Is there a statistic for a guy who comes in, usually in long relief, and just continues to give his team a chance to win, often times following a short start (whether because of injury or poor performance)?
If so, I’d be willing to bet that Brad Thompson would have a favorable number in that column.
Chris Carpenter made his first start after returning from Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow last night against the Braves, and while Carp arguably did very well given a short rehab assignment and a still-developing command of his pitches, Thompson came in and threw 2 2/3 innings of really good baseball to give the Cards the opportunity to win.
That led me to chasing down just what Thompson has meant to this team, in a wildly varying role, from cleaning up the mess of Cardinal starters to mopping up late innings in games already ruined by the staff. I expected to see decent success from Thompson – what I found is that he has been wildly successful in his “role”, in my opinion.
Since being recalled (this essentially encompasses the month of July), Thompson is 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA in 19 innings pitched over 8 appearances. On the surface, that doesn’t seem all that special, until you consider the situations he’s been thrust into.
Brad cleaned up for Todd Wellemeyer on the first of July, throwing four innings in relief and only allowing one run on two hits, with the team unable to overcome the six runs surrendered by Wellemeyer. Point being, Thompson didn’t let the wound open up any further, the offense just couldn’t put enough together. I would call that a successful outing.
On July 9th, the fabled Mark Mulder start, Thompson came in after Mulder’s 1/3 of an inning and proceeded to go 4 1/3 giving up 2 runs on 5 hits. The Cardinal offense was feeble that night, mustering only two runs against a rookie left-hander for the Phillies. Two was enough to tie the game, making Thompson’s outing all the more worthwhile – before the bullpen failed him and surrendered two runs to suffer the loss.
During the San Diego sweep, on July 18, Thompson this time bailed out Braden Looper (who gave up six runs in three innings) by giving the Cards a solid 2 1/3 with only one run scored. This time Thompson was backed up by a rare solid bullpen outing, with the arms behind him holding the Padres scoreless for the remaining 3 2/3. Thompson stood to take the loss if that seventh run had held for the Pads, but who else would’ve been able to give that performance coming in in the fourth inning? “Enough to win the game” has really been an important part of this team’s success this year.
He followed that outing up two days later by accomplishing the blown save-win double. Thompson this time came on in the ninth inning to clean up Jason Isringhausen’s mess, and despite allowing the first batter to double and hang an inherited run on Izzy, Thompson closed out the final two outs after an intentional pass to get the Cards out of the inning and preserve the tie. Aaron Miles hung the grand slam on the Padres in the bottom, and Thompson got the win.
July 26th against the Mets, after pitching two innings the night before, Thompson was called upon in the 13th inning, with really no one left behind him, to go as long as he could. It only took one perfect inning before the Cardinals scored, and another perfect inning to get the win.
That brings us back to last night, taking over for Carp, this time not because of poor performance, but just to give Carpenter’s rebuilt elbow a break as he continues to get his stamina back.
Thompson has been a stalwart in the Cardinal bullpen since coming back from the disabled list and Memphis. He goes out, when called upon, regardless of situation, tired or not, and continues to produce. He’s prone to a home run now and then, he’ll give up runs – but on a regular basis, he keeps the team in games that they still have a chance to win when he enters.
Sure, you could argue that Thompson should get some starts – you could argue that he should be a regular in middle relief – but this role seems to suit him well, he seems comfortable with it. It’s a role that most teams hope they never have to utilize, but the Cardinals do not have that luxury.
Kudos Brad Thompson. Here’s hoping that you get more work in a middle relief role soon.