Matheny puts himself in a box

Last night Mike Matheny told the media after the game that he had decided that only four relievers were available out of the bullpen for Saturday’s game. He also added that he wanted Kevin Siegrist to pitch two innings of relief. Let’s tackle this.

It seems like Matheny put himself in a box that he didn’t have to put himself into. First, he decided that only Siegrist, Trevor Rosenthal, Randy Choate, and Nick Greenwood were the only pitchers available in relief. That meant that the three relivers who had pitched the day before, weren’t available to pitch back-to-back days. A good decision in theory. Pitching guys on back-to-back days should be avoided if possible, but that plan needs to change when an opportunity to win arises. Especially if they are two of your better relief options.

Why should Sam Freeman and Pat Neshek been available to pitch on Saturday after pitching Friday (note that neither pitched Thursday)? Because they happen to be the two best pitchers on the staff in such situations. In fact, they are the only two relievers on the team who have been any good at this year.

Cardinals relievers on back-to-back days:

Rosenthal – 20 G, 18.1 IP, 1.75 WHIP
Neshek – 15 G, 16.1 IP, 0.49 WHIP
Maness – 15 G, 14.0 IP, 1.36 WHIP
Choate – 12 G, 5.1 IP, 1.69 WHIP
Martinez – 9 G, 7.1 IP, 1.64 WHIP
Freeman – 7 G, 5.2 IP, 0.71 WHIP
Siegrist – 6 G, 4.0 IP, 2.25 WHIP
Motte – 4 G, 3.0 IP, 2.00 WHIP
Fornataro – 1 G, 1.0 IP, 0.00 WHIP

As you can see, both Freeman and Neshek are the only two relievers on the staff who have multiple appearances and have held the opposing team to less than a hit per inning or even close. (For reference, the average relief pitcher has a 1.27 WHIP this season.)

Those are both guys you could have had on your Plan B list if you needed guys to shut down a troublesome inning. Instead, Matheny stuck with Siegrist while it was clear to everyone watching that he didn’t have it.

So Siegrist didn’t even get one inning in thanks to the rain, but he did manage to throw 35 pitches. As far as I can tell, that’s the most pitches he’s thrown in an inning of relief in his entire career. I know it is for his Major League career anyway.

And a step beyond that, Matheny said he wanted Siegrist to throw two innings last night. How many times has Siegrist thrown two innings of relief in his Major League career? Twice. Once last year and once this year.

Thank the rain for taking the decision out of Matheny hands that Siegrist comes out again for the eighth after his disastrous seventh inning.

Let’s remember, this is a pitcher who has missed time this year with arm issues. Potentially overworking him seems like a quality idea.

Furthermore, in four innings of August work, Siegrist carried a double digit ERA and 2.00 WHIP into his Saturday evening appearance. He wasn’t even showing any signs of reliability.

It’s the time of the year where wins are crucial and giving away games is deadly to playoff aspirations. If Plan A isn’t working, you have to be willing to recognize that and shift quickly to Plan B. In this case, perhaps he goes with Rosenthal, or perhaps even Neshek just to finish out the inning in the hopes of escaping with minimal damage. What you can’t do is sit on your hands while a guy who everyone knows has struggled this year and has already demonstrated he doesn’t have it tonight blows the game.