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State of the Southpaws

"They're going to have to start showing something that enables us to give them more opportunities to pitch,"
"He looks good throwing in the bullpen." "But the time's coming when he has to bring that into the game."
"But what happens is, if you don't see things you like, the opportunities become scarcer. "
These are all quotes from LaRussa and Duncan on the state of the non-Trever Miller-lefthanders in the Cards’ pen so far this spring. To many of us, it’s not all that surprising that Ian Ostlund, Charlie Manning, Royce Ring, and Katsuhiko Maekawa haven’t exactly set the world on fire. It’s not like any of them had great track records entering the spring.

Still, I think the team’s been hoping that at least 1 of them can manage to at least get lefthanded hitters out w/ some degree of regularity once the regular season begins. We all know how Tony likes to use his pen – he’s going to utilize platoon advantages every chance he gets – and, in order to do that, he’s got to have more than 1 lefty he can count on.

So far the quartet has thrown in 10 games w/ 10 IP, having given up 13 hits, 7 ER, 1 HR, 7 BB and 5 Ks. In fairness, a lot of that is on Ostlund’s shoulders as he managed to give up 5 earned in just 1 inning but my guess is that Tony and Duncan are more concerned about the number of walks than anything else. Even Maekawa, who’s thrown 3 IP and given up just 1 H and 0 ER has walked 3 in those 3 IP. That’s not usually a formula for success.

Fortunately for Mo and the Cardinals, there are 3 lefthanded relievers still available on the market (non-Ricardo Rincon version) – Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, and Dennys Reyes. Let’s profile the 3.

Joe Beimel – age 32 (in 6 weeks) – Beimel played his last 3 seasons w/ the Dodgers and has the distinction of having given up just 1 homer in the last 2 seasons combined (Carlos Beltran in 2007). The key, clearly, is being able to get lefthanders out so let’s look at his splits for 2008 and career.

2008 2.63 20 5.88 infinity .278 .330 .311
Career 3.75 12.88 5.5 55.46 .266 .330 .392

Beimel was worth 0.7 WAR last season for an estimated value of $3.2 M. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s been worth 1.7 WAR and approximately $7.5 M. He’s probably at least a 0.5 WAR player worth $2 – 2.5 M for ’09.

Will Ohman – age 32 (in August) – Ohman spent 2008 w/ the Braves after spending his first 5 or so years in the league w/ the dreaded Cubs.

2008 3.00 14.25 4.07 57 .200 .257 .314
Career 3.39 10.26 3.56 44.1 .197 .285 .318

Ohman was worth 0.9 WAR last season at an approximate value of $4.2 M. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s been worth 2.1 WAR and approximately $8.6 M. You’d have to figure he’s worth every bit of what Beimel’s worth + a little more. He’s almost certainly worth $2-2.5 M for ’09.

Dennys Reyes – he has the exact same birthday as Beimel (to the day!) – Reyes has been a Twin for the last 3 seasons and bounced around quite a bit before that. At various points in his career he’s been a Padre, a Royal, a D-back, a Ranger, a Red, a Rockie and a Dodger. Considering his experience, I really expected him to be much older than he is.

2008 2.76 20.2 4.39 50.5 .202 .250 .287
Career 3.53 8.68 4.08 65.1 .237 .330 .340

(All the above numbers are their respective splits against lefthanded hitters.)

Last year, Reyes was worth 0.6 WAR for a value of $2.8M. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s been worth 1.8 WAR for an approximate total value of $8.2 M. I have to say how surprised I am at how good Reyes has been and how young he is. The scariest thing about him is that he seems to be unable to have 2 consecutive strong seasons in a row. He’s like a pendulum – 1 good season, 1 poor, 1 good 1 poor, etc. His WAR since 2002 have been 0.5, 0, 1.7, minus 0.2, 1.1, 0.1, 0.6. On a 1 year contract, will it be a bad decision to bring him on?

There are 3 pretty good options available here. Beimel’s been great in keeping the ball in the ballpark but the others haven't exactly been Eric Milton. Beimel’s also been the worst of the 3 in throwing strikes. Ohman’s much more the strikeout pitcher and, in my opinion is the best bet going forward. He’s certainly worth the $2 or so million that it appears it would cost to sign him, isn’t he? Moreover, if we fall out of the race, he’s certainly worth whatever we could trade him for in July. If Ostlund, et al stink all season, not only do they not help us win but they provide us no trade value either.

At this point, we don’t seem inclined to sign a starting pitcher; we’re just going to go w/ Carpenter and cross our fingers he can stay healthy most of the season. It looks like we’re going to go w/ Skip at 2nd – no need to sign Ray Durham or Grudzielanek. So what are we saving the $2 M for? Do we really think that the guys we have in camp will be better than Will Ohman? I like the idea of seeing what these guys can give us since they could be with us beyond ’09 but, at the very least, it appears as though Ohman could bring us more in a July trade than we’ll ever get from Ostlund and Charlie Manning. It may be about a week too soon to pull the trigger on a signing, but Mo better keep Ohman’s, Beimel’s, and Reyes’s agents’ numbers handy.