Feldman: Innings in bullpen an underrated need for Cardinals

Feldman: Innings in bullpen an underrated need for Cardinals

Credit: Getty Images

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 5: Reliever Trevor Rosenthal #26 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Miami Marlins in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on July 5, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Marlins beat the Cardinal 6-5. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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by Brian Feldman / BaseballSTL

KMOV.com

Posted on July 8, 2014 at 3:07 PM

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Probably the least sexy statistic in all of baseball – let alone among pitchers – is innings.  How many innings do you throw in a game?  How many innings can you throw in a season?  How many have you chewed up for your career?

 
It’s not a jaw-dropping stat that’ll get you on every highlight reel in the country.
 
But innings are crucial.  They’re arguably just as crucial as holding the other team from scoring runs.  And at this point in time, with Michael Wacha on the disabled list (even with him healthy as a matter of fact), the Cards are in as much of a need as innings from their starting pitchers as they are anything else.
 
You see, when a starter only goes five or six innings in a game it causes the rest of the bullpen to fill the rest (duh, I know).  For one day it’s not a big deal.  But for two straight days?  How about three or even four straight days?  
 
When a manager like Mike Matheny has to continue to go back to the same guys again and again and again just to finish off games eventually those relievers need a day off.  But if the starter – again – goes just five or six innings and that pitcher who is supposed to have a day off all of a sudden needs to pitch?
 
You see where I’m going with this.  Bullpens can struggle from overuse about as much as they can struggle for any other reason under the sun.
 
And right now the St. Louis Cardinals are in desperate need of innings.  Adam Wainwright’s the only starter consistently going more than six innings in his starts.  He’s a horse.  He’s a walking off-day for the bullpen.  And that’s something he takes pride in.
 
Wainwright has thrown 131 innings this year in 18 starts.  That’s an average of 7.27 innings per start.  That’s incredible.
 
Everyone else?
 
Let’s see.  Lance Lynn’s averaging exactly six innings a start.  Shelby Miller’s at 5.7.  Joe Kelly only averaged just over five in his three starts before getting injured back in April and he’s long been a pitcher who never went deep into games.  Carlos Martinez has yet to exceed five innings since being moved into the starting rotation.
 
Innings are an issue.
 
It doesn’t matter if Lynn, Miller, Kelly and Martinez shut out opponents for the rest of the season.  If they continue to go just five or even six innings (and six is a stretch for some of them) then the bullpen is going to be exhausted and bigger problems will arise.
 
Sometimes it’s better to have a pitcher who gives up a few runs but can go seven or eight innings than it is to have a guy go five shutout frame.  Sometimes.
 
No one knows what GM John Mozeliak is going to do in the next few weeks before the trade deadline hits.  He has other issues to worry about like offense, offense and maybe the offense too while he’s at it.
 
But innings among the rotation should be a priority as well.
 

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