After two weeks of baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals are 7-5 and in first place in the National League Central. They have only lost one series this season. They are looking to have one of the best starting rotations in the league.
Yet, it’s undeniable an old habit is coming back.
Up to their old tricks yet again, the underachieving bullpen has blown five leads out of 12 games. The Cardinals could easily be 10-2, or even 9-3, behind only the Atlanta Braves for best record in baseball. Ask a Cardinals fan and they probably won’t mind–they are some of the most optimistic fans who tend to ignore the negative. Two weeks into the season might not be the time to start panicking, but if you aren’t worried, you probably should be.
I suggested a few days ago that St. Louis needs to start listening for offers on Matt Adams–even so far as to advertise his availability. I have to wonder if those fans who called me crazy are still comfortable with the back end of the bullpen after today’s tough loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Just like they did last week against the Cincinnati Reds, the Cardinals handed the ball off to Trevor Rosenthal who proceeded to give up a two-run shot to the despised Ryan Braun. Then came Mitchell Boggs–he has an 11.37 ERA–to attempt to close the game out. After three batters faced the game was tied. And when it was all said an done Fernando Salas, a former Cardinals closer himself, had lost the game.
Miss Jason Motte yet?
Since 2011, the Cardinals are second only to the Colorado Rockies (52 BS) in blown saves with 51. They now lead Major League Baseball with five in 2013. The back end–Salas, Rosenthal and Boggs have a combined ERA of 7.91. They have three losses between them, Boggs’ WHIP is over two and none of them allow a batting average lower than .258–which is right around the MLB average.
Mike Matheny and the Cardinals should be very concerned about who they hand the ball off to in the ninth–even in the eighth–at this point. I’m not sure there is another arm in the bullpen that is suited to close and there is no obvious help available in the minors. Spring wunderkin Michael Wacha is struggling early in Triple-A with a 4.00 ERA, which isn’t bad but his 7.09 FIP is cause for much concern.
Yes, St. Louis is in first, the offense is off to a good start and the starting rotation is hot. If the bullpen doesn’t shape up fast, all of that won’t matter and they certainly will not sustain their current position in the division. Blowing leads has been–at times–the M.O. of the Cardinal bullpen the past few seasons. History is repeating itself in St. Louis and no one should fault them if they act on it fast.