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Is a Bullpen Change Coming for St. Louis Cardinals?

June 5th, 2014 at 9:17 AM
By Christopher L Ballard

Heading into the season, the Cardinals were hoping and believing that the young duo of Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal would anchor their bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings. After both of their performances last season, especially in the playoffs, it seemed like a real possibility. Things have just not gone to plan for these Cardinal relievers and they have struggled through the first two months of the season.

After a tough loss Tuesday night on June 3rd, where Cardinal fans saw their closer give up a tied game in the ninth inning, Trevor Rosenthal should remain in his position. It will definitely take a few more bad outings to have the closer role taken away from him. Two things are making fans look at a possible switch in the bullpen: Rosenthal’s under-performance compared to last year and in the playoffs, and the return of Jason Motte.

Numbers don’t lie and when you take a good look at Rosenthal’s numbers as of June 4th, you can tell something is wrong. At first glance the young closer appears to be doing just okay and nothing more, evident by converting 16 out of 18 save opportunities and a 0-3 record, according to baseballreference.com. But then a look at his era and walks per nine innings tell a different story. To this point he owns a 4.28 ERA, and that just won’t cut it over the full course of a season; not when there are other power arm options for manager Mike Matheny to pick from. The next glaring statistic that provides reason for Rosenthal’s struggles is his current walk rate. After his recent bump in the road that saw his team lose a back and forth game, Rosenthal’s walk total went up to 15 in 27.1 innings. Last season, he managed to only walk 20 batters. Rosenthal is walking an alarming 4.9 batters per nine innings pitched compared to his great ratio of 2.4 in 2013 (also per baseballreference.com). His strong strikeout numbers that he displayed last year are still there, but Rosenthal’s velocity is noticeably lower. Last season he showed he could consistently throw 98-100+ mph, where now he sits at about 96 mph. Rosenthal will have to right the ship to hold on to his job.

The other young guy, Carlos Martinez has also been struggling to find his way this year. Martinez is a pitcher that comes with a lot of hype and potential, but he has yet to hit his stride at the big league level. Like Rosenthal, Martinez made a name for himself during the postseason as a flame throwing weapon out of the bullpen. His small count of 30+ innings during the regular season last year actually show worse numbers than his 2014 season. Although not great, both Martinez’s ERA and WHIP are lower than they were last season.

Jason Motte becomes the topic of discussion because he would be the candidate to replace either Martinez or Rosenthal if they continue their struggles. Motte, when healthy, has been one of the best, if not the best Cardinal reliever for the past few years. He is a guy Mike Matheny could trust down the road in tight situations. He has the experience and most importantly, he still has the stuff to be a good closer for the Cardinals. Motte could take over for Martinez and the Cardinals could choose to use him in less stressful situations in long relief. Another option would be to send Martinez back to the minors and work on some things. Motte could also bump Rosenthal from his gig and in turn have Rosenthal take Martinez’s job. The bottom line is, a manager can not keep sending out young guys in crucial situations when they clearly are not right. If Martinez does not figure it out and Rosenthal does not stop walking hitters, Motte will assume one of their roles within the next few weeks to stabilize the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Tags: Baseball, Carlos Martinez, Jason Motte, Mike Matheny, MLB, St. Louis, St. Louis Cardinals, Trevor Rosenthal

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