Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez. Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site. My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast. It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug. So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!
Player: Ryan Helsley
Season stats: 2-0, 2.95 ERA, 24 G, 36.2 IP, 34 H, 5 HR, 12 BB, 32 K, 4.22 FIP, 1.255 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 0.6 bWAR
Statcast: 6.4% barrel %, 87.3 exit velocity, 35.8% hard hit %, .294 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 1
Overall grade: B+
Positives: Made his major league debut April 16….threw 5.1 scoreless innings in the playoffs, allowing just one hit and striking out eight….limited lefties to a .231 average….had a 1.77 ERA away from home….batters had a .640 OPS against him when not at Busch….batters hit .143 in the first half….batters hit under .200 in every month except September….had a 1.69 ERA and struck out a batter an inning in August….cleanup hitters slashed .083/.154/.083….batters hit .167 when they swung at the first pitch….allowed a .217 BAA with nobody out in an inning….allowed a .704 OPS with runners in scoring position….had a 3.38 ERA and gave up a .639 OPS in the sixth inning….batters went 4-for-26 when he threw 26 or more pitches….had a 2.45 ERA on no days’ rest (3.2 innings)….had an ERA of 1.42 against teams under .500….threw the most innings against the Reds, whom he limited to a 0.90 ERA….at Memphis, had a 2.61 ERA after the All-Star Break.
Negatives: Allowed three runs in 1/3 of an inning in his final appearance of the regular season….allowed a 1.031 OPS in the last four weeks of the year….batters hit .279/.319/.515 against him in St. Louis….gave up a .279 BAA in the second half….had a 5.40 ERA in May, though he only threw 1.2 innings that month….second-place hitters had a 1.228 OPS against him….batters hit .294 and 10 of his 12 walks came if the batter took the first pitch….batters had a .986 OPS if they were ahead in the count and a .900 OPS if the count was even….allowed a .353 average in late and close situations….gave up a 1.083 OPS in high leverage situations….had an 8.31 ERA against the Cubs and a 5.40 ERA against the Brewers….had a 4.58 ERA at Memphis.
Overview: Helsley is an interesting case that, optimistically, just needs a little polishing to be a very valuable asset. Where that asset will be placed is a totally different story. Helsley has gone through the ranks as a starter but, as the Cardinals are wont to do, has been shifted to the bullpen in his major league action. There’s no doubt that Helsley has a strikeout weapon–he struck out 21% of batters at the bigs–and that definitely makes him an intriguing relief option. That said, I feel like the Cards have done a little too much of this and the rotation is starting to have a lot less depth to it.
Helsley got jerked around a little bit in 2019, mainly because he had options but also because it seemed to take time for him to earn Mike Shildt’s trust. Of course, as you can see above, his game did have a few holes in it and you can see maybe why Shildt didn’t want to toss him directly into the fire. Still, save for his little stumbles in September, he became a pretty trusted arm (at least in the minds of many fans) and his October performance should give him a lot of confidence as he preps for 2020.
Outlook: Helsley’s name hasn’t been mentioned as a starter candidate, so I would imagine he’ll go to spring training with the idea that he’ll be vying for the major league bullpen. A reasonable spring should put him in Cincinnati for the opening series, but given that he has options, he might get the John Brebbia treatment and wind up in Memphis at times even when he doesn’t really deserve it. He’s going to be a fun one to watch develop and if he gets it all together, he could be in the mix for some closing opportunities, especially while Jordan Hicks is out.