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: James Naile
Season stats: 5.00 ERA, 7 G, 9 IP, 8 H, 2 HR, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 IR, 0 IRS, 5.56 FIP, 1.111 WHIP, 5.0 K/9, 0.0 bWAR, -0.1 fWAR
Statcast: .363 xwOBA, 6.7 barrel %, 90.1 exit velocity, 53.3 hard hit %, 13.5 K %, 5.4 BB %
Best Statcast category: Extension (68th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Fastball Spin (1st percentile)
Positives: Made his major league debut June 27 with a scoreless inning against the Marlins….threw six scoreless innings over his first five games, spanning a couple of returns to Memphis….righties hit .182 with a .536 OPS against him….did not give up a run on the road….had four strikeouts and batters hit .125 in 4.2 first half innings….allowed a .133 OPS in July….hitters had a .308 OPS if they swung at the first pitch….the first batter he faced went 0-7 with a walk….retired both Cubs he faced….had a 3.31 ERA in Memphis, though he didn’t strike out a batter per inning.
Negatives: Gave up four runs in his last appearance in September versus the Nationals….lefties had an .896 OPS against him in 14 plate appearances….ninth place hitters with 2-2 with a home run….probably due to sample size, but he was more effective when batters were ahead (.143 average) than when he was (.313 average)….both home runs were allowed with two outs in an inning….batters had a 1.125 with runners in scoring position (eight plate appearances)….were 1-3 with a homer with two outs and RISP….never pitched in high leverage and only had two plate appearances (0-2) in medium leverage spots.
Overview: Naile made his debut and rode the Memphis shuttle a bit to help solidify a bullpen that needed the help. It’s a little surprising that the Cardinals didn’t use him more often, at least given the results that he got when on the major league stage. It’s not that right-handed relief was a huge need throughout the year, of course, but when a guy is doing well it would seem you keep giving him more until he can’t handle it. From what we saw of Naile both in St. Louis and in Memphis, it doesn’t look like he’ll be a star or anything but he’s a solid piece that can raise the floor of a bullpen.
Outlook: It feels like Naile might be on the Kodi Whitley path, where he gets sort of overlooked and eventually opportunities dwindle. It’s true he doesn’t have the overwhelming stuff that you’d like to see out of your bullpen guys which will hold him back a bit. However, I imagine we’ll see a little more of him in the major leagues next year to see if these results were real or a mirage.