The Cardinals' high-leverage arms need rest or reinforcements after carrying the team

The St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen has carried them so far this year. It's now time for the rest of the team to take the pressure off of them.
Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals
Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

Let's be honest, if it wasn't for the trio of Ryan Helsley, JoJo Romero, and Andrew Kittredge, the St. Louis Cardinals' climb back into contention would not have been possible. As the offense has heated up and the team is playing better, the Cardinals desperately need to lower the usage of their best bullpen arms

Romero is tied for fourth in all of baseball in appearances so far this season. while Helsley and Kittredge both rank within the top 30. The main reason for this is because the Cardinals have won only four games this year by four or more runs, and even in some of those games they had to use their best arms out of the bullpen. That has been a trend people have picked up on since late April, but it is becoming evermore concerning as the season plays on.

The Cardinals best relievers need rest or reinforcements as soon as possible

Reinforcements could be part of the solution here. Keynan Middleton, one of the Cardinals' most prominent bullpen additions this past offseason, has yet to throw a pitch for St. Louis after a forearm injury during Spring Training. Middleton appeared to be returning soon after going on a rehab assignment but has since dealt with soreness after pitching a back-to-back.

Giovanny Gallegos was dreadful for the Cardinals to begin the season after coming in at a lower weight and losing velocity. He recently threw a bullpen session and may begin a rehab assignment soon.

Oh, and maybe the most obvious and immediate upgrade to the Cardinals' bullpen would be cementing Matthew Liberatore back into that role. Liberatore began the season out of the bullpen and has been effective in that role. Left-handed hitters have just a .317 OPS against Liberatore when he comes out of the bullpen this year.

If reinforcements are not on the way, then maybe it's time to start giving the rest of the bullpen a shot in these situations. Whenever we have conversations about overusing certain relievers, people seem to want it both ways. They'll blame the manager for killing a reliever's arm, but they'll also get mad at that manager if they do not use them in a big spot. Oli Marmol may just have to take the criticism here soon and go to the other guys in the bullpen.

Ryan Fernandez, the Cardinals' Rule 5 selection this offseason, has been impressive for the club and is sporting a 3.48 ERA in 17 games and earned his big league save on May 22nd against the Orioles. John King has been really impressive this year, posting a 1.98 ERA in his 12 games and boasting a 68.2% groundball rate. Neither of them are flashy options but are probably the other two names outside of Liberatore that can step into those roles when needed.

That also means the Cardinals need to use other arms in the middle innings as well. Ryan Loutos was recently called up from Memphis after posting a 1.72 ERA in 13 appearances, but the club has yet to use him out of the bullpen. Kyle Leahy's numbers won't instill confidence in you, but he is running a 5.2 scoreless innings streak.

Outside of reinforcements, having larger margins of victory, and using some of their other current bullpen options, there is an argument that the Cardinals' starters need to start going deeper into games a little more often. The Cardinals rank 27th in baseball in innings from their rotation at the moment. There have been a few starts cut short due to rain already this year, but overall, guys like Lance Lynn, the fifth rotation spot, and even Sonny Gray could go an inning or two deeper into games to help the club.

Gray has been incredible this year, but in his last two starts, he had to get pulled a bit early due to getting tired (which was understandable with the number of high-stress pitches he threw in his last inning of work after multiple errors by Masyn Winn) and then was not pushed deeper into the game last night as a precaution. Lynn has been impacted the most by rain delays this year, but even in his "clean" starts, he has only completed six innings of work twice this year, with just one of those extending into the seventh inning.

Kyle Gibson has been a quality starts machine so far this year and Miles Mikolas is getting back into an innings-eating groove, so there may be progress in that department soon.

Overall, the Cardinals have multiple things contributing to their overuse of "The Big 3" so far this year. If they want that trio to remain dominant for the rest of the year, they need to find a way to lessen their usage as soon as possible.