Exit Interview 2021: T.J. McFarland

As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning.  Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review.  Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season.  As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!

Player: T.J. McFarland

Season stats: 4-1, 1 SVO, 2.56 ERA, 38 G, 38.2 IP, 32 H, 3 HR, 9 BB, 21 K, 25 inherited runners, 8 inherited runners scored, 3.79 FIP, 1.060 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 0.8 bWAR, 0.3 fWAR

Statcast: .298 xwOBA, 7.0 barrel %, 90.8 exit velocity, 45.6 hard hit %, 14.6 K %, 6.3 BB %

Best Statcast category: Fastball Velocity (6th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Fastball Spin (3rd percentile)

Hero/Goat: Goat 2

Grade: A

Positives: Picked up off the waiver wire and immediately began stabilizing the bullpen….went from August 3 to September 9 without being charged with a run….got 12 double plays turned behind him….lefties slashed .167/.184/.313 against him….had a 1.56 ERA away from Busch Stadium, though his home OPS was 50 points lower….leadoff batters had a .485 OPS against him….batters wound up with a .609 OPS if they took the first pitch….allowed a .189 average when ahead in the count….struck out the two pitchers he faced….allowed a .695 OPS with runners in scoring position….gave up a .593 OPS in high leverage situations and a .485 one in mid-leverage ones….had a 1.12 ERA in eight eighth innings….the OPS against got lower with the more rest he got, though only 11 times did he get more than one day off….the Brewers had a .448 OPS against him….had a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 day innings.

Negatives: Gave up a run in his first appearance with the club….struggled down the stretch, posting a 4.61 ERA in his last 13.2 innings….batters hit .313 against him in that span….two of the three homers he allowed came from lefties….righties hit .276 against him….sixth place hitters had a 1.044 OPS against him….batters hit .300 with two homers on the first pitch of the at bat….they slashed .304/.418/.478 when they were ahead in the count….hitters had a .406 average and a .941 OPS leading off an inning….gave up a .320 average with nobody out….allowed a 1.287 OPS in 17 plate appearances that combined two outs and runners in scoring position….the Cubs got to him for a .975 OPS….walked Cody Bellinger in the wild card game and that proved very costly.

Overview: McFarland, much like his counterpart Luis Garcia, was a huge breath of fresh air for a beleaguered Cardinal bullpen.  He wasn’t flashy, as those strikeout numbers can attest, but what he lacked in power pitching he made up for in veteran steadiness.  Mike Shildt tended to treat him like Seth Maness had been years ago, as a pitcher that can get a double play on command, which worked out more often than it probably should have.  His end of season malaise might have been a bit of running out of gas or it could have been a little bit of the league adjusting to him.  All in all, though, McFarland was exactly the kind of player that you want in a bullpen, just hopefully not the second or third best guy out there.

Outlook: The Cardinals re-signed McFarland to a relatively painless contract ($2.5 million), which means if it really was the league figuring him out they won’t have to feel obligated to keep him around due to the money involved.  Relievers are a dicey proposition, as likely to flame out after a good year as to repeat on it, which is why I’m always a little leery on bringing them back.  (Contracts like Jonathan Broxton still haunt me.)  All that said, McFarland should be a fine piece for the bullpen next year, even if he can’t quite duplicate what he did in 2021.

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