The New-Look St. Louis Cardinals Bullpen: Younger, Harder-Throwing, & More Effective

ST. LOUIS, MO - Since Az used a photo of Ferd Salas yesterday, here is the bearded Lance Lynn for this the second bullpen-centric main post in as many days. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

On Opening Day, the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen had experience and that seasoning which can only be tasted by sportswriters in the flesh of a veteran's throwing arm. The collective's average age was 32.7 and, with burnt-out starters amongst its membership, the 'pen had combined for 3,274 IP in the major leagues. Theirs was a track record of effectiveness if of varying degrees. Looking solid on preseason paper, the 2011 Cardinals bullpen has instead been a case study in the volatility of reliever performance. Injuries and ineffectiveness spurred a complete transformation of the bullpen through releases, call-ups, and a trade.

At the end of March, Cardinals had returning closer Ryan Franklin penciled in as the ninth-inning man. Another aged incumbent, Trever Miller, would again be looked to when the other clubs sent up their skilled left-handed hitters to the bat in the late innings. Even relative youngster Jason Motte had the scars of battle that lead to managerial faith. Motte again would play the role of fireman, called upon anywhere from the sixth to the eighth to extinguish run-scoring threats. These three had proven capable in years prior and there was little doubt the manager would turn to them again due to the trust they earned with their prior results.

Free agent signees and a returning Cardinal rounded out the bullpen. Brian Tallet seemed destined to fill the role of LOOGY No. 2. John Mozeliak signed two right-handers to minor-league contracts during the Hot Stove and La Russa declared each of them winners of a bullpen slot coming out of Spring Training. How the manager would deploy Miguel Batista and Bryan Augenstein remained to be seen. Then there was the right-handed Mitchell Boggs, who had experienced success since being moved to the St. Louis bullpen, where he could rely on his mid-90's fastball and wipeout slider, and also had an undefined role.

Franklin's ineffectiveness led to him being stripped of his closer duties. He was then relegated to mop-up duty during away games before being given his outright release. After experiencing control problems all season, Batista's peripherals eventually caught up to him which led to his release as well. The oft-injured Tallet was traded away in the Rasmus trade, as was Miller, who was never able to find the form of years past. After hitting the big-league disabled list in April, Augenstein never returned from a Memphis rehab stint. Only two of the Opening Day bullpen members remain in the Cardinals relief corps today:  Motte and Boggs.*

*Boggs has been diagnosed with a bulging disc in his back. Even though he claims the ability to pitch through it, Boggs has been used sparingly of late. Meanwhile, down in Texas, the Rangers released veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes and La Russa praised Rhodes to the media, which would appear to indicate intrigue on the part of the Cardinals. One final bullpen move may yet be made.

After its refurbishing, the bullpen has become significantly younger. Even with the acquisition of the baseballically ancient Dotel, the average age for the 'pen has fallen from 32.7 to 27.9 years. With the decrease in age there has been an increase in overall effectiveness. 

Many ways exist to gauge a reliever's effectiveness, even if the stringing of relievers muddies the waters a bit. Whereas ERA or FIP can tell us whether a reliever has been effective in his end results (with the help of his comrades in relief on inherited baserunners), other information, such as Pitch F/X and batted ball data, can tells us how the reliever came about achieving those results. Today I thought we would take a look at both. 

I put together the following tables hoping to get a better idea of how the new members of the bullpen differ from the castoffs. The players in white are the relievers not on the Opening Day roster but in the bullpen today.* Those in light pink are the relievers who were in the bullpen when the club broke Spring Training and remain there at present. The pitchers in dark pink are the relievers who were in the Opening Day bullpen but are no longer on the St. Louis Cardinals due to being released (Franklin and Batista), traded (Miller and Tallet), or demoted (Augenstein). Finally, there is Sanchez, who is on the disabled list, which is indicated by him being in dark red. The MLB average for relievers is given last, in blue, and a tip of the cap goes to Rui for compiling this data for us.

*For McClellan, who has spent most of 2011 starting, which typically reduces one's fastball speed and effectiveness, I have used his 2010 stats as a reliever.

This table looks at some data on how the relief pitchers have gone about their business. It contains swinging strike rate, which is that percentage of pitches which result in swings-and-misses by opposing batsmen, Contact Percentage, which is the share of pitches which result in contact being made by the opposing hitter, Infield Flyball Percentage, Line Drive Percentage, Flyball Percentage, Groundball Percentage, Inherited Runner Scoring Percentage, and average fastball velocity. All stats and data encompass play through Saturday's game and do not incorporate Sunday's performances.

 

 

 

Reliever

SwStr%

Contact%

IFFB%

LD%

FB%

GB%

IS%

Avg FB Spd

Salas

11.7%

75.3%

6.8%

11.9%

51.7%

36.4%

14.0%

91.2

Rzepcynzynski

11.7%

72.8%

4.0%

13.3%

22.1%

64.6%

25.0%

91.1

Dotel

9.9%

79.0%

10.9%

19.3%

28.4%

52.3%

15.0%

91.3*

Lynn

10.4%

76.7%

7.1%

12.0%

28.0%

60.0%

0.0%

93.3

McClellan

7.0%

82.2%

5.2%

13.5%

35.8%

50.7%

33.0%

91.5

Boggs

9.8%

78.2%

22.2%

21.3%

28.3%

50.4%

8.0%

94.9

Motte

12.1%

78.2%

7.0%

16.5%

35.5%

47.9%

34.0%

96.2

Franklin

6.2%

87.3%

7.9%

25.2%

36.9%

37.9%

60.0%

91.2

Batista

6.2%

84.7%

7.9%

23.2%

40.0%

36.8%

42.0%

93.1

Miller

8.5%

80.6%

8.0%

13.8%

43.1%

43.1%

29.0%

87.4

Tallet

8.0%

82.7%

9.1%

7.8%

43.1%

49.0%

20.0%

85.6

Augenstein

7.1%

81.0%

0.0%

15.0%

50.0%

35.0%

-

88.3

Sanchez

12.7%

69.5%

14.7%

12.9%

54.8%

32.3%

40.0%

93.5

MLB AVG

10.0%

78.0%

10.7%

17.8%

37.0%

45.2%

29.0%

92.4

 

*For some reason, the Fangraphs Pitch F/X page does not have an average fastball velocity for Dotel, so I used Texas Leaguers.

This table on the relievers shows age, Earned Run Average, Fielding Independent Pitching, x-Fielding Independent Pitching (which uses the league-average home run rate instead of the pitcher's home-run rate), strikeouts per nine innings pitched, walks per nine innings pitched, left on base percentage, and Win Probability Added (a primer on WPA can be found here).  Again, these are stats and data through Saturday's game and do not include whatever happened on Sunday.

 

Reliever

Age

ERA

FIP

xFIP

K/9

BB/9

LOB%

WPA

Salas

26

2.32

3.14

3.56

8.78

2.32

84.4%

2.09

Rzepcynzynski

25

2.74

3.22

3.31

7.80

3.38

72.0%

0.19

Dotel

37

3.41

4.29

3.99

9.44

3.93

78.1%

1.16

Lynn

24

2.38

2.53

2.11

11.51

2.78

83.3%

1.07

McClellan

27

2.27

4.07

3.77

7.17

2.75

89.6%

0.94

Boggs

27

3.09

2.87

3.26

8.24

2.89

75.2%

-0.75

Motte

29

2.00

2.50

3.35

8.40

2.20

77.1%

0.13

Franklin

38

8.46

6.86

4.26

5.53

2.28

63.5%

-2.75

Batista

40

4.60

5.04

5.68

4.91

5.52

62.8%

0.20

Miller

38

4.32

4.75

5.76

5.40

5.40

81.1%

-0.75

Tallet

33

8.31

7.22

5.22

6.23

3.46

65.4%

-0.61

Augenstein

24

9.53

5.29

5.08

9.53

4.76

58.8%

-0.47

Sanchez

22

1.88

3.13

4.08

10.36

5.02

85.4%

0.67

MLB AVG

-

3.19

3.50

3.64

8.05

3.30

76.7%

0.58

 

That which our eyes tell us while watching the games--speedier fastballs, fewer pitches called as "balls," fewer walks, fewer baserunners, fewer runs allowed, more opposing runners left on base, weaker contact by opposing batters--is definitely backed up by the pitchers' statistics. While the average fastball speeds are indeed enticing, perhaps the most heartening are the K/9 and SwStr% stats. The Cardinals have more firepower in their relief corps than they did in April, May, or June. Inducing more swinging strikes has some relation to striking opposing batters out, which, in turn, means that our current pitchers are more apt to wriggle out of trouble than some of our previous bullpenners. Also, opposing hitters make less contact against the current bullpen. To put it another way, the current group is less reliant on batted-ball luck to get out of a jam. This makes them less frustrating to watch for us fans. Indeed, some are even fun to behold.

Mozeliak, La Russa, and company deserve credit for identifying the weaknesses in the bullpen and addressing them, even if it would have saved fans some heartburn had they acted a bit more quickly. The results have already started to show in games. In the extra-inning marathon against Milwaukee last Tuesday, the rescuing of the Lohse-laid egg against the Marlins on Thursday night as well as the dramatic preservation of the lead on Friday night against the Marlins and the preservation of Chris Carpenter's one-run lead on Saturday, the new-look bullpen has demonstrated its effectiveness. It will undoubtedly be a strength for the club as it heads down the season's home stretch.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Viva El Birdos

You must be a member of Viva El Birdos to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Viva El Birdos. You should read them.

Join Viva El Birdos

You must be a member of Viva El Birdos to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Viva El Birdos. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker