(Baseball StL) -- The conundrum that the Cardinals seem to find themselves in - seemingly on a nightly basis - in the 9th inning has bordered on the comical. How can a team with so much talent, talent that’s performed in virtually every other inning, not seem to get consistent outs in that one frame?
It really doesn’t make much sense. But nevertheless that’s the situation the Cards find themselves in.
For one night, anyway, the bleeding stopped as Edward Mujica got a very tough four out save in Philadelphia to clinch game one of the series. The bigger question now becomes...can it last?
It’s great the Cards won one game with a new look bullpen as far as roles go. Can they sustain that success? That’s a different question entirely. Let’s look at some numbers in Mujica’s career.
As a 28-year old with seven years of major league experience, Mujica had just four career saves before last night. He had always been a quality, but unspectacular, pitcher in his career. His ERA steadily declined pretty much every single year from the moment he reached the big leagues. Starting in the eight’s as a rookie and dropping all the way down to the upper two’s in 2011. The Cards acquired him in the middle of the 2012 season and Mujica was just downright filthy after coming here.
In just over 26 innings a season ago for the Cards, he gave up just three runs. Yes, three runs. Possibly even more impressive than that 1.03 earned run average is his 0.87 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). So it’s safe to say Mujica has been a very good, very efficient pitcher in his major league career.
Why has he never gotten a chance to pitch in the 9th though? We’ve already pretty much proven there is a humongous difference between getting outs in the seventh and getting outs in the ninth. There’s just a different feel to it. There’s a finality where no one is there to back you up if you fail. Give up runs, game over. There’s no three more innings to get those runs back that you gave up.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Mujica just doesn’t have closer experience. I say fortunately because had he ever been given a chance in the ninth who knows if the Marlins ever would have traded him to the Cardinals in the first place.
That little experience pitching in the closer’s role provides no clues as to how he’s going to handle it. Taking one look at Mitchell Boggs last season in the eighth (2.21 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) you would naturally assume he could duplicate that production one inning later. Well, obviously not. He’s already got two blown saves and a 9.82 ERA.
There’s too much talent right now for GM John Mozeliak to have to go out and trade for a closer. With Trevor Rosenthal, Boggs, Mujica, Fernando Salas and Joe Kelly here already and others like Carlos Martinez on the way, someone is bound to step up and get their act together in the ninth at some point.
But, for the moment, it’s an issue that’s all too familar.