Going in to the season this season, I was not greatly concerned about the bullpen. After all, if a team could survive last year's bullpen troubles, Mozeliak could possibly make some maneuvers and bolster the bullpen. Yes, there were some very questionable pitchers in the running: Linebrink, Romero, Marte. The only one that made it obviously, is the young guy.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Cardinals still lead the major leagues in total wins above replacement value (.4 ahead of the Rangers, and 2.4 over the Dodgers). What this shows is how good and how reliable the Cardinals position players/offense has been. When looking at pitching only, however, the Cardinals are below the Royals' 7.4 at 7.2, and just ahead of the Reds with their 7 pitching WAR. And when you isolate WAR to just the bullpen, the problem emerges: Cards' relievers are worth -0.4 WAR. One of only 4 teams in MLB to have negative WAR at this point in the season nearly 70 games in.
Has the bullpen been overworked? Nope. 192 innings is among the lower half of MLB, and tied with the Rays who have 2 WAR from the 'pen. Has BABIP against been a remarkably bad luck problem? Not really: .289 BABIP for the Cardinals bullpen. But wait, Mozeliak did make some similar moves in jettisoning Romero and Linebrink, and McClellan was injured pretty badly. Oddly enough, in March/April Cardinals relievers were extremely good. In May, the bullpen's results were unbelievably bad at 5.44 ERA. By FIP, they were the third worst team in May AND in June, so far.
xFIP shows that they have been giving up a pretty good amount of home runs, at least that's what it looks like. The Cleveland Indians with the exact same xFIP in June have 2 more wins in WAR for this month. This tendency to give up the longball is also evidenced in the Cardinals 4th worst HR/9 at 1.12. And a 13.6% HR/FB ratio is also the fourth worst team bullpen in that particular department.
With the upcoming schedule, it is a fantastic opportunity for the team to rack up some wins. They should be a above average team, and the teams that are coming up are The Tigers, The Royals, The Marlins, and The Pirates. The total win percentage of those 4 teams is .490. This may not be a very sophisticated way of looking at things, but I think it means that if the team wants to differentiate itself from those sub .500 or near .500 teams, they will need to win a majority of those games. Of course, losing a series to the Royals on very poor play means that this rings doubly true.
As the team sits just above .500, it may be difficult to run off some series wins. Beyond those 4 teams are only more opportunities: four games against the terrible Rockies, and The Marlins again, who may be doing better as a team by then. What can the team do to shore up the bullpen? It gets painful to watch for the fan and it decreases team morale, which may be an intangible... but they need all the help they can get it seems (and for Matheny to do less bunting plays, and for the defense to not be as stooge-y).
I usually have opinions on these things, sometimes even if they are just a hunch. But right now I can't really see that effective of a way to upgrade the bullpen, if you bar out the possibility of a great pitching prospect being promoted regardless as to their status as a starter or reliever. I'm too unfamiliar with most of the minor league pitching to form much of an opinion, and I'm not sure how harmful it would be to continue with this bullpen against these not so fearsome teams coming up before the All Star Break. Conundrum!
What should be done about the bullpen?
do nothing, the bullpen has been unlucky and the defense is also a culprit (5 votes)
tread water and wait until they can make some trades (13 votes)
new. bullpen. coach. (1 vote)
I have no idea why the bullpen has been this bad, doesn't make any sense (13 votes)
the bullpen has not been a big enough problem, other parts of the team should be upgraded (1 vote)
there has to be more bullpen arms in Memphis, right?? Brandon Dickson, Shelby Miller, somebody! (6 votes)
39 total votes