This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Ryan Helsley
Stats: 3-4, 14 SV, 33 G, 36.2 IP, 22 H, 1 HR, 17 BB, 52 K, 2.45 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 1.064 WHIP, 1.4 bWAR
Statcast: 3.9% barrel, 27.6% sweet spot, 109.9 max exit velocity, .240 wOBA, .240 xwOBA, 35.6% K, 11.6% BB
Helsley went on the injured list June 12 and with him went the Cardinals chances of digging out of the hole that they’d worked themselves into. In fairness, Helsley had a small hand in that hole as well. In the 22 games before he got hurt, he had blown four saves, including one on Opening Day that should have given up a hint of what was to come. The numbers weren’t terribly bad but they weren’t on the level of dominance that we had seen out of Helsley last year. There weren’t as many red lights and music opportunities, that’s for sure.
Losing him, though, put a significant strain on the back of the bullpen, a strain that Genesis Cabrera, Jordan Hicks, and Giovanny Gallegos couldn’t quite manage to keep from buckling. (The weakness of the rotation didn’t help either, of course.) Helsley was out until rosters expanded at the first of September, a loss that would have been devastating in a more normal season but allowed him to rest up some in a year that was already lost. He allowed just one run in 11.2 September innings and the walk rate was about half what it was earlier on, so the time off seemed to help.
Helsley went through the arbitration process last winter and indicated that he didn’t find the process palatable, expressing his discontent about the team coming in to discount his very successful 2022 in order to save a little money. It will be interesting to see if he settles outside of arbitration this year, given that and given the significant time he missed. It’s also possible that Helsley could be in the running for that spring time extension that we usually see, given the way he bounced back after the time off this season. He’ll turn 30 next season, which is hard to believe, and that may keep the club from going too overboard given they have control of him through 2025 anyway.
What’s in store for 2024: It would be pretty stunning if the club wound up trading such a valuable piece of the puzzle, though you always want to be careful of overvaluing a reliever. Hopefully Helsley stays healthy and we get a return to form and a lot of red-tinged ninth innings next year.