A Savior Departs

One of the reasons St Louis made it to the post-season has moved on.  Edward Mujica.

Ed went from seventh inning guy, to closer, to 25th man on a 25-man roster, all in the same year.  When Jason Motte went down, a window opened for someone to step into the closer role.  Many thought it would be Trevor Rosenthal.  Few believed Mujica had the mentality to close.

But oh boy, how he closed.  On April fourteenth he worked his first ninth inning of the year.  Four days later he came on to close, successfully working a 4-out save against Philadelphia.  From that April moment until a July night in LA, he was automatic, saving 21 games in a row.  He eventually saved 37, the last two coming in a forgettable September when he got lit up like a Christmas tree.  Or like Home Run Ed.

“Home Run Ed” was a moniker some of my friends tagged him with during his 2010 stint in San Diego.  Seemed like Ed gave up a home run every time he took the mound.  Of course it wasn’t true; if it were he’d be out of the league selling groceries somewhere.  He did give up a lot of round trippers, though.  His 17.7% HR/FB rate that year is the highest of his career.  That he would be that hittable didn’t make sense.  His peripherals were outstanding in 2010.  Check out his advanced stats on Fangraphs.  Stuck out a guy an inning, miniscule baserunners even with the home runs, low AVG against and low BABIP; everything pointed to an above average pitcher.  Yet he had trouble with the long ball, and was therefore not totally trusted in San Diego.

Last year, he really put everything together.  The Cardinals were 47-8 in games he pitched (up through 31 August).  He didn’t beat himself; he allowed 3 walks and hit one batter in 57 innings.  He had a fantastic (and unsustainable) BABIP of .222, amazing given how poor St Louis’ defense was last year.  When fatigue and injury finally caught up with him, I had a twinge of sadness for Ed, combined with that nagging feeling this may have been his career year.  Guess time will tell on the latter.

One can’t get mad that Mujica cashed in.  The contract he’s reported to have signed with Boston (2 years, $9.5M) is for more money than he’s made in his MLB career to date ($6.4M over 5 seasons).  Boston has signed a LOT of folks over the last 2 years who can close.  Their current closer, Koji Uehara, isn’t going to relinquish the ninth inning to someone else, seeing as he’s been really good.  Mujica will probably settle back into the seventh inning, where he’s proven himself to be very reliable.  Not bad for $4.75M a year.

There’s no elegant way to close this post, so I’ll just say this:  Thanks, Ed, for restoring order to the Cardinal bullpen when it really needed it.  St Louis may have made the playoffs anyway, but they certainly would not have had the best record in the league without you.  As we saw in the post-season, that was really important.

Best of luck in Boston.

Mike monitors Cardinal activities from his bungalow in Southern California.  He can be found periodically haunting ballparks throughout the state.

For unto us a Child is born”

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