The Cardinals have a bullpen problem, and there’s little evidence that suggests it will go away anytime soon. The Cardinals have lost 36 games this season, and seven are the direct result of blown saves. That includes Wednesday’s loss at Miami. The late-inning emergencies are a prime factor in the team’s 7-12 record in one-run games.
I’m going to serve up some depressing numbers, so please don’t hate me for it:
* The St. Louis bullpen ERA of 4.46 would be the fourth-worst since 1996 (the start of the Bill DeWitt Era), and the 14th-worst in franchise history.
* The Cardinals have saved 16 games in 29 opportunities. I believe the blown-saves stat is often misleading. That said, the team’s current save percentage of 55.2 ranks 14th in the NL right now, and would be the fourth-worst save pct. in St. Louis franchise history.
* The bullpen’s home run rate of 1.14 per nine innings ranks 14th in the NL. The strikeout/walk rate (2.10) ranks 13th. The strikeout rate (7.61 per 9 innings) ranks 14th.
* That HR rate would be the fifth-worst by a bullpen in Cardinals history; the longball badness was more severe in 2001, 2003, 1954, 1994.
* Since May 1, the team’s bullpen ERA is 5.00, and opponents have slugged .434.
* The Cardinals have allowed 14 home runs in the seventh inning or later; only Toronto’s bullpen has a higher count (17).
* In the team’s 36 losses, the bullpen has a 5.32 ERA and has allowed 21 homers.
* This bullpen is getting rocked by left-handed hitters. The guys that are supposed to clamp down on LH batters aren’t doing it. Since May 30, LH hitters are batting .417 vs. Marc Rzepczynski. Matheny still thinks Victor Marte is a weapon against LH bats, but that isn’t the reality. LH batters are hitting .368 with a .455 OBP and .474 SLG against Marte since May 13. LH batters have jumped rookie Sam Freeman for a .385 OBP and .409 SLG. Mitchell Boggs has allowed a .313/.389/.417 vs LH batters. Fernando Salas has been battered by LH hitters for a .391 batting average, .451 OBP and .478 SLG. Obviously, this is a serious ailment that must be addressed.
I could go on, but what’s the point?
Moving on ...
As I joked on Twitter this morning, I wish the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Mike Matheny’s decision to start Tyler Greene at second base against right-handed starting pitchers. I know that as long as TG is on the 25-man roster, Matheny will use him. And even though Matheny appears to be going with Daniel Descalso as his (mostly) regular second baseman, at least for now, I realize Matheny will give Greene the occasional start. But against RH pitching? Why? Greene this season is batting .198 with a .270 onbase percentage and a .296 slugging pct. against RHP. He’s struck out 24 times in 81 at-bats. Greene’s career slash line against the RH: .219/.295/.307. With many strikeouts.
When a RHP starts against the Cardinals, Matheny has two left-handed hitters to use at the position. Descalso or Skip Schumaker. And this season Greene has at least some value when facing left-handed pitchers; he’s slugging .486 against them. So if you must give Greene a start, save it for an assignment against a LH starting pitcher. Greene is the worst defensive player among the three second basemen, so when Matheny starts him against a RH pitcher, he’s weakening his offense and his defense. Look, I realize the Cardinals don’t have Rogers Hornsby available to play 2B. But at minimum, the manager should at least strive to find the best matchup (based on the opposing starter) when he chooses his starting second baseman this season.
-- I’m really looking forward to the Pirates-Cardinals series this weekend at Busch. The Cardinals now set up at Busch on a 10-game homestand that leads into the All-Star Game break. It is imperative for this team to build on a successful 6-3 road trip.
-- Dan Plesac, the MLB Network analyst, was a guest on my radio show Thursday and had this to say about the Cardinals: “I still think they’re the team to beat in the NL Central. When they get fully healthy, in August and September, watch out.”
Plesac, who had a lengthy career as a LH relief specialist, told me he was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 1980 draft, but he opted for college (N.C. State). Plesac was later drafted in the first round by Milwaukee and signed with the Brewers.
-- It’s only been six games, so feel free to disregard, but since Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter returned to deepen the Cardinals’ lineup and bench options, the team has averaged 7.7 runs per game, with a .308 batting average and an .856 OPS.
Thanks for reading ...
Bernie Miklasz is a Lee News Service columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 340-8192.