The good thing about West Coast games is that, when everything goes south at the end, you are usually tired enough to go to sleep and not dwell on it. Though, perhaps, last night’s game was frustrating enough to keep you tossing and turning while spending your mental time berating the in-name closer of the Cardinals.
We are starting to run out of situations that you can come up with good numbers on Trevor Rosenthal. For the season, he’s got an ERA of 5.63 and a WHIP of 2.04. Reliever ERAs don’t often tell the story, because they don’t reflect runs they gave up for someone else or runs that someone else allowed for them, but in Rosie’s case, it’s fairly accurate. He rarely comes into the game with runners on and, obviously, he’s usually the last one out there. Not always this season, but often enough that an ERA of 6 probably is not distorting his season much at all.
It’s not trending in the right direction, either. Derrick Goold notes in his game story today that Rosie’s ERA for the month is 14.14 and his WHIP is an even 3.00. Three! Your closer is averaging three runners per inning! There’s playing with fire and then there’s being a pyromaniac and Rosenthal has burned down the line.
Save situations have gone better for Rosenthal this season, for sure, but even that’s been a little iffy as of late. His last five save opportunities:
Save that Pittsburgh save, every outing saw at least two runners get on base. He was able to wriggle out of it in Wrigley, thanks to an umpire’s leg in one case, but it’s not at all confidence inspiring.
Recently, I believe it was during the Texas series, the graphic on the screen showed that Rosenthal had a 0.64 ERA in save situations and a mark over 10 when the game wasn’t on the line. Now, according to Baseball-Reference, that mark is 3.38. Talk about trending badly.
Earlier in the season, we talked about this issue of lack of work for Rosenthal. (Of course, I can’t find the post now to reference it, because that would be too easy.) What it boiled down to is that, with less than two days’ rest or more than two days’ rest, Rosie was doing OK then, but exactly two days off was a killer. Let’s look and see what that table looks like now (I believe this does count yesterday’s blown save).
It looks like the issues may have spread. If you want to see the ERA broken out like this:
Minimal innings on those last three, so perhaps there’s a little bit to this lack of work thing, but it can’t be much, can it? Two days of rest is not that much for any reliever. It’d be one thing if he was only getting in every third or fourth day, but last night was two days, a day of not pitching and an off day. That’s not unreasonable.
The WHIP situation for those days of rest might be more instructive:
And there’s the real kicker. With no rest at all, he’s putting two runners on each inning. Even at his best, it’s 1.7. You cannot have your closer continually putting the tying or winning runs on base and expect to always come out unscathed. It won’t happen and it’s a demoralizing effect on your team when leads vanish in the night.
So what to do? That’s the million dollar question. I mean, if Rosenthal is struggling this much in the ninth, do you really want him in the seventh? I mean, you could probably do that in some games, but you couldn’t bring him in with runners on after the starter has faltered. You could pretty much only use him to start a later inning and be ready to pull him when he puts runners on. That’s a tough way to run a bullpen, but probably not as tough as continually having to warm up pitchers when your closer enters the game.
Before last night’s game, Bernie Miklasz wrote that the Cards should just keep pitching Rosenthal, that he’ll work his way out of it. Obviously Bernie tends to know what he’s talking about, but isn’t that what they’ve been doing? It’s not like this week Rosenthal just started to have issues. He’s had issues pretty much all year long, and while the monthly ERAs don’t necessarily show it (save this horrendous month), the monthly WHIPs give you the idea that he’s not working through the problem:
Rosie’s WHIP for May was higher than his ERA, which is just another reason not to tie a lot of worth to that in any situation. The Cardinals don’t have to live like this, not with Kevin Siegrist and Seung-hwan Oh in the bullpen. While there’s still talent in Rosenthal and they should work to get him back on track, the ninth inning isn’t necessarily where you want your projects. Mike Matheny seems to have come to that conclusion as well, though he’s not said it overtly. My guess is, though, we won’t see Rosie tonight if the Cardinals have a lead in the final at bat.
What’s really frustrating about this one is that it ruined such a wonderful comeback and drove a stake through some of the serious momentum this team was working toward. Out of their last three losses, two to Texas and then last night, the Cardinals had the lead in either the eighth or the ninth, with the bullpen giving it up. That part of the club that was so rock solid earlier and was supposed to be a huge asset to this team has buckled a bit. It’s still good, mind you, and I’m not saying it needs a significant overhaul, but it’s just tough to watch games get away late.
The Cardinals had worked for this lead as well. Wade LeBlanc, a soft-tossing lefty which means he’s anti-matter to the Cardinals, held them in check for six innings as the offense could do basically nothing. They didn’t do anything in the eighth either, scoring three runs without a hit, but we’ll take it. Aledmys Diaz drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk and Matt Holliday gave the Cards the two-run cushion that LOOKED secured with a ball that Kyle Seager couldn’t handle. All in all, it was set up for a great win…..only to vanish like the morning fog.
Our Goat is obviously Rosenthal, but our Hero is Carlos Martinez. Martinez was in line for the loss before the eighth inning and then in line for the win after the rally and deserved to get the W. One run (on a bases loaded groundout) in seven innings of work, allowing just four hits (but three walks). Martinez stretched the club’s quality start streak out to 13 and he’s just been dominant of late. I was afraid that 122 pitch game against the Pirates would be an issue but he’s not shown any ill effects. When this rotation is going well, the Cardinals should win a lot of games….if the bullpen can hold them.
One last point here. There’s a lot of blame toward Mike Matheny for last night’s game, which I understand. However, if Rosenthal is going to be your closer, and he was as of last night, that’s where you are going to use him. I know Dan and Al discussed using Oh for two innings, but as they pointed out you lose him for Saturday night at least that way. And, if the prevailing opinion in the organization is that Rosenthal needs to work more, then he needs to be in there. I know why Matheny did it and he did have someone warming up, but the problem is by time a closer gets into trouble, there’s often not a chance for someone to bail him out. If Adam Lind hits even a double, that’s probably the last batter and perhaps you still have a chance to salvage it. That wasn’t to be, however. I think Matheny shouldn’t get as much blame for last night as he should get if he runs Rosenthal out there again tonight.
Speaking of tonight, Mike Leake goes for the Cardinals against Nate Karns. Leake has faced a few of these Mariners batters and it has not gone well.
Still, Leake’s pitched well of late with only that stumble in Cincinnati marring his work since the early part of May. On the other side, Karns has only faced Brandon Moss before (Moss is 0-4 with a walk and a strikeout against him) so he’ll be a bit of an enigma to the hitters. He’s a righty, which should help, and his last start he gave up five runs in five innings against the Tigers. He’s been somewhat better than that on the season, but he’s not gotten into the sixth all month long. His ERA is also over 7 for the month (he also got pounded by the Rangers) so we’ll see if that continues!