Recapping the Detroit series (puke)

by on June 26, 2008 · 2 comments

Utter and Complete Failure – 2
Success – 1

That’s about the best way I can describe the last three days versus the Tigers. And that doesn’t encompass the whole team – plenty of Cardinal players did quite well for themselves in the vast expanse of outfield that is Comerica Park.

The bullpen was another story.

I was all set to type up a quick set of notes on Tuesday night’s game, after watching the Cubs lose to the Orioles (all the while obsessively checking the Cards game on my phone and keeping tabs on the Wrigley scoreboard), and seeing the Birds take yet another series opener – spirits were high. I was prepared to post that this was my ideal setup for the bullpen for the rest of the season:

B Looper (W, 9-5) 6.0 7 4 4 1 3 3 95-66 4.22
R Springer 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 12-8 2.28
K McClellan 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 12-8 2.45
R Franklin 1.0 1 0 0 1 0 0 15-10 2.78

Russ Springer, Kyle McClellan, Ryan Franklin to close out the win – and not a single run surrendered.

Then there was Wednesday night’s game. Winnable, certainly, by all accounts.

K Lohse 4.0 11 5 5 1 2 1 83-53 3.94
C Perez 2.0 2 0 0 0 1 0 45-29 3.71
J Isringhausen (B, 7) 1.0 2 1 1 1 0 0 13-5 6.29
R Flores 0.0 1 1 1 0 0 0 2-2 5.12
K McClellan (L, 0-3; B, 3) 1.0 3 1 1 0 0 0 18-11 2.61

Ok, so Kyle Lohse wasn’t real successful to begin with, but it’s difficult not to give up hits when the park you’re in makes routine fly balls into hits.  Comerica is the polar opposite of Minute Maid Park.  While the Juice Box can barely contain a routine fly ball, Comerica turns them into singles barely beyond the infield dirt.  It’s a truly fascinating phenomenon.

Anyway, it was good to see Chris Perez get back on track in an extended outing, but the rest of the guys basically crapped the bed, culminating in McClellan’s “performance” in throwing a wild pitch to put Randy Flores’ inherited runner (via a fielder’s choice, the runner was still Flores’ responsibility) into scoring position, which against this bullpen might as well mean he’s already crossed the plate.

Then there was today’s gem.

T Wellemeyer 5.0 4 0 0 0 3 0 76-50 3.46
R Villone 0.2 2 1 1 2 2 0 26-14 5.83
J Isringhausen 2.1 2 0 0 0 2 0 27-19 5.74
R Franklin (B, 4) 1.0 2 1 1 0 2 1 20-14 2.95
M Parisi (L, 0-4) 0.2 1 1 1 3 0 0 22-8 8.22

Flores was sent down to make room for Albert Pujols’ triumphant return – El Hombre was four-for-four and reached base in all five plate appearances, including an RBI single to take the lead in the top of the ninth – and Ron Villone assumed Flores’ spot in the LOOGY role.  Except Tony LaRussa forgot how the role he basically invented works.  Villone continued to pitch to right-handed hitters after allowing his one lefty batter, Curtis Granderson to reach base.  The problem there is that righties pretty much get paid their salaries by facing Villone.

Jason Isringhausen pitched a surprisingly solid two inning outing following up Villone, then handed the game over to Ryan Franklin.  Franklin blew the save in the bottom of nine (raise your hand if you didn’t see that one coming), and new staff pariah Mike Parisi walked in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth.

Now, as anyone who reads here regularly will know, I’ve defended Parisi in the recent past.  I will go only so far as to say that LaRussa ordered two intentional walks in the inning to pretty much guarantee Parisi would fail.  Short of that, this kid has to perform.  I’m done making excuses for him, and frankly, I’d be surprised if we ever see him in the majors again with St Louis.

So ultimately, the Cardinals had yet another opportunity to sweep in Detroit.  Once again, it was against a team that would be a huge boost and success had they completed the sweep.  Instead, they walk away with two losses they essentially gave away.  The bullpen is to blame.

Sure, Troy Glaus and Ryan Ludwick stranded seven runners each today, but the Cardinals still had the lead going into the bottom of the ninth.  Stranded runners and missed opportunities or not, the Cards had chances to win – I dare say games in hand – and blew it.  That’s on the bullpen.

Exciting stat of the week following this series?  The starting rotation is (including today’s game) 36-17.  The bullpen is 9-18.  That’s disgusting.

Worse?  Look at that link again.  The starters have surrendered 126 walks in 474.1 innings pitched (again, including today’s game).  The bullpen has allowed 121 walks in 247 innings pitched.  That’s not disgusting, that’s appalling.  It’s unfathomable.

Something has to give with this bullpen.  One can only assume that Flores’ “ankle discomfort” or whatever excuse they gave to put him on the disabled list is just that, an excuse to get his head right, similar to Izzy’s laceration.  Problem is, even with his head right, I don’t think Flores can keep this team in contention out of the bullpen.  I know Ron Villone can’t do it.  McClellan is getting to the point of being borderline overused.  Springer can’t go on back to back days because of the mileage on his arm (at least presumably).

GM John Mozeliak finds himself in what may be the first true test of his tenure with the club.  The team is in contention.  They seemingly have enough weapons on offense (can TLR please keep finding at-bats for Aaron Miles?) as long as they don’t all slump at once.  The starting pitching is solid, so long as they don’t have any more major breakdowns in health between now and the end of the season.  The glaring need is in the bullpen.

Perhaps some starters coming back from the extended disabled list can bolster the bullpen by causing a more-or-less forced shift in the arms on the staff, but I wouldn’t count on it.

I’m usually not prone to exaggeration, but I think the Cards find themselves on a slippery slope right now.  Surely there are lots of folks in that pen losing confidence as we speak (if they have any left to spare), and it doesn’t seem to be improving.  Before long, MLB is going to catch onto the Bill Belichick-esque act of putting these guys on the DL with hang-nails in order to give their brains a chance to forget about blown saves and 1-run losses of the past.

For reference sake, Dr. Paletta, just how long does it take for a pitcher to forget that he walked in a winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning?

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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