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First Half Relievers

Yesterday we discussed the virtues of the Cards’ starting rotation for the first half of the season so I thought it fitting to talk today about the pen. Unfortunately, the pen in the first half of the season hasn’t been quite as good as the rotation. For example, the Cards’ pen has only been worth 1.6 runs above replacement – TOTAL – for the entire first half. That’s 25th in the majors. Despite the pen’s 3.76 ERA, their FIP is 4.39, tied for 20th in the majors. And all this takes into consideration the fact that Ryan Franklin has pitched far beyond expectations during the first half and should regress during the 2nd half.

The best relievers on the team over the first half have been Franklin (5.3 RAR) and the 2 lefties – Trever Miller (2.1 RAR) and Dennys Reyes (1.1 RAR). Aside from those 3, the Cards’ pen has been rather pedestrian w/ only Kyle McClellan getting meaningful innings out of the pen and pitching above replacement level.

In comparing the division’s bullpens I wanted to look at the top 4 relievers (by RAR, provided they have a meaningful number of innings pitched) since those are the ones most likely to get meaningful innings during the second half of the season. This means examining each team’s closer, set up man, and a couple of specialists. After all, it doesn’t really matter how well Blake Hawksworth pitched yesterday afternoon since the team had very little chance to win the game when he entered anyway. It does, however, matter how well Franklin, Motte, McClellan, and the 2 lefties pitch in the 2nd half.

Cards RAR Brewers RAR Cubs RAR Reds RAR Astros RAR Pirates RAR
Franklin 5.3 Hoffman 8.5 Guzman 4.3 Cordero 7.8 Sampson 8.9 Grabow 0.8
Miller 2.1 Coffey 8.1 Heilman 1.0 Masset 7.5 Fulchino 3.2 Chavez 0.1
Reyes 1.1 Stetter 5.8 Gregg 0.6 Rhodes 3.5 Hawkins 2.4 Meek -0.6
McClellan 0.4 DiFelice 4.6 Marmol -0.2 Herrera 3.3 Valverde 0.9 Capps -2.0

So the picture for the bullpen isn’t quite so rosy as that for the rotation. As with yesterday, these numbers can’t be seen as being predictive of what might happen in the second half. They’re simply a reporting of what happened during the first half. I’d expect, for example, for Jose Valverde’s numbers to rise since he was hurt for about 6 weeks during the first half. The team totals for their respective pens are as follows:

  1. Brewers – 27.0 RAR
  2. Reds – 22.1 RAR
  3. Astros – 15.4 RAR
  4. Cards – 8.9 RAR
  5. Cubs – 5.7 RAR
  6. Pirates – minus 1.7 RAR
So just as the Cards’ hopes seem to ride on the backs of their starters, the Brewers’ seem to ride on the backs of their pen, which has been fantastic during the first half. The same appears to be true for the Reds, though w/ their young pitching, they’re awfully scary. I’d also expect the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol to pitch better during the 2nd half, though he put a scare into the hearts of Cubbie fans worldwide w/ his 9th inning hijinx yesterday. Adding in the totals of the starters, this brings each team’s rotation’s numbers to:
  1. Cards – 87.1 RAR
  2. Cubs – 72.9 RAR
  3. Astros – 66.8 RAR
  4. Reds – 50.4 RAR
  5. Pirates – 49.5 RAR
  6. Brewers – 42.7 RAR
The big lead our starters had over the Brewers and Reds and, to a lesser degree, the Astros, shrunk quite a bit b/c of the performance of the pens. Needless to say, we’re going to need McClellan and Motte to pitch better over the 2nd half of the season than they did in the first half. Overall, I think Motte’s done pretty well except for 3 blow-ups and should improve, provided he doesn’t wear down as McClellan did last year. We’re going to depend on McClellan to NOT wear down, despite the fact that he leads the team’s relievers in IP w/ 41. For what it’s worth, at the All-Star break last year McClellan had thrown 52 innings so I’m glad to see that he’s thrown about 20% fewer so far this season. If our starters can continue to pitch well, the team will demand less from our pen and that should help ease Motte’s workload as well. Still, I wouldn’t expect the pen to be the team’s strength over the 2nd half of the season.

Double header today. First game at noon and then the nightcap at 7. There will be separate game threads for each. Join us and let’s get to the All-Star break w/ a split and I’ll be happy.