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Let's Hear About The Cardinals' Bullpen Some More


I could be wrong about this, and it might not be the best attitude for a would-be sportswriter, but certain games exist to tell us nothing except about how unwatchable they were. This particular game hung around like a bore with a particular, obvious political hobbyhorse he feels only he can disseminate--oh, you're saying the bullpen is bad? I see! And Adam Wainwright is giving up a surprising number of home runs this season? Why, who could imagine it! And yes, it is true that the offense is still very good.

Having learned all that about the St. Louis Cardinals sometime in April, we're going to be stuck receiving periodic and unnecessary refreshers about it until the Cardinals can find a third reliably above-average reliever and we move far enough away from Adam Wainwright's elbow surgery and his unpleasant April to stop worrying about the team's best pitcher.

The bad innings from Sanchez, Salas, and Rzepczynski, and the prior bad innings from Freeeman, mean that four members of the Cardinals' seven-man bullpen now have ERAs at or over 6.00. The real pleasure of being a sabermetrically inclined baseball fan is that this is--if not quite good news--not the kind of thing that leads you to believe your team is facing an existential crisis and must fire everybody.

The Cardinals' bullpen is a real problem that could cost them a lot of lost ground this season, but there's so much slack between where some of these pitchers are today and the replacement level that it's easy to see 40-37 as a minor success.

Of course, it's harder to see while Salas and Freeman are conspiring to walk in a run with the bases loaded.

If FanGraphs is your preferred WAR provider--and for catchers, given the defensive measurements they've rolled out, that seems like an appropriate decision--Yadier Molina is now already over 3.0, for the fifth consecutive season. I've been wondering periodically about Molinfa's improbable Hall of Fame chances ever since somebody mentioned it in the comments over the offseason, and this year's run, if he can push his WAR over five (or even six) for the season, goes about a fourth of the way toward solving the problem I've had with thinking about his candidacy to date: It gives him, with 2011, the beginning of a Hall of Fame peak, relatively low but solid for a catcher.

Of course, now he just needs to do this thing he's done over a half-season for the next four or five years, which should go most of the way toward justifying John Mozeliak's contract.

Since this whole .880-OPS thing is kind of new for Molina--for any Molina--I'm not going to start counting votes, but I've been impressed and a little startled by how directly his season to date has answered my questions about what a peak Yadier Molina season would look like. To be honest, I was not expecting the answer to include a slugging percentage over .500.