This time of year is all about adjustments. Contending teams are trying to win games, trying to reach the postseason and avoid the coin-flippery of a one game play-in.
When “winning games” because the sole focus, it is easy — and often necessary — for the grand development plan to take a backseat. Managers need to focus on doing what they can to win games. Period.
The St. Louis Cardinals are not yet the official NL Central champions but it gets closer every day. The preseason World Series choice here at theScore are a very, very good team but they are not without their flaws.
Edward Mujica spent most of this season as the Cardinals closer. He made the all star team based on his performance in this crucial role, using his masterful split-fingered fastball to great effect. Until recently, that is.
After struggling and stumbling through the month of September, Mujica kept his job as the Cardinals closer. Manager Mike Matheny‘s stubborn refusal to make a change drawing the ire of local columnists.
But it is a playoff race and adjustments are required – so the Cardinals adjusted. Effective last night, Mujica is out as Cardinals closer as Matheny and the Birds opt for a matchup based approach using their two young fireballers – Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal.
Rosenthal and Siegrist are proof positive that development paths need not be set in stone. Rosenthal was a solid prospect coming up through the Cardinals stacked system, it wasn’t until he moved to the bullpen at the close of last season that his stock shot up, flashing 100 mph out of the pen and dominating hitters as St. Louis reached the NLCS.
Kevin Siegrist is an even longer shot, a 41st round pick in 2008 who exploded onto the scene this year. His fastball velocity crept up towards the high 90s and suddenly the Cardinals have another relief weapon at their disposal.
The new world order was on display last night, as Siegrist and Rosenthal combined to snuff out the Washington Nationals playoff chances in the ninth inning last night. The lefty, Siegrist, was called upon to retire a the imposing left-hand hitting Bryce Harper, which the Cards rookie did with a single pitch. Rosenthal got the final two outs and secured the win, all but sealing the Nats fate.
While Rosenthal is no stranger to high leverage situations after his experience in the playoffs last year and spending most of 2013 as the Cards 8th inning guy, this is a change for Kevin Siegrist. While Matheny uses Siegrist as high powered LOOGY at times (to great effect, as his record against Joey Votto attests), he isn’t a player generally called upon to get crucial, late game outs.
Which is odd. As it turns out, Kevin Siegrist is putting together one of the most dominant reliever seasons of all time.
His numbers speak for themselves – Kevin Siegrist has allowed a grand total of 2 runs all season. Two. Not only has he allowed just two runs, he also keeps inherited runners from scoring when he checks into the game.
Among all relievers to ever make 40 appearances in a season, Kevin Siegrist is the only one to allow fewer than five runs to score while allowing fewer than five inherited runners to score.
Impressive as that is, it is important to note the relative lack amount of high leverage work Siegrist receives. By retiring Harper last night, the Cards lefty registered just his 10th “shut down” of the year – outing in which he lowered the opposition’s WPA by more than 6%. Just looking at his usage, the Cards use Siegrist more like the Orioles use Brian Matusz or the Phillies use Jake Diekman. Fine relievers but not on par with the kind of season we see above.
Which, honestly, cheapens the achievement a little bit. Sure, he’s been great but as a medium leverage LOOGY but, ultimately, who cares? Hard to muster the courage to place him among some of the best reliever seasons of all time when he’s facing selected hitters in the sixth or seventh innings.
We are going to see what Kevin Siegrist and his eye-popping numbers are all about as his usage is changing – for the better/relevant. The ongoing excellence caught the attention of the Cardinals brass, who used Siegrist more and more when it mattered as the season progressed.
The Cardinals are continuing their trend of throwing young player into very important spots. From Adam Wainwright to Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller to Siegrist, the Cardinals seem to believe that if you can pitch, you can pitch. Not a bad philosophy, almost seems like it works for the most successful team in baseball over the last decade. Too bad it will never catch on…
And the rest
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