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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

 

Taking Stock: The Bullpen

The one on the right is one on the left and the one on left is... so it wasn't Johnny Cash's best song, but it's a good segue into an extremely early look at where things stand for 2006 in regards to the Cardinal bullpen. I started with the bullpen because, so far, the most significant moves from the Cards front office has centered on filling out the bullpen. Below I’ve gone through each guy we have in the pen so far, and a few others that should be seen as likely members at some point this season. Please note, I have left off several guys placed on the 40 man roster recently, Chris Narveson for example, that are likely to remain in the minors through September, IMO. While it’s quite likely that either Cali or Johnson will be in the minors as well, I added both of them because at various points throughout the season one or the other will certainly be in the pen for LOOGY duty. On the right: Jason Isringhausen In spite of all the Cardinal fans unable to exhale through 9th innings, Izzy remains a solid presence as the pen’s anchor. Last season, he remained effective, but saw his K/9 and K/BB ratios take a hit. His ground ball/fly ball ratio went up (1.38 in 2004) which accounts for some of the reduced strike outs. It was in the first half of the season, when he was having injury issues, that his K rates really suffered, and he returned to form as the summer progressed. 2005: 63 G, 59 IP, 43 HA, 4 HR, 27 BB, 51 K, 39 SV, 2.14 ERA, 7.78 K/9, 1.89 K/BB, 1.73 G/F Here is Bill James’ 2006 prediction for Izzy. 66 G, 62 IP, 49 H, 4 HR, 24 BB, 57 K, 36 SV, 10.8 BR/9, 2.99 ERA Looks pretty good, eh? James sees his K ratios going back up to about 8.27 K/9 and 2.38 K/BB. His ERA goes up and he posts three fewer saves over three more innings. I would guess that with the team lineup as currently constructed, Izzy will have fewer opportunities to earn a save. When he does get the opportunity, it will be the same old Izzy we’re used to, except maybe less of a nail biter. The Cards’ closer reminds us that you don’t necessarily have to be a lights out, power arm to be effective; you just need to get three outs. He's just 33 years old, so he's definitely got a few years left to pitch. His injury history is cause for some concern, and I suspect TLR and Duncan will be a little understanding when his arm hurts since they signed... Braden Looper The newest addition to the bullpen will be setting up Izzy, and putting management's minds at ease if Izzy needs to take a week off. There were some groans when the Cards signed Looper, but even after a poor 2005 closing in Queens, Looper can serve handily as a setup man. Let's look at his stats: 2005: EqERA 4.74; VORP 5.3; 4.10 k/9; 1.23 k/BB; 9.89 h/9; 1.06 hr/9; 1.79 G/F Career: 5.61 k/9; 1.73 k/BB; 9.12 h/9; 0.72 hr/9; 2.00 G/F For Looper, TLR and Duncan see that G/F ration and see a pretty solid 8th inning guy that can close in a pinch, see the rule above about not needing to be lights out, just needing to get three outs. Here's his 2006 projection from Bill James. 58 G, 58 IP, 59 H, 5 HR, 20 BB, 36 K, 35 SV, 12.6 BR/9, 3.91 ERA This prediction was made assuming Looper would be the Mets' closer again, so take it for what it's worth. One thing to note is that James' projects a K/BB rate of 1.80, slightly above his career norm. I think Looper will be fine. He's not going to be a world beater when he faces lefties, but I think Duncan can get him back to a respectable form. The key to that, as far as the Cards are concerned, is getting that G/F ratio above 2.00 again. Brad Thompson Thompson had a nice rookie year, giving the Cards a solid right handed presence to effectively eat up the middle innings of games. 2005: 40 G, 55 IP, 46 HA, 5 HR, 15 BB, 29 K, 2.95 ERA, 4.75 K/9, 1.93 K/BB, 2.40 G/F He kept both lefties and righties to an OPS under .650. What he lacked in striking out batters, he achieved through getting the ground ball outs. He's 23 years old, looks like he's 12, and doesn't take up much salary space at all. What's not to like about him? For 2006, there's no reason to think he can't remain as effective as last year, and a solid year of major league experience should help him out for next year. I do, however, wonder about his low K totals, but he's probably in for a nice career in middle relief. Juan Mateo Mateo is our Rule 5 draft pick out of the Cubs organization. His seasonal age for 2006 is 23, the same age as Brad Thompson last year. He's got three years of service time in the minors, pitching for the Cubs' Daytona Class A affiliate last year. Here are his minor league career totals: 102 G, 217 2/3 IP, 197 HA, 14 HR, 60 BB, 218 K, 9.01 K/9, 3.63 K/BB, 0.58 HR/9 This guy has talent. However, it's a big jump to majors from where he's been, so he has to be successful enough for the Cards to keep on their roster all season or else he's a Cub again. I desperately want the kid to be this year's version of Brad Thompson, in no small part due to the fact that I'd hate to give him back to the Cubs so Dusty could wreck his arm before he turns 28. Spring Training will be a key to Mateo's future with the team. I had originally intended to put Adam Wainwright in here, but it's pretty tough to make a guess on his status. I suspect he'll start the season in Memphis, unless he blows everyone away in Florida this spring. Supposedly, the Cards want to make him a starter, so they won't promote him to any full time gig as a long reliever. If any of the starters or other righties gets injured, then Wainwright will probably join the team for until that pitcher makes a recovery. Last year in AAA, he posted a 10-10 record, 4.40 ERA, 7.27 K/9, 51 BB, 147 K, 2.88 K/BB. Very respectable. He may also wind up as trade bait. The pen still needs another solid righty. They seem to be pursuing Felix Rodriguez, and there are other options out there. I'll try to get to the left side tomorrow.
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