clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bullpen Usage and Matt Carpenter

How could these two topics possibly be related? They are not.

Los Angeles Angels v New York Yankees - Game One Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

It is generally accepted that managers can’t really win baseball games. There’s a limited amount of things a manager is capable of doing that can genuinely influence a game and most of those things are more negative than positive. Especially with the designated hitter. No more possibility of having your pitcher bat, then taking him out in the next inning.

With all that said, Oliver Marmol had just about perfect managing in the Cubs series. He faced a daunting prospect: five games in four days. This would be difficult under the best of circumstances. He did not have the best of circumstances. On Saturday, he had two starters - one of whom has been in the bullpen the entire season and the other who has a 6.68 FIP in AAA. You can’t rely on either for innings, and to make matters worse, your other rookie starter lasted just 3.1 IP on Thursday. On Monday, you had a bullpen start.

So I’m not sure if the Cardinals just got really lucky on Friday or if they were planning to use Thompson to relieve Mikolas and finish the game no matter what. Like if Mikolas throws 7 innings - and coming into that start Mikolas had pitched into the 7th inning in six of his 10 starts - and it was a close game, is Thompson really pitching two high leverage innings? Cause his 4 innings (or more) would be EXTREMELY useful on Saturday. It was somewhat fortuitous that Mikolas only pitched 5 innings and that the Cardinals’ offense made it a blowout.

Then on Saturday, when the Cardinals were losing, he managed to burn the 27th man and nobody else in the bullpen. Then his master stroke: Saturday night and Sunday. At this point the Cardinals are losing the series to the Cubs. We can’t let that happen. And he had a clear plan in mind: pitch Andre Pallante up until his pitch count, then make Drew VerHagen throw the middle innings, and then use Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley for as long as you can. He knew they weren’t pitching Sunday and the Cardinals had an off day on Monday, so he was going to let them throw 40 pitches. The game went to extras, Cardinals won.

Similar story on Sunday: there is no way Marmol planned to throw Cabrera for 4 innings, but Cabrera hadn’t pitched since Monday and I’m sure he knew in his mind that he was going to use Cabrera for a lot of pitches if needed. It just so happened the Cardinals went into the 11th, but I think he had talked to Cabrera about pitching somewhere around 3 innings prior to the game in the event Adam Wainwright only threw 5 or 6 innings. Just a guess. Cabrera is burned for a few days now, but the Cards needed every pitch he threw. Helsley and Gallegos are probably good to pitch on Tuesday and Cabrera probably not until Thursday. But in the meantime, they got two wins for this strategy and who knows if any of these three pitchers will be used or needed by then anyway. You need him now, deal with the later later.


I was actually planning for that opening segment to be much shorter than it ended up being. That’s because what I really wanted to talk about was Matt Carpenter. Don’t worry. You will not be hearing me argue they should have signed him. Matt Carpenter was and I suppose still is my favorite player. He was the first player who I sort of attached myself to when I first got into advanced stats. I’m not really sure who my favorite player is anymore - I am on record as proclaiming Brendan Donovan Matt Carpenter 2.0 and I do quite like a few Cardinals players - but attaching a favorite player label to any Cardinal feels more forced than Carpenter did.

I think I need the fanbase to be against a Cardinals player or at least underrate the hell out of them. Carpenter was underrated by his own fanbase in probably 90 percent of his tenure. He wasn’t underrated when he batted over .300 and I don’t think he was underrated during his salsa run. Batting average and lots of homers tend to do that. The rest of his tenure? Underrated as hell. Even when Carpenter was not good, people tended to over exaggerate just how bad he was. Nobody really fits the bill of underrated on the current team. So my favorite Cardinals is a mix of players at the moment.

If you aren’t terminally online, here’s something that may excite you? I don’t know you, maybe you’ll be indifferent. Matt Carpenter is beloved in New York right now. He’s a cult figure. I’m not even kidding. Because New York is a big media market, I can search his name on Twitter and see tons and tons of Matt Carpenter love from New York fans. They love his mustache. They love his attitude. They love his homers of course. They also love that he’s not Aaron Hicks. I don’t understand that one, but they really hate Aaron Hicks.

I’ll just share a few tweets if you’ll indulge me to support my claim.

(It’s absolutely wild how many of these positive tweets also say something negative about Aaron Hicks or Joey Gallo by the way. I have no doubt they would hate the version of Matt Carpenter of the past few seasons if he had signed a big deal, but alas)

There are four things Matt Carpenter has done to endear himself to Yankees fans, aside from not being Aaron Hicks. The first is that mustache. They already love Nestor Cortes, who has also earned himself a lot of love with his pitching performance, and that mustache - while initially off-putting - makes him look like a construction worker, possibly a corrupt cop, possibly the spokesman for WB Mason. The jokes are limitless. He has become a meme.

The second thing is he said that he doesn’t care where he plays or when he plays and that he would load the equipment on the team plane if the Yankees asked him to. So first two impressions: mustache and team player. Both before he played an inning. The third thing is that four of his first five hits were home runs. And the fourth is that his other hit was a bunt against the shift. Which is funny because I saw Cardinals fans say “if only he wasn’t too stubborn to do that in St. Louis” ... except he totally did that here, I’m pretty sure he led baseball in bunt hits one year and in fact doubled on a bunt hit once.

Carpenter has come to the plate 24 times as a Yankee. He’s gotten four home runs, one bunt hit, four walks, and been hit by a pitch. He has a 258 wRC+ with a .111 BABIP. I don’t know how long he can keep this up, but he’s built himself a decent security blanket. I am not a Yankees fan, in fact far from it, and I’ll root for Carpenter’s success and not the Yankees, but if they make the playoffs - which they will - I will probably root for the Yankees. I just hope he stays on the team long enough to return to St. Louis. If he doesn’t, they will become the Evil Empire again.