azruavatar here; I'll be filling in for lboros today as he's on a well deserved vacation.
It was nice to see the offense pick up the pitching yesterday. The offense had scored a measly 12 runs in the last six games dating back to Saturday the 23rd (when they scored 8). Yesterday's game seemed to last forever in my mind. I left right before Ludwick's homer in the 4th to head for the gym and returned in time to cringe at Randy Flores' entrance into a 4-run game. Everytime I looked up at the gym it seemed like another baseball was flying out of that bandbox of a ballpark.
Can we officially induct Maroth as a Cardinal now? After that 3IP, 5 ER outing he should feel right at home with Wells, Wellemeyer and Reyes. I was somewhat surprised that he got pulled in the 4th since he was at 66 pitches but he didn't appear to be getting it done. Another 6 innings for a bullpen that's pitched far too many this year.
Which serves as a nice segue to what I really want to talk about this morning. We've gotten some really good performances from our bullpen so far this season. We've also got some less than stellar contributors (I'm looking at you Flores) but let's try and stay positive. Isringhausen looks reborn and Ryan Franklin looks like an offseason steal. After last year watching Izzy go out to the mound repeatedly last year when he looked hurt, it's nice to see the cutter cut, the fastball go fast and the curveball buckle some knees like it used too. Ahh the wonders of a rebuilt hip. With Troy Percival in the fold, suddenly the right-side of the bullpen looks dominant.
Had anyone else realized how many strikeouts Springer was getting? Ya, me neither. I don't know where Ryan Franklin learned to pitch like this and he's a great candidate to regress to the mean but still he's been lights out thus far. I'll go ahead and point out the elephant in the room that Ryan Franklin has tested positive for banned substances in the past.
I'll admit that I panned both the Springer and Franklin signing when they happened. Not for the dollars they signed for but because it signified, imo, a reluctance to test out some younger arms from the minors. If Springer and Franklin keep up these performances, well I'll gladly eat crow on that. And if the Cardinals decide they are out of the race, both of these middle relievers might be nice candidates to bring back some minor prospects from a team looking for middle relief help (Cleveland perhaps?).
The Troy Percival pickup was one of those great in season additions that costs no prospects and very little money. After seeing him in his return to the big leagues, it looks like this one might pay off (unlike the woeful Tomo Ohka). I wonder if La Russa just falls asleep with a big grin on his face having two proven closers to go to in his pen. Izzy's still his man but I fully expect to see Percival on a regular basis in the late innings this season (provided his arm holds up).
Percival's last year with the Angels was at age 34 which tracks nicely with Izzy's 2007 at age 34. Percival spent longer with the Angels than Izzy has been in STL before being replaced by Francisco Rodriguez and then moving on to Detroit in an injury marred 2005. Izzy was 29 in 2002 when he joined the Cardinals, so let's compare Izzy and Percival ages 29-34.
Two pitchers produced very good results with totally different styles. Percival is a flyball pitcher; no denying that. He ended his Angel career with 326 saves. Izzy stands at 264 right now - 188 with the Cardinals.
It's easy to remember Izzy's 2006 and how bad it was but the 4 years before it were really all very good. Izzy's approaching the twilight of his career. The option for next year seems like a no-brainer to me if Isringhausen can maintain something similar to pre-2006 for the rest of the season. I'm not a fan of overpaying for closers, but the Cardinals don't really have an obvious replacement at the moment and overpaying for closers is still a relatively standard operating procedure throughout baseball. Extending Isringhausen for more than a year or two seems like a risky move given his injury history. I'm highly skeptical that Izzy moves at the deadline given his 10-5 rights.
But I'm just going to ignore all those management decisions and revel in the Izzy that we all knew and loved from before 2006. It's nice to at least feel like the one-run leads are gonna hold up when a right-handed reliever comes in for the Cardinals.