There are good relievers, and there are mediocre relievers. Then there’s fifty feet off crap, and then there’s Tyler Lyons. Maybe he’s just supposed to be the “break glass in case of long relief” emergency guy, but he just seems to be consuming roster space. He’s made 3 appearances in June for a total of 4 unimpressive innings.
Well then what’s the point of Lyons being on the active roster, if he’s spending less time on the field than the bat boy?
The easy answer is that Lyons is out of options now, and the bat boy probably is not. That’s great, but one seems to be a vital piece for a potential playoff contender, and the other is Lyons. That’s not to say that Lyons cannot be useful; rather, the problem is that he’s not being useful (or used). That’s on the manager, and bullpen management is to Matheny what discretion is to a Kardashian – a seemingly foreign or at least willfully ignored concept.
Matheny has 1 really effective reliever (Oh) and another fairly effective one prone to giving up home runs (Siegrist). In that sense, the bullpen is like the Black Eyed Peas which I usually refer to as “Will.i.am, Fergie, and those other guys”. So, let’s recap the last 6 games for Oh, Siegrist, and the Other Guys.
- Game 64 – Astros @ Cardinals. With a fully rested bullpen after an off day, Matheny sent Garcia back out for the top of the 7th with the Astros up 3-2. His low pitch count made the move seem fairly reasonable, but all it took was a one-out single by Colby Rasmus for Matheny to yank Garcia. Why send Garcia out on such a short leash? If he was in there to get Rasmus before giving way to the bullpen, then perhaps someone forgot about the bomb that Rasmus hit against Garcia just two innings prior. If the answer has anything to do with trying to get him a shot at the “W”, then we need to have a serious talk about mandatory drug testing.
- Game 65 Astros @ Cardinals – Just a day later, Wainwright went out and did Wainwright things for 7 scoreless innings. The Cardinals had a win expectancy of 75% with a 1-0 lead and Siegrist, Oh, and Rosenthal available to cover just two innings. Siegrist managed to turn the Astros frown upside down and moved the win expectancy needle to the left until it stopped at 28%. Trailing by 1 run, Matheny reached into his hat full of names and came up with Rosenthal, because “Here comes Trevor into a non-save situation” works every single time. Sure, Siegrist picked up the loss, but it was Rosenthal who put the game out of reach by loading the bases and subsequently allowing them to be mostly cleared. Game over.
- Game 66 2011 WS Runners-Up Rangers @ 2011 WS Champion Cardinals – Michael Wacha did an Adam Wainwright thing, and in doing so he spared fans the agony of watching another bullpen implosion. It was a temporary reprieve but a reprieve nonetheless.
- Game 67 Rangers @ Cardinals -Oh entered in the top of the 8th and started with consecutive strikeouts, and then the wheels came off the dessert cart. The strikeouts were followed by a bizarre sequence of wild pitch, error, alien abduction, and a base hit before a fly ball brought a merciful end to what could have been an unmitigated disaster. Still, Oh’s underwhelming appearance merely set the stage for Rosenthal to defend a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 9th. Rosenthal defended the lead for about 6 minutes which was long enough for a “single, single, passed ball, HBP” sequence. Siegrist then replaced Rosenthal and issued a walk and sac fly which were both on Rosenthal’s tab but probably his conscience.
- Game 68 – Rangers @ Cardinals – This time Matheny went next level. The Cardinals led by 1 in the 7th when Matt Bowman came in and put up a zero. For whatever reason, Matheny sent Bowman back out for an encore, and the Rangers turned a 1 run deficit into a 1 run lead. Not sure if Matheny thought he was playing with house money at that point or not, but it seemed to send the message that he had more confidence in a second inning from Bowman than anything Broxton had to offer. The game ended 5-4 in favor of the Rangers without any of the Cardinals three best relievers making an appearance. Granted, they hadn’t exactly been dominant over the weekend, and maybe Oh and Siegrist weren’t available, but Rosenthal was.
- Game 69 Cardinals @ Cubs – An actual win nearly marred by a bizarre outing by Rosenthal in which he went “strikeout, double, HBP, TOOTBLAN, single” before inducing a popup to end the game.
Maybe the return of Seth Maness will help, but the bullpen needs more than a high contact rate guy who gets ground balls. It needs a swing-and-miss guy too. If one or both can take some of the workload off of Rosenthal, Siegrist, and Oh, that would be splendid. Siegrist appeared in half of the 162 games last year (that’s 81 appearances for people bad at the math). He’s just off that pace with 31 appearances through 69 games. Oh is actually ahead of that pace with a team leading 36 appearances. As for Rosenthal, he’s pitched in 241 games since the start of the 2013 season and finished 151 of those. Understatement: He’s thrown a lot of pitches under duress.
Many hands make for light work or something like that (It’s a proverb or an adage or maybe a unicorn). If so, then Bowman, Broxton, Lyons, and Maness need to step up and lighten the load for everyone else. To do that, they need opportunities. Matheny could help with that, and it’s in his best interest to do so. After all, the Cardinals are 5-11 in 1-run games. They could just as easily be 11-5, and that would put them closer to the division lead than the WC2 spot. Alas, they are prisoners to an objective reality in which they are still 5-11 in such contests, and one might argue that the bullpen deserves the Lyons share of the blame…