With the 2017 season in its fourth week, the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen is beginning to take shape. The Cardinals have turned things around from a miserable beginning to the season in which they started 3-9, and were at the bottom of the ranks in nearly every major statistical category. Recently though, they have righted the ship some, starting with the team’s pitching.
Outside of the recent struggles of Carlos Martinez, the starting staff has been great, with Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha providing stellar starts early this season. Adam Wainwright has also put a strong start in there, looking like his old self in Milwaukee. After getting at least six innings out of the starters most games, the St. Louis bullpen has been left to finish things off, and recently, has looked very good in doing so.
The St. Louis Cardinals Bullpen is Taking Shape
LATE INNING ARMS
The Cardinals boast one of baseball’s better one-two punches at the end of games in Trevor Rosenthal and closer Seung-hwan Oh. Rosenthal, who up until last season was the club’s closer, has returned to his 2015 form, when he set the Cardinals single-season record for saves with 48. Since his return from a back injury early this season, he has looked dominant, hitting 98-100 mph regularly with his fastball while showing strong control. Rosenthal’s 11 strikeouts and zero walks on the season is a great sign early on, and if he continues pitching this way, he can make the Cardinals bullpen scary late in any game.
Seung-hwan Oh, meanwhile, has cleaned things up as he has gotten more opportunities this season. After piling up five saves last week in series wins over the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers, Oh has looked sharp once again. With St. Louis playing a lot of close games lately, his services have been called upon, and Oh has answered the call. There is not much reason to worry about Oh, who was an elite closer a season ago and should remain just that this season.
Behind Rosenthal and Oh, easily the two best and most trusted arms in the bullpen, come the next level of setup pitchers. Mike Matheny’s third most trusted arm appears to be Matt Bowman. The surprise of the season thus far, Bowman has been nothing short of terrific. His scoreless streak of over 20 innings dating back to 2016 ended Tuesday with Chris Coghlan’s acrobatic dive to home, but other than that, Bowman has been tremendous early on. He has turned into one of Mike Matheny’s best relievers, and despite his 2 earned runs on Tuesday night, will likely remain just that.
Brett Cecil and Kevin Siegrist are the club’s two left-handed setup men. Both have struggled early on, but have improved over the last few games. Cecil has yet to live up to his new contract, and him turning things around for good is a large key to the Cardinals season. He still remains the team’s lefty specialist as well as a seventh and eighth inning setup man, and seems to be finding his stride on the mound. Siegrist, meanwhile, is a little more worrisome. He is still getting late-game assignments, showing that the Cardinals have not given up home on him yet, but his velocity is down and his control has been bad. Siegrist has pitched a ton of innings over the last couple of seasons, and has been an important bullpen piece for the club, so him returning to his old ways would be a great boost to this team.
The rest of the bullpen consists of Tyler Lyons, Jonathan Broxton, and Miguel Socolovich. Lyons just came off the disabled list and has yet to appear in a game, but in the past has had an important role for the Cardinals. The lefty is able to throw extended innings and fill in for starters when needed, and also provides another arm for any left-handed bats (not bad with Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Joey Votto and Eric Thames in the division). Lyons will carve out a more significant spot as the season continues on, and is a guy that could be relied upon for a number of moments.
Broxton and Socolovich have the mop-up duties for now, it would seem. Socolovich is more likely to pitch in bigger situations, as he did in Tuesday’s loss to Milwaukee, but is not overly trusted at this point. Broxton was not good last season, does not look much better this year, and is probably the last arm out of the bullpen. Through seven appearances, he has seven earned runs and has walked six, and just does not seem to be pitcher he has been at points in his career.
Overall, the Cardinals bullpen is coming together and is improving now that the season is getting into full swing. Oh, Rosenthal, Bowman and Cecil appear to be the most trusted group, with Siegrist still close behind. Lyons is searching for his true role, and Socolovich and Broxton round out the group. The group gives St. Louis a solid bullpen with the pieces to be much better.