Sunday’s unfortunate events aside, the Cardinals bullpen has been pretty good in 2019. According to Fangraphs the Cardinals relievers rank seventh in fWAR. They rank even higher in ERA and FIP at third and first, respectively. The ‘pen has been arguably the Cardinals greatest strength this season.
This strong bullpen is in part due to three pitchers leading the way: Giovanny Gallegos, John Brebbia, and, of course, former-starter-turned-closer Carlos Martínez. Among all qualified relievers the three rank among the top thirty in fWAR. All three have a FIP under 3.00 and the highest ERA of the bunch is 3.15. Lately, though, trouble appears to be brewing.
Carlos Martínez was hospitalized with an upper respiratory illness on Saturday. According to Joe Lyons of the St. Louis Post Dispatch the Cardinals closer has been battling an illness since the Cardinals’ series in Colorado. He is currently labeled as “day-to-day”, but while the flu can certainly be overcome in a short amount of time, the aftermath of a bout with it can have longer-lasting effects. The Cardinals might be without one of their best relievers for several more games while he regains his strength.
This would be less of a concern if the Cardinals’ other two top relievers — Brebbia and Gallegos — had not gotten dinged-up recently. Brebbia struggled against Pittsburgh back on September 6 giving up two hits and a run while only recording one out. He has since had three scoreless appearances, but has also allowed two hits and walk in that time. Gallegos also took some lumps. On September 2 he allowed a home run and then was scored on a again in his next appearance on September 4. Like Brebbia he has gone on to work three scoreless appearances after this, but has allowed two hits and walk.
With the status of Carlos Martínez uncertain the Cardinals will need to rely on Brebbia and Gallegos more than before. Their body of work over the course of the season suggests they are both up to the task. Hopefully these recent struggles are just blips in what have been excellent seasons so far.
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