What’s In The Cards For 2012 Bullpen?

A beard massage from Big Mac? Yes, Jason Motte is at the point where ANYTHING helps!

Last season, a lack of consistency from the bullpen and Colby Rasmus led to a trade that benefited the St. Louis Cardinals to their 11th World Series Championship in franchise history.

This season, the bullpen is a big problem again. And, again, it involves a lack of consistency. And … of course … some bad throws.

So what will it take for the Cardinals bullpen to pull it together and right their ship?

Is Motte the answer as The Closer? Does someone else deserve a shot?

Will GM John Mozeliak and the front office have to get creative and pull off another blockbuster trade to get some help for the bullpen? Will Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist just have to work with what they have and hope the chips fall into place? Will Dave Duncan come around for a week and have a talk with all of the pitchers?

While I’m sure Cardinals fans are nervous with anticipation of how this will turn out, we do have to wait and see. So I posed the question to some of Twitter’s finest to see what they believe will happen with the bullpen.

The answers were varied and thought provoking. Sit back and relax and enjoy these answers.

Tara:

Such a complex question! Short answer? Consistency. Whether that’s with the guys we have now, or someone new. But of course, I can’t just leave it at that! So here’s the long answer.
This up and down is the killer. Ex: Motte started May w/ a 3.21 ERA. It went down to 1.98, and back up to 3.43. June is much the same … and he’s not the only one with those numbers. However, he is 6 for 7 in save opportunities in June. Salas is a popular choice to jump in and replace Motte, but I’m not sure it’s that simple! He has been much better this month, after being sent to triple-A for a bit. But the sample size is half of what we’ve seen from Motte in June. I don’t think it’s fair — in a bullpen that has been anything but solid — to dump Motte for Salas based on five good outings (none of which included a save opportunity). That’s not to say he shouldn’t get a chance, but it is to say he isn’t simply the answer because Motte has given up four home runs in May and June.
You know what else Motte has done? Gone 11 for 14 in save opportunities. You know how many saves the team as a whole has in those same two months? Eleven. There are five other blown saves not charged to Jason Motte. Maybe he’s not so obviously the problem?
What if there we could get a combination of Boggs (who, believe it or not, has been as consistent as anyone in middle-inning relief) and Salas in the middle/late innings, with Motte taking a chance and buying into the use of his cutter as an alternate “out pitch?” I know he’s in love with that 95+ MPH fastball, but when he uses the cutter more than once or twice an outing, it at least gives a different look that would keep hitters from sitting on the fastball.
Alternately, Sanchez and Rzepczynski have to get things going. Either that, or Mozeliak needs to be on the phone finding a new bullpen arm. (I hear Aaron Miles has some free time on his hands these days!)
The other thing to realize about the ‘pen is that, while many of these guys were ridiculously dominant last post season, the entire August-October run was ridiculous. It’s not fair, at this point in the year, to hold this team to those standards. Nor is it fair, though, to excuse poor performances because, hey, it all turned around last year! This is a different team in a multitude of ways. It’s a bullpen without the calm assurance of veterans like Octavio Dotel. It’s a bullpen with the pressure to live up to unrealistic standards. And, it’s a bullpen that, quite frankly, lacks confidence. Add that to Matheny’s learning-on-the-job use of the ‘pen, and you’re bound to see issues.
Maybe taking the job away from Motte would motivate him to get that cutter going. But maybe it would put Salas in a position to struggle just as much as Motte is. Ultimately, we’re seeing the same challenges with this team right now that we saw last July and August. It took a big trade to shake things up last year. If Mo decides he wants to take that same “win now” approach, he’ll likely have to do the same thing again. I’m just not sold on the idea that the closer is the spot that needs changing ….

Stacy:

I do think the bullpen needs help and probably from the outside… Truthfully, I hope Tyler (Perry) (Jazzhands) Greene gets it together enough to play the role of Colby for this year… I say that, because I’m too attached to our other… Not baby birds… Maybe toddler birds. That’s what I’ll call Chambers & Durrrty Dan… I mean, I’d understand if/when a trade is made, but my heart & head hurts thinking of those guys getting moved…
I digress. I’m okay with Motte being the closer. I firmly believe he needs to work in his cutter more often. Bernie Miklasz of the Post Dispatch quoted a stat on his radio show that opponents are hitting .087 against Motte’s cutter. That’s insane. Also, regarding yesterday’s infamous fastball that cost us the W, my bigger problem was with location of said pitch, not necessarily the fastball vs cutter. My dad, the former pitcher & pitching coach has drilled into my head that when a pitcher goes  0-2 on a hitter, they should “waste one”. Throw it in the dirt. Throw it to the backstop. Don’t hit the guy, but give him nothing to hit. Motte had the guy 0-2, nobody on. He coulda bounced a 57 footer. Set the dude up. Then, use one extra pitch to blow it by him. But the wasted pitch gets his timing off/messes with his head, even though he might have guessed Motte would waste one.
So those are my immediate thoughts. I think the starting pitching will be ok… Especially if/when Carp comes back… I’m not holding my breath for Jaime this season. Shoulder problems are tricky, especially for pitchers. Honestly, Jaime’s shoulder really concerns me. Seriously, he could never be the same…

 

Nicole: We have no one better than Motte, so I vote that he stays closer.

Laura: Motte is the closer. He is a heat throwing pitcher & unfortunately those can get lit up sometime. (See Brad Lidge vs Pujols). The bullpen needs help most,  in my opinion. Inconsistency has been our curse. I don’t know if it’s missing Duncan or need for a new arm.  It seems their mechanics are off & that’s where we miss Dunc.

Dave: If the lineup doesn’t get healthy not sure the front office will see the need for a big trade. Carp returning could be the addition. Bye bye Jake Westbrook.

Jeremy: If this team can have a winning record while rebuilding, then I say let them play it out. Clear out some rubbish though. Tyler Greene. Also I’d dump Mark Hamilton entirely, & remove Pete Kozma from 40-man.

Donnie: From last season’s team Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Arthur Rhodes and Lance Lynn were big in the bullpen. This season:  Lynn moved to rotation, Zep is so so, and Rhodes and Dotel are gone. The team will need another trade if Sam Freeman/Joe Kelly Jr. /Shelby Miller aren’t it

Also, if you didn’t catch me posing this question on Twitter and you want to share your thoughts feel free to comment below!

Miranda Remaklus is lead St. Louis Cardinals contributor to Aaron Miles Fastball. She’s also lead writer for Aerys Offsides in the NFL section. Follow her on Twitter, @missmiranda. 

2 thoughts on “What’s In The Cards For 2012 Bullpen?

  1. First, that picture — not sure what to say!

    As for the bullpen problems, I think the biggest loss for this season has been Dave Duncan. With him there, with his experience, the problems that have occurred would likely be lessened.

    Since he’s not, I think what it’s going to take to turn the bullpen problems around is patience. Rookie manager, pretty much rookie pitching coach trying to work with guys to correct their issues — that takes time and learning as you go, no matter what the different pieces are that comprise the bullpen.

    • Excellent point Re: Dave Duncan. I was talking to my dad about that, too (but my response was a short novel as it was! Ha.). There’s just no replacing Duncan. At least not without some significant bumps in the road. Without Dunc and a solid, veteran guy, there just isn’t that … grit that carried guys through the struggles before.

      The down side of patience is that it doesn’t offer the instant gratification we all want! Ha.

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