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Pen Implodes, Cards Fall

Posted By David Gorsky On Aug 3 2012 @ 2:15 am In St. Louis Cardinals | 2 Comments

The St. Louis Cardinals are a statistical conundrum.  They lead the majors in on-base percentage, even without the convenience of a designated hitter.  Their starting rotation has been exceptional, recording the best FIP  in all of baseball and the fourth-best ERA.  They combine dominant hitting with great starting pitching, yet here we are in August and the Cards sit only seven games above five hundred and eight games behind division-leading Cincinnati.   Bad luck has definitely played a role, as their Pythagorean win-loss [1] record suggests they should have about six more wins.  It’s hard to blame any individual player for the dissonance between the Cardinals’ great production and their mediocre record. Instead of blaming a single player, we’ll point the finger at a group of players.  They sit together, on a bench, beyond the right field fence at Busch Stadium.

The bullpen reared its ugly head Thursday night, allowing three runs in the seventh inning and three more in the eighth.  Lance Lynn allowed only two runs in six innings, recording his 13th quality start of the season, before the bullpen rendered his solid start meaningless.  Reliever Fernando Salas needed only 14 pitches to allow three earned runs while recording only one out, ballooning his ERA to 4.89.  The biggest blow was delivered by rookie shortstop Josh Rutledge who, with a runner on second, sent a fastball 412 feet into the left field seats.

Salas and Marc Rzepczynski (who is affectionately called “Scrabble” by his teammates) are two pitchers on whom the Cardinals have relied heavily in middle relief, and they have combined for a disappointing 4.91 ERA over 73.1 innings pitched.  Newly-acquired right-hander Edward Mujica might be able to help out, but his numbers have taken a significant step backwards this season.  In 2010 and 2011 with the Padres and Marlins, Mujica established himself as one of the game’s better middle relievers.  He pitched to a 3.27 ERA over 145.2 innings, with a solid 8.34 strikeouts per nine innings to boot.  This season, his strikeouts per nine has dropped to 5.85 and his ERA has risen to 4.28.  He is not going to single-handedly save the bullpen.  The entire group, outside of Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte on the back end, will need to improve for the Cardinals to have a shot at the playoffs.

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[1] Pythagorean win-loss: http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/faq.shtml#pyth

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