Bullish on the Bullpen

Before we get into talking about those guys that come after the starters, let’s take a look at how folks wanted to sort out the starting rotation.

I will say I was a little surprised, given how his season ended last year, to see Michael Wacha the choice here.  Not saying that it’s a bad choice, not at all, but given his second half and some of the other options, I kinda thought we’d see him at the back of the rotation.  Instead, Wacha got the most votes for any pitcher in any spot.

Pretty even here, with Mike Leake edging it out.  Having the veteran experience in the middle of the rotation (and perhaps spacing out some of the other hard throwers) may have played a bigger role than I was expecting when I first started thinking about this.  After Wacha got all those second starter votes, he fell off here–people want to see him pretty much anywhere BUT the middle of the rotation.

None of these spots (save maybe second) have a real defining option, which probably means folks are pretty comfortable with anyone going anywhere.  Wacha and Leake are right about even, with Carlos Martinez following up close behind.

Leake “wins” another spot, with Jaime Garcia right on his tail.  Let’s take a look at the votes by pitcher before we leave this.

If we went by this, the rotation would be Adam Wainwright, Wacha, Leake, Martinez, and Garcia.  That’s a rotation that wouldn’t be a problem to most folks, I don’t think, even if they’d prefer a different order.  It’s also a rotation that, if healthy and productive, should win a lot of games.  Or, to be more accurate, keep the team in games–whether the offense will produce enough to win some 3-2 matchups is still to be determined.

Let’s turn our eyes to the bullpen for a bit, shall we?  I’ve got another survey for you here so make sure you read down (or skip down) to it.

Unlike some years, barring injury or a surprising trade, this bullpen really seems to be fairly set. You expect that Mike Matheny will go with a 12-man bullpen, at least to start with.  We’ve argued often in the past how doing any more than that is pretty foolish and the bench has its own issues this year.  (12 is pretty high with these starters as well, I think, but that’s what it’s going to be.)  That leaves seven bullpen spots up for grabs.

Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, and Kevin Siegrist are locks.  That puts us at four.  Jonathan Broxton signed a new deal and Seung Hwan Oh isn’t coming halfway around the world to see Memphis.  We are at two.  The reports are that Jordan Walden is healthy.  If so, that’s one spot left and, with Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons not having any options remaining, that would seem to be all she wrote.

Except the Cardinals took Matt Bowman from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft, which means he has to stay on the big league roster all year long or they have to send him back.  It would seem strange for them to go to this effort just to see him in spring training.  (Then again, they might try to work out a deal for his rights and then send him down if they like what they see in Jupiter.)  And what about Mitch Harris?  I’m not sure if he’s got any options left.  He wasn’t stellar in the big leagues last year, but serviceable.  Would they want to just cut the Navy hero?

Then you have Sam Tuivailala and Miguel Socolovich.  Tui should have options, so that at least gives you an out.  I’m not sure if the same holds true for Socolovich, though I hope so.  Soco provided some quality innings last year before the end of the season saw him used less and less.

There are other new names as well, such as Dean Kiekefer, that may try to force themselves into the conversation as well, though most of them have options left and can ride the Memphis shuttle this year if necessary.

Even if you accept that initial bullpen, that’s got some amazing potential.  You have four guys (Broxton, Oh, Rosenthal, Walden) that have closed games regularly and Siegrist has a little experience that area as well.  Maness is going to be someone to watch, but we know that he’s been a real strong weapon in the middle innings.  Lyons gives you the flexibility to have a long relief guy on those rare occasions the starter blows up but also someone that can take an inning that’ll be dominated by left-handed hitters.  We shouldn’t see Lyons as a LOOGY, but he may have to face some guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber.

We continue to talk about the Cardinals being a run-prevention team.  Looking at this pitching staff, there’s no reason to think that won’t continue in 2016.

So if you could pick any seven, regardless of contract or option status, which seven would you want to see in the ‘pen on Opening Day?
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