A consistently popular topic in baseball is the efficiency of closers. The way they take the mound, attack hitters without hesitation and fire heaters at the plate like a gunslinger. Since the position was invented, everybody has their take on it. Some prefer a closer by committee and others like the idea of one man standing as the last line of defense in a bullpen. Personally, I am in favor of the latter. Bullpen arms need to know where they are going to be slotted in, or at least a few of them need to know. Closer by committees rarely work in this game, so the #1 arm theory has always been my preferred dose of late inning attack and that won’t change. Trevor Rosenthal has been the Cardinals closer since last September, and while his efficiency is solid, fans can’t seem to throw out theories on displacing him or mixing in others.
Before we jump to conclusions and figure this out, let me get this out. Rosenthal doesn’t always make it easy. He is walking a lot of batters this year. He throws a lot of pitches(41 to get 4 outs on Wednesday) and has a rock and roll style of throwing to the plate. He curls his body like a fireball and unleashes that tormenting 99 mph fastball towards the plate about 80 percent of the time. All this leads to a lot of action with erratic moments. High blood pressures and stress filled viewing. I get that. However, it’s a bit premature to say that it’s right to pull Rosenthal from a position he has done very well in since he landed. Let’s look at the stats.
In 2013, Rosenthal was officially 3-8 in saves in the regular season but those stats are a little misleading. Rosenthal was credited with 2 blown saves during the Mitchell Boggs blowup in April. He got a couple more subbing in for Edward Mujica through the season and as Eddie unraveled in September. On September 23rd against the Washington Nationals, Rosenthal took the ball as the new closer. He saved three straight games to finish the regular season before saving 4 out of 5 games in the postseason(which included a sick 18-3 K/BB ratio). For a first timer to the much heralded and polarizing position in baseball, that’s a decent stretch. This season, Rosenthal is 23-26 in saves. His earned run average is high, the walks are high but the efficiency is there. There’s no need to move this man or worry too much about him as long as he gets results. Rosenthal hasn’t blown a save since June 4th against Kansas City, when Matheny put him into a game with 2 on and nobody out(one of the many Waino lost wins). He has saved seven straight games after going through a rough stretch in late May and early June where he suffered all of his blown saves. Instead of falling deeper into the hole, Rosenthal pitched his way out of it and found the groove again.
In his last 10 appearances, Rosenthal has pitched 9.2 innings, struck out 13, walked 7 and allowed 5 hits while saving 7 of 8 games. That isn’t pretty or make easy viewing, but the results are there. Why mess with something that isn’t broken? Rosenthal has bent a lot this season but he rarely breaks. At the end of the day, he’s a solid closer.
Remember this folks. He hasn’t even been a closer for a whole season yet. He inherited the position during the stretch run of 2013 and is still new to the position. He is a crisp raw 24 years old and has plenty of room to grow. Since he took the ball on September 23rd as the new sheriff in town, Rosenthal is 26-29 in save opportunities. Calm down folks. Keep the blood pressure meds nearby but there’s no need to switch closers or alter the plan for the 9th.
As much as I love Jason Motte and what he did in 2011-12, the closer job doesn’t belong to him anymore. As the season stretches into August and September, Motte may be able to help take a few save chances off Rosenthal’s hands to keep the kid fresh for the postseason. To this point, that’s all I can see in the forecast for Motte. He could grow into the setup role and be very good at it. The 9th inning is Rosenthal’s to lose right now. Unless he falters dramatically, don’t expect any changes. There is no need for a committee in St. Louis. Leave Motte and Pat Neshek in the earlier inning duties. When Kevin Siegrist comes back, he can join Sam Freeman as the lethal lefty duo. The bullpen will get stronger once it gets healthier. It doesn’t need changes.
A lot hasn’t gone as planned for the Cardinals in 2014. The RISP average didn’t just go down. It plummeted into obscurity. Matt Holliday and Allen Craig have forgotten how to slug. The rotation has taken heavy hits so far. Marco Gonzales has major league exposure before he could get a whole year of minor league experience and I know that wasn’t the plan. Seth Maness has regressed backward and isn’t a double play machine any more. The team has encountered at least 5 false starts on offense. The bats have been iced by subpar pitching. The one thing that has been steady throughout is the closing. Thank Trevor Rosenthal for that and ask Troy Tulowitzki how it feels to hear a 100 mph fastball smack into a catcher’s mitt behind your swing.
Rosenthal is getting the results and that won’t change any time soon. Enjoy the stability when it surfaces on this team in 2014.
Thanks for reading. Time to unwind with some Black Rebel Motorcycle Club tunes and a large cup of black iced coffee. Go Cards.