The St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen certainly has its strong points. The trio of Alex Reyes (3.06 FIP), Giovanny Gallegos (2.40 FIP), and Genesis Cabrera (3.15 FIP) have all been reliable bullpen options for the Cardinals. While they may lack control at times, they also generate plenty of whiffs and limit opposing hits. The game is generally safe when any of these three enter the game, and they usually enter the game with the lead. Additionally, Mike Shildt has shown that he likes to use these relievers in the same game when the Cardinals are protecting a lead. This is a strategy that helps the Cardinals close out games, but it also leaves a suspect bullpen for the next day.
The game against the Cubs on Friday demonstrated what can happen when none of these three relievers are used. When Carlos Martinez left the game after the sixth inning, the score was 2-2. After Ryan Helsley, Tyler Webb, Seth Elledge, and Daniel Ponce de Leon were brought out of the ‘pen, the game ended 12-3. This is just one example, and these pitchers are all capable of getting outs. However, the numbers of other relievers in the bullpen besides Reyes, Gallegos, and Cabrera are not great.
Ryan Helsley has a 5.59 ERA and 3.93 FIP, although his 4.52 xFIP is worse. Tyler Webb has a 6.07 FIP, Kodi Whitley has a 5.01 FIP, Daniel Ponce de Leon has a 7.39 FIP, Jake Woodford has a 4.77 FIP , and Seth Elledge has a 4.44 FIP with a 6.31 xFIP. None of these inspire confidence, and they do not give the Cardinals great options outside of Reyes, Gallegos, and Cabrera. Most of these pitchers are relatively young and have not been in the majors for very long. Additionally, they still have small sample sizes.
Thus, there is a chance that the rest of the ‘pen can figure things out as the season continues, but currently it is risky to use any of these relievers. Some of the young guys could still figure it out, although it seems unlikely that Tyler Webb and Andrew Miller will be viable options in close games this season.
With so much uncertainty behind Reyes, Gallegos, and Cabrera the Cardinals may find it difficult to hold onto some games as the season continues. As a result, the Cardinals should be looking for bullpen help on the trade market. If some of the young guys improve as the season continues, then this may be unnecessary. However, the Cardinals need more than three reliable relievers if they are going to contend for the division title in the NL Central.
This trio is carrying the Cardinals bullpen right now, as the bullpen ranks 12th in the MLB in FIP. There is a warning sign though, as the Cardinals bullpen currently has the highest xFIP in the league. As a result, the bullpen needs to improve or the Cardinals may blow mroe games in the late innings as the season progresses. This is certainly not ideal, and if the young relievers on the roster are not showing any signs of improvement, then the Cardinals needs to look elsewhere for bullpen help.