How does St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's usage of Trevor Rosenthal this year compare to 2013?

Doug Pensinger

Mike Matheny likes to use the relievers he trusts, which means he relies on pitchers like Trevor Rosenthal a lot. Is he using Rosenthal more often in 2014 than he did a year ago?

With the St. Louis Cardinals leading the Atlanta Braves in the late innings of Sunday's series finale, manager Mike Matheny turned to closer Trevor Rosenthal with a one-run lead in the ninth inning in the hopes of securing a sweep. Matheny has relievers that he trusts and Rosenthal is one of those men. So the manager called upon the hard-throwing righty even though he had done so quite a bit over the preceding days.

Entering play on Sunday, Rosenthal had pitched on three straight days and five of the previous seven:

May 11: 1.0 IP, 19 pitches

May 13: 1.0 IP, 22 pitches

May 15: 1.2 IP, 26 pitches

May 16: 1.0 IP, 17 pitches

May 17: 1.0 IP, 9 pitches

Over the seven days leading to Sunday's appearance, Rosenthal had notched 5 2/3 innings, throwing 93 pitches. Perhaps due to his high usage of late, Rosenthal struggled against the Braves, throwing 23 pitches, recording two outs, and leaving with the bases loaded. The blown save increased Rosenthal's workload to 6 1/3 innings and 116 pitches over the last week.

Matheny's deployment of Rosenthal this week made me wonder if the manager was leaning too hard on his closer.

Earlier this season, we looked at Matheny's reliever usage rates and how they projected out over a 162-game season. At the time, the Cardinals manager was relying heavily on Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez. While Matheny is still deploying his two best relievers to cover the most innings out of the bullpen, his usage of them has fallen off some from the pace of the season's opening weeks.

Pitcher*

Games

Innings Pitched

G Pace

IP Pace

Carlos Martinez

22

23

81

84.68**

Kevin Siegrist

22

18 2/3

81

68.73

Pat Neshek

21

18

77

66.27

Trevor Rosenthal

19

21 2/3

70

79.77

Randy Choate

16

12 2/3

59

44.92

Seth Maness

15

16 2/3

55

61.36

*This chart contains only the six relievers that Matheny tends to use, not the Jason Motte placeholders that are cycled through and typically only used in garbage time.

**Four relief pitchers totaled more than 84 IP in 2013.

A year ago, Rosenthal made 74 appearances, totaling 75 1/3 innings pitched, so Matheny isn't using him at a pace that's too much ahead of 2013 in terms of appearances and innings, even with the last week's worth of heavy usage. And while Rosenthal's usage rate is high for a closer (among pitchers with a save in 2013, Rosenthal had the second-highest innings total), it's not egregiously so.

Rosenthal's pitch total over the last seven days made me wonder about something St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz analyzed last week in a post on stltoday.com: Rosenthal has struggled with his command this year. The righthander has about doubled the share of opposing batsmen that he walks. This made me wonder if Rosenthal was being more inefficient this season because of the huge jump in walks. Counterintuitively, Rosenthal has actually been more efficient in terms of pitches per inning (P/IP) this season. In 2013, Rosenthal averaged 17.08 P/IP; this year, Rosenthal is down to 16.85 P/IP. It's a small difference, but Rosenthal has nonetheless thrown fewer pitches per inning so far in 2014 than he did last season.

Matheny leaned hard on Rosenthal a year ago. And he's doing the same thing with the young righty against this season. But even with the large workload Rosenthal shouldered over the last week, Matheny isn't on pace to use Rosenthal at a rate too much higher than what he did in 2013. It will be interesting to see how Matheny's usage of Rosenthal and Martinez changes (or doesn't) once Motte joins the big-league relief corps.

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