Oliver Marmol isn't overusing his relievers; he's just misusing them

The issue with the bullpen usage isn't how much it's being used but rather when it's being used.
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

It sure feels like Oliver Marmol is overusing his bullpen. "The Big 3" of Andrew Kittredge, JoJo Romero, and Ryan Helsley seem to be pitching very frequently, but that actually isn't the case.

When looking at the top 50 relievers according to innings pitched, the St. Louis Cardinals have just two players on that list. JoJo Romero sits 28th with a total of 33.1 innings pitched, and Ryan Helsley places 38th with 32 total innings thrown.

The issue with bullpen usage isn't the amount that the relievers have been used by Oliver Marmol; rather, the issue is when they're being used. Of JoJo Romero's 33 appearances, 10 of them have come on zero days' rest. To have nearly 33% of your outings come on back-to-back nights is taxing on a reliever. Romero's ERA without rest is 4.66, and opponents are slashing .308/.325/.513 in these situations. The next closest ERA of his is 2.70 on 3 days of rest.

Andrew Kittredge has also had the bulk of his games on zero days' rest. 12 of Kittredge's 33 games have come after pitching the previous night. Kittredge has a 4.09 ERA in these situations, and hitters are slashing .209/.244/.372 as well. Despite these issues on short rest, Kittredge is still a valuable piece in the bullpen. He ranks 54th in total innings pitched this year among all relievers.

Ryan Helsley has pitched most often after receiving one night off. By ERA, he's done the worst when he's had 3 days of rest, as he has a 12.00 ERA in just 3 appearances. Altogether, Helsley has preferred pitching on 2 or fewer days of rest, particularly 1 day off. He sits in the 38th spot in total innings pitched this year.

Oliver Marmol is starting to employ this consecutive usage policy to other unpolished relievers as well. Ryan Fernandez, the team's Rule 5 Draft selection this past year, has been used in 4 of the last 5 games. Fernandez is already at 28.2 innings pitched for the year; the rookie is on track to throw more than 50 innings, and his previous minor league-high was just 54.1 innings last year.

The issue with Oliver Marmol and his bullpen isn't how many innings he's had his relievers throw. In fact, the Cardinals rank 22nd in total bullpen innings as a team. Rather, Marmol's issue is the frequency with which he's used certain relievers. These pitchers are likely to break due to consecutive nights throwing. Ryan Helsley has had a good pace thus far, but other key bullpen arms such as JoJo Romero and Andrew Kittredge are starting to show signs of cracking. If Marmol continues to employ them on consecutive nights, their performances will continue to falter.