Modern/Super Bullpen for 2018

Fangraphs has the Cardinals projected for 88 wins this year, which is probably good enough for a wildcard spot but not to win the division. Provided that the Cardinals don't make any huge offseason acquisition (Donaldson, Machado, Archer) the best bet to make a big impact would be to change the way the Cardinals use the Bullpen. This post is inspired by work on this site and some Fangraphs data. Specifically, if you remove Adam Wainwright's 1 2/3 inning start where he gave up 9 ER to the Baltimore Orioles, his ERA the first two times though the order is 3.36. If we could just have him (and every other Cardinal starter but Martinez) face 18 batters a game (a little over 4 innings on average), ERA's would be fantastic, but then how do the Cardinals keep pitching another 5 innings?

Here's how: Sign Addison Reed to be the 8th inning guy; the Cardinals certainly have the money to afford it. Also, trade for Alex Colomé to close out games. Adding both might seem excessive and expensive, but just hold on.

The Bullpen will look like this: Colomé, Reed, Cecil, Gregerson, Lyons, Reyes, Tuivailala, and Sherriff.

Colomé, Reed, Cecil, Gregerson, and Tuivailala must be in the pen because they are out of minor league options. Lyons and Reyes will serve as 2 inning relievers to pitch the 5th and 6th innings. Finally, I chose Sherriff over Brebbia, Bowman, Lucas because Sheriff is exceptional against lefties and because the Cardinals starting rotation is entirely right handed, the opposing team lineup would probably be lefty loaded.

Numbers used in Calculations:

Carlos Martinez: in 2017 he averaged 6.4 innings with a 3.64 ERA and since he is not capped at 4 innings I made the math simple and had him average 6 innings a game with his 3.64 ERA.

Adam Wainwright: As mentioned above I used a 3.36 ERA for his first two times though the order. 4 innings.

Michael Wacha: in 2017 his ERA the first two times through the order was 3.76, and I had him go 4 innings before being pulled from the game

Luke Weaver: His sample size is so small that I just used his steamer projected ERA of 3.74 for 4 innings.

Miles Mikolas: I used his steamer projection of a 4.12 ERA for 4 innings.

* Ideally having Weaver and Mikolas go only 4 innings would decrease the projected ERA's but I just used what steamers provided.


Colomé: 3.24 ERA (2017 value)

Reed: 2.84 ERA (2017 value)

Cecil: 3.88 ERA (2017 value)

Gregerson: 3.54 ERA (2018 steamer projection because he is a much better pitcher than the 2017 statistics show)

Tuivailala: 3.70 ERA (2017 FIP because his actual ERA of 2.55 far outperformed his FIP and I wasn't that bullish)

Ryan Sherriff 3.14 ERA (2017 value; hopefully used almost only against lefties)

Reyes: 2.67 ERA for 2 innings (His ERA as a reliever in 2016 was 0.52, and that's just ridiculous. His steamer projections assume he starts all his games. So since I only have him pitch 2 innings a time, a happy medium seemed to be his 2016 FIP as a starter and reliever of 2.67)

Lyons: 2.83 for 2 innings (2017 value)

Day by Day: Pitcher - innings pitched - Avg. runs allowed

Day 1:

Martinez - 6 - 2.43

Cecil - 1 - 0.43

Reed - 1 - 0.32

Colomé - 1 - 0.36

= 3.54 Runs allowed per game


Day 2

Wainwright - 4 - 1.49

Lyons - 2 - 0.63

Cecil - 1 - 0.43

Reed - 1 - 0.32

Colomé - 1 - 0.36

= 3.23 Runs allowed per game


Day 3

Wacha - 4 - 1.67

Reyes - 2 - 0.63

Sherriff - 1 - 0.35

Gregerson - 1 - 0.39

Tuivailala - 1 - 0.41

= 3.45 Runs allowed per game


Day 4

Weaver - 4 - 1.66

Lyons - 2 - 0.63

Cecil - 1 - 0.43

Reed - 1 - 0.32

Colomé - 1 - 0.36

= 3.40 Runs allowed per game


Day 5

Mikolas - 4 - 1.83

Reyes - 2 - 0.60

Sherriff- 1 - 0.35

Gregerson - 1 - 0.39

Tuivailala - 1 - 0.41

= 3.58 Runs allowed per game


Total average of 3.44 runs allowed per game.

This of course is a simplistic prediction because it does not consider opponents, extra innings, or injuries. However, I do not believe it is too far off from reality and tried to be realistic by giving bullpen arms plenty of rest. Opponent wise, the Reds are predicted to be the 22nd best offense, the Pirates are predicted to be the 21st best offense, the Brewers are predicted to be the 20th best offense, and the Cubs are predicted to be the 6th best offense in baseball. So aside from the Cubs, the Cardinals will face weak offense opponents in the division regularly. Secondly, the Cardinals have Flaherty and Gombers if injury strikes a starter, and have Brebbia, Bowman, and Lucas if a bullpen arm collapses or gets hurt. Additionally, with the starters throwing fewer innings, you would hope their chance for injury (looking at you Wacha and Wainwright) would decrease.

With the current set of starters and relievers that the Cardinals have, they project to allow the 7th least amount of runs per game, 4.35. Simply by replacing Bowman and Brebbia with Colomé and Reed, the runs allowed per game would certainly decrease, but adding these two relievers allow both Lyons and Reyes to serve as bridges after the starters face 18 batters.

I really like this idea because the Cardinals have two "relievers" in Alex Reyes and Tyler Lyons who are exceptional pitchers with histories of starting. This also serves as a way for Reyes to have a control number of innings while still getting exposure to MLB play. Additionally, the Cardinals are positioned perfectly for this to work based on their starting pitchers. Wacha, Mikolas, and Weaver are all cheap pitchers who would benefit either in term of their health or in term of getting acclimated to MLB batters. Their low salaries also allow the Cardinals to invest more heavily in bullpen pieces.

Adding offense to the current Cardinal lineup through the free agent market is, in my opinion, not a good idea, and a trade for Machado/Donaldson is too costly. So why don't the Cardinals use their incredible pitching core and financial flexibility to make waves this season?

Disclaimer: If the Cardinals do add Colomé and Reed, the team would likely be strong enough to compete without any huge shift in pitching philosophy, but I'd love to see them tinker with this idea.