it’s the best in baseball and the numbers back it up.
Perhaps the greatest cause for debate among the St. Louis Cardinals’ fan base this offseason centered around the bullpen. While they were connected to many relievers, including the high-leverage relievers such as Joe Kelly, Collin McHugh and Ryan Tepera, they did not sign any of them.
Instead, the Cardinals added Drew VerHagen and Nick Wittgren to a unit that included Alex Reyes, Jordan Hicks, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera and others. It was easily their biggest concern entering the season, as the rotation had at least added Steven Matz, and was the No. 1 element that could have derailed their season.
Through the first week of the regular season, the Cardinals have quieted those concerns. In 28.2 innings, their bullpen ranks third in baseball in ERA (1.88) while allowing an opponents batting average of .188 that ranks tied for fourth.
“I think we have the best bullpen,” manager Oli Marmol told reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. … “When I think of the way we used them, on any given night you can flip that on its head and I’d be totally fine with it. It’s just having the ability to trust any of those guys in any situation is a nice thing to have.”
Quite the bold claim. But what Marmol says at the end is noteworthy: unlike previous manager Mike Shildt, Marmol did not want his relievers having set roles. He wanted them to pitch in different scenarios, maximizing their matchups, and so far that has gone even better than anyone in the organization could have hoped.
Just think, he has done this without Reyes, who is on the injured list, and Hicks, who is currently part of the Cardinals’ rotation with Jack Flaherty on the IL. Once he gets both pitchers back in their roles, just imagine the upside that the unit has. Dangerous.
For now, however, the Cardinals bullpen is in very good shape – and if it continues to be one of the best units in baseball, there’s a very real chance that they can overtake the Brewers as National League Central champions.