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Right here, right now

As I alluded to Thursday, I’m a little concerned about the right side of our bullpen. Of course, many people here know me as the resident pessimist but, now that our offense seems to be improved and the starting pitching – for the most part – is solid, those righties in the pen appear to be our weakest spot at the moment. Ryan Franklin, as we’re all aware, has been terrific this year but behind him we’ve had some problems.

For one thing, aside from Franklin, only two righties have ERAs below 4.00 and one of them – Blake Hawksworth – is not very likely to get the ball in high leverage situations down the stretch. In terms of FIP, only Brad Thompson is below 4.00 and, again, he’s not the righty setup man Tony’s looking for. Jason Motte is the only righty averaging more than 7 K/9 which, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily determinative but sometimes we need those relievers to be able to get a strikeout and Thompson and Hawksworth just aren’t strikeout pitchers. Only Josh Kinney has a GB% greater than 50% and he’s currently pitching for the Memphis Redbirds. Let’s see how we stack up as a pen vis-à-vis the rest of the league.

Cards’ pen 4.06 124 7.0 35 .246 .326 .393
NL Rank 10 T2 T14 10 T5 4 10

Our bullpen FIP is about 4.50 – not very good. And that includes impressive performances so far from Franklin, Trever Miller, and Dennys Reyes (who’s been better than some here believe). Let’s look at our righthanded corps.

McClellan 3.13 5.09 6.65 0.59 4.27 0.59 0.3 4.83
Motte 5.26 3.89 7.78 1.60 5.11 -0.21 -0.4 4.62
Kinney 10.95 7.30 5.11 1.46 6.97 -0.77 -0.4 6.05
Thompson 4.37 1.19 3.18 0.40 3.60 -0.30 1.3 4.77
Hawksworth 2.75 1.83 4.12 0.92 4.09 0.47 0.3 4.18

From here forward, xFIP likes Blake Hawksworth more than anyone else in our pen (from the right side, that is). That’s a little disturbing. Tony tends to turn to McClellan as the setup man from the right side but it’s somewhat confounding that his BB/9 is 2 BB/9 higher than it was last year. He’s walking more hitters and appears to be getting away with it…so far. Of course, he’s also benefiting from a .268 BABIP. Considering our lack of depth from the right side, I’m somewhat surprised the Cards didn’t claim this guy when placed on waivers by the Padres. Maybe he wasn’t worth trading for but the Yankees only gave up a PTBNL. He’s not a star but he’d likely be better than anyone else we’ve got.

The good news is that our starters have thrown more innings than any other rotation in the league (678.1 IP coming into last night) and are averaging 6.17 IP/G – first in the NL. And that’s likely to rise down the stretch since our fifth starter will only have to go 7 more times (I think) and Carpenter, Wainwright, and Pineiro will be starting a disproportionately large percentage of the remaining games. If we can get our starters into the 7th and then -- w/ the lefties and w/ Franklin in the 9th – McClellan, Motte, et al are only called upon to get a batter or two out, we might be able to survive some shaky 7th and 8th innings.

To this point, only Motte and McClellan have been trusted in leverage situations greater than 1.00 so those are the 2 Tony’s likely going to turn to when needed in the 7th and 8th. Still, the way Hawksworth’s been pitching, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get the ball in some higher leverage situations down the stretch.