Exit Interview: Trevor Rosenthal

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.

This year’s Exit Interview series is brought to you by Cast.  Get instant feedback on whatever question you want to ask, whether it’s what’s going to happen in tonight’s game or which Muppet is the best.  Cast lets you ask anything that’s on your mind and quickly see what other folks are thinking as well.

Player: Trevor Rosenthal

Season stats: 2-6, 45 SV, 3.20 ERA, 72 games, 70.1 IP, 57 H, 42 BB, 87 K, 1.408 WHIP, 115 ERA+

Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 10

Overall grade: B-

Positives: Became one of a rare group of hurlers (Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Jason Isringhausen, Jason Motte) to save 40+ games for the Redbirds….tallied four more saves in the postseason…struck out over a batter per inning, showing he could be dominant when things were going well….dominated left-handed batters, limiting them to a .181 BA and a .523 OPS….actually had more success on the road, though in 20 fewer games.

Negatives: The cardiac doctors in Cardinal Nation didn’t think it was all that bad, but everyone else had significant stress and anxiety when Rosenthal took the mound in the ninth….his K/BB ratio was barely over 2, which means every time out was a bit of a high-wire act….batters hit .255 with a .755 OPS against him when there were no outs in an inning….did not throw one perfect frame in the 2014 postseason, though he only blew one of four opportunities.

Overview: Does it matter how the sausage is made?  On the one hand, a high percentage of the time that Rosenthal came into the game, it ended with the Cardinals on the winning side.  Six blown saves in 51 outings isn’t superb, but it’s not that far out of line with most other relievers.  When it comes down to it, Rosenthal usually got the job done.

That said, there’s got to be an easier way.  His average leverage index was 2.443 on a scale where 1.000 is high leverage.  Most of those tight situations he got himself into, allowing leadoff hits or walks and doing everything he could to go right up to the blown save line without going over it.  When your closer has his own safety net in the postseason, there’s an issue, but that’s what we saw with Carlos Martinez, causing bullpen cramps because C-Mart had to be available if Rosenthal completely made a mess in his sleeping quarters.

The walk rate is the killer.  If you ADD the walk rates of 2012 and 2013, you just barely surpass what he had in 2014 by himself.  Everything else seemed in line with the past, when he was that dominant force, or even better, but he couldn’t seem to throw strikes.  If the command is there, Rosenthal could be a strong force at the end of the bullpen going forward.

Will the command return?  That might be the biggest bullpen question for 2015.  Looking at his in/out of zone over at Brooks Baseball, he rarely threw 40% of pitches in the zone.  Interestingly enough, that is very comparable with what Craig Kimbrel did this past season.  It would seem that he could put things together, but whether he will or not–or can be successful without putting people on stress medication–remains to be seen.

Outlook: There’s no doubt Rosenthal goes into next season as the closer and, with Pat Neshek heading off for greener pastures most likely, there’s no one obvious to slide into his spot if he struggles again.  I mean, it’s not like Martinez is a paragon of control either.  All we can hope for is that a year of experience and a few tweaks will get him being more of the pitcher we saw in the past and less of the wild man we saw this past season.

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