Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cardinals Bullpen Could Use Help

The Cardinals bullpen has been shaky the last month in a half. They started the season out pretty well, but a few relievers have hit a rough patch. Marc Rzepczynski has not been the same pitcher he was last season and opponents have hit .476 off him in June. He was pretty iffy in May as well, allowing a 5.40 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched. Scrabble has even had a tough time getting lefties out recently. Fernando Salas had to be sent to the minors briefly due to ineffectiveness. Salas had a terrific year in 2011, finishing with a 2.28 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in 75 innings pitched. Since being recalled, Salas has improved; not allowing a run in 4 innings pitched.

Jason Motte has  had some rough games in the Cardinals recent struggles. He has blown 3 saves this year and lost 3 games. He has a 3.34 ERA coming into Sunday, which is over a run higher than it was in 2010 and 2011. Despite that, Motte has been the Cardinals second best reliever after Mitchell Boggs. Eduardo Sanchez was recalled in May, and has some of the best stuff on the staff. He's been up and down this year, but I would trust him more than most of the relievers currently on the roster.

The Cardinals haven't been able to count on Scrabble to get lefties out lately, and do not have anybody else to fill that role. JC Romero opened up the season as the second lefty, but was terrible and was released in May. Rookie Sam Freeman started the year in Double A and made it to the majors last month to fill in as a second lefty. Freeman hasn't done that great so far, he has a 5.68 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP in 6.1 innings pitched.

Boggs was Tony La Russa's first choice to take over the closer role from an ineffective Ryan Franklin last year. Boggs blew his first save opportunity and wasn't given a chance to close again, and spent some time in the minors as well. This year, Boggs has improved quite a bit and has a bullpen low 2.48 ERA this season. New manager Mike Matheny has helped rebuild Boggs' confidence this year. Victor Marte wasn't expected to play a big role on this year's Cardinals team, but has been one of Matheny's favorite relievers so far. Marte was Memphis' closer last year and is a 31 year old rookie. Marte has been serviceable, although not overpowering or dominant.

The Cardinals have already used 12 relief pitchers this season, and that doesn't count Scott Linebrink who was injured warming up opening day. Linebrink and Romero have already been released. Kyle McClellan has been on the DL with elbow problems and it is unknown how long he will be out. Brandon Dickson and Chuckie Fick were up briefly before getting sent down. Maikel Cleto will likely join them once someone is ready to return from the DL. Cleto throws hard, but is wild and inconsistent.

The Cardinals biggest need going into the trading deadline is bullpen help. Their bullpen has been blowing games and making Cardinal fans sweat most of the season. I expect some of these guys to turn it around, but help is needed. Depending on Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia's health, its possible a starter may be needed as well. At the minimum, John Mozeliak needs to acquire an effective lefty reliever. He made need a right handed reliever as well.

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