The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season. This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason. More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter. Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.
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Player: Pat Neshek
Season stats: 7-2, 6 SV, 1.87 ERA, 71 games, 67.1 IP, 44 H, 9 BB, 68 K, 0.787 WHIP, 197 ERA+
Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 3
Overall grade: A+
Positives: It was a positive year even before the end of spring training, when he and his wife had a child (which was so meaningful given their history) and he made the club after being a non-roster invitee….then went out and had his best season ever, making the All-Star Game (back in the town where he began and his brother was on the grounds crew–maybe you CAN script baseball!)….most any statistic would work here, but that 68/9 K/BB ratio is a thing of beauty.
Negatives: Ran into a little trouble in the second half, with a 3.41 ERA and a .651 OPS against….gave up two big home runs in the postseason, including a game-tying one in Game 5 that spoiled Adam Wainwright‘s bid to take the series back to St. Louis….actually had his worst split numbers in high-leverage situations, though they were still .221/.276/.305.
Overview: Every season, folks talk about a lottery ticket. That player that you sign to a minimum deal with the idea that if he flops, you aren’t out much of anything but if he pays off, you get a ton of value. Neshek was the $2 scratcher that paid $10,000.
You kept wondering if this was going to be for real, but Neshek just kept getting batters out. He went from April 11 to May 31 without allowing a run and had a .092 BA against in that stretch. He didn’t blow his third save until August 23, didn’t take a loss until August 29. He allowed just four home runs all season, though three of them came after July 26. He just was dominant over and over again.
Given the struggles Trevor Rosenthal went through, you could understand why fans clamored for Neshek to take the ninth inning more often. It’s not too surprising that Matheny didn’t take that to heart and we don’t know if the results would have translated to the ninth (Neshek did have some rough innings of his own late in the season), but lots of people would have been fine trying.
Outlook: Neshek threw more innings than he had since 2007. He had a stellar year, but the volatility of relievers is such that the Cards aren’t likely to pay him what someone else will. Neshek will get a nice contract and hopefully will pitch well for whatever that team is, but the Cards will go looking for the next lottery ticket.