This is one last desperate plea from Statler, Waldorf, and myself. Kyle McClellan joined the two Muppets in the back of the theater, but he doesn’t want to speak on his on behalf at this point. That’s fine. I’m bringing the heat and blathering enough for all 4 of us. We’ve got one simple message.
Leave McClellan in the bullpen.
Yeah, I was on-board with giving him a look as a starter earlier in the spring, and he’s shown some pretty good stuff. He’s been practically dominant at times, basically picking up where he left off last season. Without question he’s good enough to mow down a lineup 1-9. That’s exactly why he needs to stay in the bullpen. If he had come out and cruised through 5 innings on 60 pitches and looked ready to go another 3 more, I would have a different opinion. If his pitch selection didn’t remind me of the 8th inning of a close game in July, I’d probably feel differently. If the Cardinals had more bullpen depth, this wouldn’t be quite the same debate. If we had flying cars, I wouldn’t bother blogging about baseball, because I’d be flying my freakin’ car around all the time.
Since we don’t have flying cars, I’m going to harp on this little topic for a bit. Statler and Waldorf gave me the green light. Oquendo probably gave me the red light, but he can be safely ignored, because well….he’s Oquendo, and everybody ignores his “stop sign”. Of course, McClellan has put been in the ideal positions to succeed. Of course he looks great when he only has to pitch a few innings at a time. What would happen, if he had to throw six like Lohse did the other day on a regular basis? Better yet, why bother?
Realize that the Cardinals have questions at closer. I already wrote a piece in defense of Ryan Franklin‘s actual effectiveness versus perception, but the truth is that it’s hard to change perception. If he struggles, then what will the Cardinals do? How much will McClellan’s value to the pen be missed? Yes, they have plenty of arms available to claim that they have “pitching depth” as opposed to having Dennys Reyes which qualified last season as “pitching width”. That still doesn’t give me the same warm fuzzy that I get from looking down at the bullpen knowing that Motte, Boggs, McClellan, Salas, and Miller are all still available BEFORE Franklin is even mentioned. If Franklin struggles AND Mac is a starter, then that’s 2 names effectively removed from the list. Maybe Batista et al. can fill the void, but I’d rather that void not be created in the first place. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do I.
Turn it over to someone like Lance Lynn. He’ll struggle at times, but he’ll learn a lot from it. How much more can he learn at AAA compared to what he can learn working with Dave Duncan, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and the rest of the staff every day? Even if McClellan does manage to stretch out from 70 innings to 160-170, that still leaves a lot of innings for the bullpen to carry. How much will that hurt come August? This is a completely philosophical debate for me, and I really respect those who believe that McClellan is the best 5th starter. They just don’t have the two grumpy Muppets from the balcony on their side, and I do.
TIDBIT: Not many pitchers go from starter at A ball to reliever at AA and the major league level to reliever in the big leagues to starter at the major league level. Just sayin’.
MORE BITS OF TID: Word has it that Statler was invited to spring training this year, but he declined the invitation based on a desire to avoid taking a pay cut. The scouting report on him is that he’s scrappy and slightly taller than Nick Punto (just kidding…Punto is at least 4 inches taller than Statler).
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