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the market for pitchers II: relievers

with his win on saturday, mitchell boggs became the cardinals’ fourth rookie starting pitcher in this decade to win his first 3 decisions. free drinks on the house if you can name the 3 rookies who preceded boggs in this feat.

sat’s game was the first time boggs looked effective, in my estimation --- only gave up 2 or 3 well-hit balls all night while inducing 7 swinging strikes. he earned at least one more start w/ his performance, holding at bay (for the time being) the nightmarish prospect of a start by mark mulder. exactly what is mulder's role on this team? unless i’m mistaken, he hasn’t even warmed up yet --- and the cardinals have so much confidence in him that they are planning to add a 13th pitcher to the roster today because (in la russa’s words) they "need innings" . . . . which, rather obviously, they don’t trust mulder to supply. it does seem as if the bullpen is chronically weary lately, and i wondered if their load has increased significantly since wainwright left the rotation --- there has been a spate of short starts this month (including the one in which wainwright got injured). but that turns out not to be the case --- in april/may the bullpen averaged 9 outs a game, and in june they’re averaging 10 outs a game; that one extra out shouldn’t make that big a difference, should it? here are the relievers’ stats for this month:

springer 14 11  3  3 10  0 0.82
izzy  7 10.1 10  4  9  0 1.74
mcclellan 13 16 19  1 16  3 3.38
franklin 13 13 18  5 10  2 4.15
perez 11 12 13 11 11  1 6.00
the lefties --- 12.1 19 17  7  1 9.49
worrell / parisi ---  6.1 11  7  4  2 11.37

that one extra out per game, by and large, has been assigned to worrell or parisi; they haven’t done much w/ the opportunity. the left-handers have been putrid, as has been well documented by now, and chris perez’s control problems have started to rear their ugly head, but the key relievers have done their jobs by and large --- even franklin, who has 6 saves this month in 8 tries. in other words, he has been 1 game worse than an all-star closer would be; given that he’s only an emergency fill-in, i can live w/ that. mcclellan's k/bb ratio for the month (16 k, 1 bb) suggests he will continue to thrive.

there has been much discussion in the comment threads about trading for a lefty relief pitcher, and no doubt the cardinals are looking for one. but it won’t be cheap to get anybody good. i took a look at retrosheet’s transaction log for 2007 to see what a halfway decent middle relief pitcher cost on last year’s midseason trade market; teams don’t just give those guys away. to get two months of scott linebrink last year, milwaukee had to part with 3 prospects, including one of their best minor-league pitchers, a BA top 100 prospect named will inman; they also coughed up joe thatcher, who was brilliant in the minors and posted a 1.29 era for san diego last year after the trade, and a starting pitcher named steve garrison, who’s at double A this year with pretty decent numbers. the rough equivalents to those three prospects in stl’s current organization might be jaime garcia, jason motte, and brad furnish.

another good setup man, dan wheeler, fetched ty wigginton in a straight-up deal; wigginton’s roughly analogous to rick ankiel as a hitter. scott proctor went straight up for wilson betemit, who also resembles ankiel with the bat. and eric gagne, like linebrink, required three prospects on a two-month rental: the red sox had to give up kason gabbard (roughly analogous to the cards’ mitch boggs), former first-rounder dave murphy (whom i’d liken to joe mather), and the real prize of the trade, a high-ceilinged A ball prospect named engel beltre --- one of kevin goldstein’s top 100 prospects, and someone for whom the cardinals don’t really have an analog.

those are prohibitive prices --- but it’s what the cards can expect to pay if they go after an elite relief pitcher like brian fuentes or damaso marte. which probably explains why we don’t hear much about the cards’ pursuing such a trade.

one new option for an internal solution to help out the bullpen is chris carpenter, who who might work in relief for the cardinals when his rehab is completed. that helps explain why the team is seeking starting pitchers on the trade market --- they are no longer counting on carp to shore up the rotation down the stretch. mulder and clement are also no longer options in that regard, and wainwright to my knowledge still hasn’t thrown a baseball as of today, june 30; anybody really think he will be back on a big-league mound by august 1, which is 32 days from now? . . . . . we’re probably looking at mid-august or later for adam’s return. until then, we’re stuck with a trio of #4-type starters (pineiro, lohse, looper), a power pitcher with a balky elbow (wellemeyer), and a rookie with #3 starter upside (boggs); if anybody goes down or loses effectiveness, the remaining options are reyes, thompson, and the triple A corps. in their last two rotation cycles, the cards have only received 2 quality starts; the starters have hung in there admirably for 3 weeks w/out their ace, but things could fall apart in a hurry. we might debate whether the cards are better served to trade for a starter or to promote from within, but one way or another reinforcements will almost surely be necessary --- and given tony / dave’s predilections, it’s not surprising that they are looking for a veteran to help lead them through the 2nd half.


  • 2 of the cards’ minor-league starting pitchers will be at the Futures Game, jess todd for the u.s. team and jaime garcia for the international team. those are both luhnow draftees . . . . a 3d luhnow selection, bryan anderson, will make his 2d consecutive appearance at the game.
  • the riverfront times had an article last week about brian barton and rocket science.
  • jason larue leads the cardinals in batting this month at .350 (in 40 at-bats); slugging, at .650; and in ops, at 1.045 (pujols is second at 1.028). cardinal catchers now have a cumulative .744 ops for the season, well above average for the position (.720) and better than the overall nl avg for all players (.736) . . . . their basic stats are .285 avg, .355 obp, .388 slugging, w/ 6 homers and 35 rbi.