I hate to beat a dead horse, but the 2012 Cardinals just cannot win close games. The bullpen can’t hold a lead, and it’s becoming a major problem. The recent sweep over the Padres was just what I thought it was, a mirage. The Padres are a AAA team on offense. When facing real competition outside of the NL Central this year, the Cardinals are now 0-8. That list includes the Phillies, Dodgers and Braves, with 5 of those 8 losses coming at home.
Jason Motte continues to be stunned that he can’t get MLB hitters out on only a fastball. I really thought he turned the corner last year after finally learning the cutter. This year, it’s been nonexistent. Last year I talked about the Cards trading the wrong reliever when they traded Chris Perez for Mark DeRosa instead of Motte. Motte got the job done for 2 months and in the end the Cards won the WS, but Perez is going to be an AS once again and Motte appears to be stuck on being a one pitch pitcher. A 20-11 team now sits at 25-21 for one reason, lack of clutch arms in the bullpen.
It’s still early in the year, but GM John Mozeliak needs to make a move in the near future. With the extra wild card team added, it would be a shame to let the chances in 2012 slip away because of one major weakness. The Cards farm system is loaded with talent, especially pitching in the low minors. The problem will be finding a trade partner anytime in that near future unless the Cards overwhelm them because it’s so early in the year. I’m all for keeping the system stocked for the future, but this team can go a long way with 2 or 3 additions to the bullpen, and the time is now.
If the trade route is not the way to go, it’s time to start the clock on someone and go ahead and bring them up. Fernando Salas would be the first to go I would think because he has options and his location is just awful right now. He needs to work on his mechanics, and the Cards can’t afford to let him continue to work it out in the show. Trevor Rosenthal just reached AA to start the year, but going from how impressed the Cards were in ST about his performance and demeanor on the mound, I’m thinking he might get the call sometime soon. He’s a power arm with 4 good pitches. Sam Freeman and Chuck Fick are probably more realistic options we are more likely to see before Rosenthal. I am not in favor of Freeman or Fick over Rosenthal, but I’m afraid that’s what will happen.
There’s no need to look at the stats at this point. The offense leading the league in most categories, the starting pitching is keeping the Cards in most games, but the BP is unreliable at best.
Another topic I’d like to touch on is Jose Oquendo. I’m not sure how many men he’s had thrown out trying to take an extra base this year, but it needs to stop. I like the aggressive play of the new look Cards, but there’s being aggressive and then there’s being stupid. How many times is he going to get Yadier Molina or a pitcher thrown out on the bases trying to advance? Maybe Jose hasn’t checked lately, but Molina is still slowest guy in the league.
The Cards need to turn it around, and the only way that’s going to happen is with changes to the BP. They’re now 4-13 in games decided by 2 runs or less.