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Saturday, December 31, 2005

 

You're Grounded: Cards' Bullpen and the Ground Ball

Okay, so I'm a few hours late on it, but here's the G/F chart for the Cardinal bullpen. Included are a few guys without significant major league experience (Cali, Johnson, Mateo); they are on this because they project to be a part of the bullpen in some role next for the 2006 season. Image Hosted by ImageShack.us You can see very similar conclusions here as with the starters, and that should be fairly obvious. The bullpen pitcher, with his limited role and limited arsenal of pitches is brought in to make just a few outs (except on those occasions when the ground ball starter can't locate his pitches and a pen guy has to make 9 outs in a game). For this, he comes in and throws some variant of a fastball and his out pitch. The easy ground ball out is a highly desired outcome for guys in this role, so I'm not surprised to see Duncan and TLR employ ground ball pitchers for bullpen roles. Signing Looper parallels the situation with Tavarez to some extent. Both were signed as established ground ball pitchers, both came to Cards after seasons in which they have struggled to get strike outs; Tavarez was getting 4.10 K/9 in 2003 before he came to the Birds. With Looper, I suspect they see a ground ball pitcher, a strength they can build on, and if this plan works out, Looper's abilities will be tuned up top the point where statheads see an increased K/9 ratio and TLR sees an effective guy for the 8th inning. Tavarez experienced career highs in K/9 ratios during his time with the Cardinals, so let's hope the precedent continues. Way back when the Cardinals were first rumored to be interested in Looper, I noted his career 2.00 G/F was certainly attractive to the team. I still think it's safe to say that Looper's $15M for the next three seasons is certainly more for his ability to get the ground ball versus his ability to power past hitters. The chart above alludes to an idea much bandied about in Cardinal nation: that Izzy is nothing particularly special, rather a solid pitcher that has been turned into an effective closer by a good pitching coach and an emphasis on the strengths the good lord giveth him. For some more circumstantial evidence around Izzy and the Cards' G/F philosophy, think about how many games last season ended with a short toss from Eckstein to Pujols. Izzy struck out one fewer batter per 9 last season compared to his last season with the Cardinals, making his save opportunities that much more harrowing. It will be interesting to watch Brad Thompson progress over his career. Will he survive on that +2 G/F ratio and so few strike outs? Anyway, just some more dust to chew on. Clearly the Cardinals bullpen is as prized for their ground ball inducing ability as the starting rotation. Now, still as confident in the Spivey/Miles tandem at 2B?
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