One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Nick Wittgren
Season stats: 1-0, 1 SV, 1 SVO, 5.90 ERA, 29 G, 29 IP, 35 H, 1 HR, 10 BB, 17 K, 24 IR, 6 IRS, 3.84 FIP, 1.552 WHIP, 5.3 K/9, -0.6 bWAR, 0.1 fWAR
Statcast: .317 xwOBA, 1.0 barrel %, 89.0 exit velocity, 34.0 hard hit %, 12.7 K %, 7.5 BB %
Best Statcast category: Extension (92nd percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Fastball Velocity (12th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Goat 2
Positives: Had 18 scoreless appearances, though did allow inherited runners to score twice in those games….had a 1.42 ERA in April….third place hitters had a .432 OPS….had a .599 OPS if he was ahead in the count….limited hitters to a .530 OPS with runners in scoring position….with two outs and RISP, gave up a .143/.308/.143 line….allowed a .464 OPS in late and close situations….the OPS was .381 in high leverage spots.
Negatives: Allowed four runs once (against the Cubs, even) and three runs once….batters hit .299 against him….lefties hit .311, though the only homer he allowed came from the right side….had a 6.75 ERA at Busch Stadium….had a 7.50 ERA in May….leadoff hitters had a .917 OPS….batters had a .783 OPS if they swung at the first pitch and a .788 if they took it….his only homer allowed came with two outs….batters hit .333 with nobody out….had a 10.12 ERA in the sixth inning….had a 10.80 ERA with one day of rest….allowed a 7.94 ERA against the Cubs….the ERA was 6.00 against the Brewers.
Overview: Wittgren was one of the depth pieces that was signed in the offseason, intended to improve the bullpen with a guy that could throw strikes. It was $1.2 million, so it wasn’t necessarily expected to pan out, and it certainly didn’t. Wittgren could turn in a solid outing but you couldn’t trust that to happen often enough, especially in the first half when the Cards were trying to find their footing. Eventually, they needed the space and designated Wittgren for assignment right as July started, releasing him outright when he cleared waivers. The strikeout rate wasn’t anywhere around what they expected to get and the walk rate picked up a little as well, which was a bad combination for the righty.
Outlook: Wittgren is closer to 32 than 31 and has struggled his last two years. He had some success in Cleveland in the past so someone might give him a look in spring training, but the fact that nobody picked him up after he was let go by St. Louis doesn’t bode well for his continued employment. It seems very likely he’s seen the end of his major league days at the very least.