For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season. Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series. All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis. Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.
This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure. Our focus this time is Double Birds Podcast. Chase and El Maquino, joined occasionally by guests, cast a sometimes critical but always informed eye on all things Cardinals. Find them on iTunes or check out Chase’s blog.
Player: Matthew Bowman
Season stats: 2-5, 3.46 ERA, 59 games, 67.2 IP, 59 H, 20 BB, 52 K, 1.167 WHIP, 3.31 FIP, 0.5 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Goat 4
Overall grade: B+
Positives: Wasn’t even supposed to make the team, being a Rule 5 pickup from the Mets, but turned into a very valuable reliever….three times had the bases loaded with nobody out (only once did he have any part in it) and didn’t allow a run….batters had a .199 BAA and a .550 OPS against him in Busch Stadium….was effective against everyone but better against lefties (.178/.282/.289)….was extremely good in July, posting a 1.74 ERA in 13 games (15.1 IP)….rebounded in September, putting up an 0.82 ERA in 11 innings….limited batters to a .203 BAA in the first half.
Negatives: Hit a wall in August, posting a 7.71 ERA and an .896 OPS against during the month….the situations above notwithstanding, was at his worst in high leverage situations, allowing a .308/.357/.423 line in 57 such plate appearances….after pitch 25, batters hit .333/.417/.429….had an 8.31 ERA when he was pitching on no rest….had an 8.44 ERA against Pittsburgh in 5.1 innings, a mark that could have been worse had three runs he allowed against them been unearned.
Overview: You have to give some credit to the Cardinals’ scouting, because when Bowman was acquired there not only did there not seem to be a place for him, there were questions about whether there should be a spot. After all, even knowing that Las Vegas is a terrible place to pitch, Bowman was coming off a minor league season that saw him put up a 7-16 mark and a 5.53 ERA. You factor in park effects and everything and there still seems to be a player of questionable worth there.
Bowman, however, became pretty much just what the bullpen needed, especially with the starting rotation not going as deep into games as it was expected to when the season began. Bowman could pitch the sixth or seventh (or both–he went two or more innings in 13 of his 59 appearances) and usually keep the team right where it was at. He wasn’t perfect and you don’t know how much the league will adjust to him going forward, but save the unsurprising slump in August (even though he was a starter in the Mets organization, it had to be wearing to be making so many appearances), he provided solid value. You didn’t necessarily want to see Matheny going to him late in a one-run game, but that’s not how he was typically used. Matheny did start going to the well a little too often (25 of his appearances were in July and August) but when he was deployed correctly, Bowman was a solid asset for the club.
Outlook: With his rights now with the organization, Bowman could wind up going to Memphis, but that would only seem to be an option if they wanted to try to stretch him out to be a starter, which seems pretty unlikely, or he starts to struggle out of the bullpen, which wouldn’t be as surprising. While I don’t know where he’ll be to end 2017, it seems pretty likely he’ll be one of the early relievers to come out of the ‘pen to start it.