A Role for Carlos Martinez (by Jared Simmons)

guest post by Jared Simmons. You can find him on Twitter: @McGeeTriples.

.gif credit: SB Nation

.gif credit: SB Nation

The glut of young, power arms possessed by the St. Louis Cardinals has been well documented. Some fans have called for the organization to maximize the value of their assets and relieve the rotation’s logjam through a trade. However, I have always believed the old cliché about never having too much pitching. So, how then, can the Cardinals get the most value out of all their young arms when they can’t all fit into a five-man rotation?

Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, and Michael Wacha are locks for the rotation with Jaime Garcia, if healthy and effective following shoulder surgery, destined to be in the mix as well. That leaves Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, and Carlos Martinez vying for the final starting spot. There’s been talk from John Mozeliak himself about C-Mart potentially starting the year in AAA if he cannot crack the big-league rotation. This line of thinking is very pragmatic and follows the conventional wisdom. But I believe that there’s another, less conventional way for Carlos to dramatically impact the Cardinals season without 1) being in the starting rotation or 2) being the “eighth inning guy.”

The odds of Martinez beating Kelly or Lynn out for the 5th and final rotation spot appear slim and honestly, seem undesirable. Where can Martinez impact the game the most? I would argue that the gap in production between any of these three in the 5th starter role would be negligible over the long season. Further, the 5th starter is unlikely to see a start in postseason play and therefore asked to step into a role that he has not performed in all season. I want Carlos Martinez to pitch early and to pitch often when the postseason rolls around.

The late-inning relief roles are stocked with good pitchers. Trevor Rosenthal, Jason Motte, and Kevin Siegrist are flame-throwers and should be able to hold down the fort in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings pretty efficiently. As a result of these surpluses the Cardinals have the luxury of breaking the mold or returning to the old mold–if you prefer–and using Carlos Martinez and his electric arm as a super reliever.

Let’s define “super reliever” for the purposes of this blog post: a super reliever is a relief pitcher whose role is not tied to a particular inning. Today, closers pitch the 9th and setup men pitch the 7th or the 8th innings. If anything different is asked of these players, they lose or their agents lose their minds on their behalf. Saves and holds earn dollars.

Meanwhile, games are lost in the 5th inning when a starter loses his mojo and gets in a jam. Or the sixth with the bases loaded and a two run lead, does the manager call the bullpen for his best guy knowing that this is the confrontation that will likely determine the outcome of the game?

No.

Instead, the manager calls for Seth Manness. Or Fernando Salas. Or Maikel Cleto. When this happens, the odds of losing the game skyrockets—all because the manager is paralyzed by fear and handcuffed by convention.

The “super reliever” eliminates this scenario because his role is to put out the fire whenever the flame sparks. The super reliever is just like the closer—only more flexible, more durable, and more valuable. If the game is on the line in the 6th, this man (Carlos Martinez) will slam the door. If Trevor Rosenthal has pitched 3 straight days, Carlos Martinez will save the game without breaking a sweat. If a game goes into extra innings and all other bullpen options are exhausted, the super reliever will go 3 innings, shut the door, and send the crowd at Busch home happy.

The super reliever is also not tied to an arbitrary one-inning limit. He pitches as needed, and gives way when the situation dictates that he should. And because he’s not tied to an inning or a particular situation, he is free to do this—as tomorrow the setup men and the closer will still be there to do the overrated, overvalued, and overpriced task of coming into their predefined inning with a 3 run lead, no one on base, and retiring the opposing 7, 8, and 9 hitters for the 29th best team in baseball.

The super reliever is the leverage reliever. The man to pitch anywhere, anytime as long as the outcome hangs in the balance. The bullpen arm who can count for two roster spots and determine the difference between winning and losing.

For the Cardinals, this man is or rather should be Carlos Martinez with his electric fastball and devastating slider. A man with a reliever’s arm and a starter’s stamina. His career ahead lies in the rotation, but for now, with the excess of young arms already on the roster, his most potential impact is in this unconventional role I just described.

I believe Carlos Martinez has a rare gift in his right arm. In my view, C-Mart has the stuff to become a legendary figure in the annals of Cardinal pitching lore – if only he is able to refine his command and remain healthy. As such, I hope the Cardinals will utilize him in as many game-deciding situations as possible. With the traditional bullpen roles in good hands and the long-relief/mop-up role being handled by the odd man out of the rotation (Lynn or Kelly) the most efficient way to capitalize on C-Mart’s talent will be in the same way that old school closers were used: 100-120 innings of flame-throwing, season-defining, high-leverage relief.

Shortening the bullpen with C-Mart in this manner does a lot of things for the Cardinals:

• It allows the greatest number of the team’s bullpen innings to be pitched by the team’s best pitchers.

• Gives Manager Mike Matheny the ability to ration the workloads of Motte, Siegrist, Rosenthal, and even Seth Maness (whom Matheny loves for some reason). This is important because for the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals, the goal is winning a World Series. And NOT in the same way that it’s the goal for every team in the MLB. Really winning a World Series. Barring catastrophe, the regular season is just a formality the Cardinals have to wade through on their way to October. So, having your power arms fresh and peaking at playoff time is of more concern than how well they can play in April.

• Rations C-Mart’s innings. The Cardinals, like most teams, are concerned with preserving their young arms for the long-term (Note Shelby Miller’s disappearance from the playoffs). Being able to manage Carlos’ innings throughout the season will hopefully eliminate any desire to hold him back in October.

• Ensures that the bridge from the starter to the shutdown portion of the bullpen is as smooth as possible. There’s value in the middle innings. Close games are often lost in the 5th or 6th innings. Big leads are lost nearly every time Fernando Salas steps on to a major league mound. It also limits the desire of modern managers to trot every member of a bullpen into every single game until they find the one guy who is going to have a bad day. C-Mart is easily capable of going 2-4 innings at a time on any given night.

• Gives the Cardinals roster flexibility. Martinez’s ability to pitch so many innings out of the bullpen means the Cardinals don’t have to carry as many pitchers if they don’t want to. Or if they choose to carry 12 pitchers—they don’t have to use them as often.

The Cardinals have a lot of different ways they can go with Carlos Martinez in 2014. They afforded themselves this luxury because of half a decade’s worth of smart decisions in free agency, the draft, international pool, and with their own players. Carlos Martinez is a weapon they can use from the 5th inning to the 9th inning.

He should be used in tight games, and he should be able to rack up a ton of relief innings. If you make him the “eighth inning” guy, you are unnecessarily limiting him and are probably only going to get 60-80 innings out of him. More innings = more value. Pitcher’s with elite arms like Martinez have not generally been used in this manner since the 80’s, but the presence of Motte, Siegrist, and Rosenthal means that they can deploy Martinez anytime, anywhere and still be covered at the end of the ballgame.

Make sure to follow Jared on Twitter: @McGeeTriples

Jared

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For more updates from stlCupofJoe, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page

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Wainwright and Maness and Chambers, Oh My! St. Louis Cardinals Walk-off a Winner

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Quick Game Recap:

The first game of the crucial series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates was truly a spectacle, and this time, the good guys came out on top.

It was the bottom of the 14th inning. The clock struck 12:15 AM at Busch Stadium as Jon Jay slid around Russell Martin‘s tag for the game winning run on an RBI slap single by none other than Adron Chambers.

Prior to this walk-off win, the Cardinals were 0-40 in games they were trailing after the eighth inning. Well, they are now 1-40, and frankly, it could not have come at a better time.

Breaking Down the Key Players:

Adam Wainwright:
Final Line: 7.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 2 home runs, 122 pitches (71 strikes)

Despite Wainwright’s less-than-ace-like start to the game, he was able to settle in after the first two innings–pitching five scoreless innings to keep his team in the game. He allowed a first inning two-run home run to Andrew McCutchen and then a solo homer to Jordy Mercer in the second.

He had racked up 81 pitches through just four innings, leading to many questioning Matheny’s decision of pushing him back. Yet, he was able to constantly battle out of jams to pitch seven full innings–largely due to the fact that he was more efficient in the 5th, 6th, and 7th (just 41 pitches).

Thus, unlike I had predicted in my post before the game, Wainwright was not dominant like I had thought he would be. However, he did what ace pitchers need to do by keeping his team in the game even though he did not have his best stuff.

Thank you, Wainwright. I am glad the offense and the bullpen was able to pick you up in this one. For all the negative fans out there, Waino may not have been dominant in the game, but he definitely pitched like an ace out there.

Seth Maness:
Final Line: 2.1 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 earned runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 2 double plays (1 as a hitter and 1 as a pitcher)

Maness did what Maness does best. He got the job done, even though it wasn’t that pretty. In the top of the 13th, it looked like yet another loss was coming for the Cardinals. Runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, not to mention that one of the fastest runners in the league was on 3rd in McCutchen. A diving stop by Kozma got the first out of the inning. After an intentional walk, Maness was able to induce yet another double play to get out of the jam he had created for himself.

Oh, and I also have to mention that Maness had two chances to end the game at the plate, but he came up empty both times. In the first at-bat, he grounded into an unconventional 6-9c-3 double play, and in his second, he struck out looking. However, I am glad he didn’t end it because it was nice to see Chambers get it done.

Adron Chambers:
Game Stats: 1-2, 1 single, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 RBI (the game-winner), 1 ripped jersey

To be honest, Chambers looked lost at times during his at-bats tonight. However, that is what makes the game of baseball so great. He looked bad, swinging at pitches that were either in the dirt or already in the catchers mitt, yet was able to center one just enough to slap it the other way for the game-winning hit.

Jon Jay:
Game Stats: 4-6, 3 singles, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 stolen base (HUGE steal), 1 run scored (the game-winner), and 1 sac bunt

Great game at the plate once again for Jay. Four more hits to raise his season average to .271. He now has a .344 on-base percentage as well–good enough for 27th in the National League. Since the All-Star Break, Jay is hitting .325 with seven doubles, one triple, and ten runs batted in. He is easily the second hottest hitter on the team behind Matt Holliday. Also, for the sabermetricians, he is finally increasing his WAR rating. He is up to 0.7, and it does not look like he is stopping there.

He had probably the most controversial sac bunt ever, at least according to Twitter anyways. Who would have ever thought that St. Louis fans would be mad at him for bunting and wanting him to swing the bat? Not me, I have been one of his biggest fans since his University of Miami days, but many fans have been making up players to take his spot in center all season.

I agree that he should not have been bunting there, either. It is just funny to see how a few good weeks at the plate can change fans’ entire outlook on a player. Thus, Jonny, keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll be back .300 in no time.

The Bullpen:
Final Line: 7.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, 0 earned runs

5 pitchers used (Rosenthal: 1 inning, Mujica: 2 innings, Siegrist: 0.2 innings, Maness: 2.1 innings, Freeman 1 inning)

Concluding Thoughts:

I fully realize that Matheny needs to manage his bench better. However, it is not my place to dog him for his decisions. He is getting paid to do what he does, while I am paying in order to watch what he does. Don’t think that his mis-management of the bench went unnoticed by me, it is just not my job to call him out, and I wanted to savor all the good moments from this game for this post.

The Cardinals cannot have a walk-off “hangover” tomorrow. They are up against their lefty nemesis, Francisco Liriano. He carved Cardinals’ hitters up last game, but is coming off arguably one of the worst outing of his career–allowing 10 earned runs in two and one-third innings pitched in Colorado.

Let’s hope he is shell-shocked from that start, and Cardinals’ hitter are able to capitalize early in the game because once Liriano is settled in, there are no hitters that will be able to hit him.

With the win, they are now just 2.0 games behind the Pirates, but it would be nice to make that just 1.0 after tomorrow night. I will be in attendance, and I am looking forward to another electric, playoff-like atmosphere at Busch.

Oh, and huge thanks goes out to Starling Marte for being flashy out there in left field on that lazy fly off the bat of Descalso. Maybe next time you will use two hands and not cost your team the game.

GO CARDS!

I apologize for the scattered set-up of this post. However, after a game like I just witnessed, and the time that it was when I completed it, I figured it was only fitting. I honestly believe I just witnessed one of the most entertaining baseball games of my life. Hope this blog was able to do it at least a little bit of justice.

Until next time…

Joe

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official Member of the STLSportsMinute Blog Network

Why the Cardinals Should Stay Put as Deadline Nears

Cardinals Walk-off Against Miami

Cardinals Walk-off Against Miami

Background

The Cardinals enter the last two series before the All-Star Break one-half of a game ahead of the Pirates with an MLB-best record of 53-34. The Cardinals start a two game series with the Astros at Busch tonight, and then the team travels to Chicago to take on the lowly Cubs for a four game set. With the Pirates facing off against the AL West-leading Athletics for two more games and then having to face Matt Harvey and the Mets, look for the Cardinals to extend their lead in the Central before the break.

Thus, if you are Cardinals General Manager, John Mozeliak, are you really that interested in making a trade at this time? The team is playing some of its best baseball in years, and the future is extremely bright with the stockpile of prospects (both pitchers and position players) down on the farm. Would you be willing to part with some young talent in order to fill a present need with what may end up being just a “rental” player?

Well, at the Matt Holliday Celebrity Golf Classic yesterday, Mozeliak was quoted in saying, “Hopefully, if we can find something that makes us better, we’ll pursue it.” Thus, he left the door open to possible moves which I will discuss next.

Possible Areas to be Explored by Mozeliak

#5 Starter:

Joe Kelly is filling in right now, and he is doing a decent job. However, is he really the answer for the stretch run? Will John Gast be able to return this season? Will the team call up Carlos Martinez to fill the void? These are all valid questions that have left fans beckoning for Mozeliak to pull off a deal for another starter. After all, the national media keeps bringing up big names that may be on the trade block–Cliff Lee, Matt Garza, Bud Norris, Jake Peavy (if healthy), etc.

Well, in my opinion, I do not think Mozeliak should make a deal for a starter. Why? Because of Chris Carpenter and his recent progress. Just the other day, he pitched an extended bullpen in which he threw 106 pitches. When asked about the session, Matheny said it was the best he has seen Carpenter look all season. If all goes as planned, a rehab session will follow, and then he will be set to return to the Cardinals sometime in August. Thus, why deal one of your coveted prospects for an expensive pitcher like Lee when there is a chance you can get one of the best pitchers in team history back in the rotation?

Shortstop:

Pete Kozma is in the midst of yet another hitting slump–0 for his last 19 at-bats. He is hitting just .234 on the season. Both his on-base percentage and slugging percentage are below .300 which is also less than desirable. However, he is hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position–allowing him to compile 27 RBI this season. He may not be getting it done at the plate, but he is flat-out getting the job done in the field. In 685 innings played this year, he has just four errors. Also, for the sabermetrics folks, he has a 5.9 UZR which basically quantifies how many runs a player saves with his fielding.

Thus, Kozma is not wowing anybody with his overall performance this year, but he is doing his job in the field, and any offensive production he can provide is a bonus. Shortstops that may be available would include Jimmy Rollins and Alexei Ramirez. To be honest, at this point in their careers, I do not know if they would provide much more than a Kozma/Daniel Descalso platoon at short. Also, one cannot forget that the bat of Ryan Jackson also awaits in Triple-A Memphis if necessary.

Center Field:

Jon Jay has had his struggles this year–both at the plate and in the field. However, he may be starting to turn it around at the plate, as shown by his current 5-game hitting streak. Also, the All-Star break may prove to be just what he needed considering he has played in 85 of the team’s 87 games this season. Thus, considering he is a career .289 hitter, I can only think that his bat will get hot during the second half. If not, then more innings can be shared with Shane Robinson or the Cardinals can explore other options like Tommy Pham from Memphis or even Oscar Taveras if he can ever get healthy. Either way, center field is not a big enough need for the Cardinals to get desperate and deal a young prospect just to get one. The organization has faith that Jay will turn it around, and if he does not, they have internal options they can explore instead.

Bullpen:

Despite its struggles earlier in the season, this has actually been a strong point for St. Louis. Rookie Seth Maness has been a double play machine in the seventh inning. Left-handed rookie, Kevin Siegrist, has proven to be a strikeout machine and just refuses to give up an earned run. Flame-throwing righty, Trevor Rosenthal, has been rock solid in the set-up man role all season. Lastly, Edward Mujica has been nearly perfect as the closer (23/24 on saves). If the team feels like a change needs to be made later in the year or in the playoffs, Rosenthal would be the guy to take over in that spot. Thus, sorry Ken Rosenthal, but the Cardinals do not need Jonathan Papelbon.

Conclusion

There are the four spots that Mozeliak may explore when looking at possible deals before the deadline. However, after reading this article, I hope that you now understand the point I was trying to get across–the Cardinals do not need to make a deadline deal. The team is playing incredible baseball right now, and the future is even brighter with the prospects it has developing in the minors. Thus, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Until next time…

Joe (@stlCupOfJoe)

Time to Part Ways with Mitchell Boggs…Permanently

Photo Credit: FremontTribune.com

Photo Credit: FremontTribune.com

For how effective Mitchell Boggs was for the St. Louis Cardinals as a set-up man last season, it is difficult to comprehend how far he has fallen this season. In just under 15 innings pitched, he has allowed 21 hits and 18 earned-runs. He has accumulated 15 walks to just 11 strikeouts–a strike-to-walk ratio that a reliever cannot have if he wants to be successful.

Since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis, Boggs has picked up where he left off before being sent down–allowing earned-runs in three of his four relief appearances. Last night, while trying to preserve the first ML victory for Michael Wacha, he allowed a home run to Jeff Francoeur who had not hit a homer since April 10th this season.

In short, it is time to part ways with Mitchell Boggs. He has options and can be sent down to Triple-A to iron out his mechanics, but it has become much more than mechanical issues for Boggs, now. He has a solid arm, and at just 29 years old, he probably has a lot left in the tank, but for the sake of the Cardinals, he needs to be outright released.

The bullpen has no place for him this season, even with Jason Motte out after elbow surgery.

Here is the breakdown for the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings (if necessary based on the starting pitcher’s outing):

7th Inning: Seth Maness with Randy Choate to take care of left-handed hitters.

8th Inning: Trevor Rosenthal. His stuff is dominant enough to handle both right-handed and left-handed hitters. Plus, it is a good spot for him to develop into the Cardinals future closer.

9th inning: Edward Mujica. He has been perfect this season at 17/17 on save opportunities.

Thus, there is no room for Boggs and if he is limited to long-relief or use in low-pressure situations, then the Cardinals are better off using someone else–someone down on the farm that could use those innings for long-term development.

Mitchell Boggs, thank you for all you did for the Cardinals last season, but it is now time to say goodbye. The Cardinals’ organization and Cardinal nation wish you the best of luck.

Until next time…

Joe
@stlCupOfJoe