I know that some people hate talking about our bullpen, but this is our obvious achilles heel and this problem needs to be resolved. It was our achilles heel last year, it was the year before that and it was in 2006, until then rookie Adam Wainwright came in as our closer and dominated the playoffs and ultimately lead us to a 10th World Series. As much as our bullpen has let us down and as much as my heart rate goes up every game come the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, there is a silver lining. Some guys are actually stepping up and making pitchers. For example, Jason Motte seems to be settling in since his Opening Day meltdown (did you see that curveball he threw last night for a strikeout? It had way to much break to be a slider), Chris Perez is pitching to his ability and Ryan Franklin is 6/6 in save opportunities and is really pitching well so far in this young 2009 season. But on the other hand you have guys like Trever Miller, Kyle McClellan and P.J. Walters who come and seem to let the game fall through the cracks. I have been absolutely disappointed in Miller because it seems that he is having trouble getting left handed hitters out. His ERA might say otherwise, but look at his pitching line: 5.68 ERA over 6.1 IP and giving up 9 hits. Isnt that why we signed him? To be a left handed specialist? Still waiting for him to come around. As for McClellan, well, I find myself nervously biting my nails, lip etc... or anything else I can get my teeth on when he takes the mound. He is still young which is good because he has a lot of time to gain more confidence in his pitches (i.e. LOCATION), strengthen his conditioning and redefine his pitches. But my question regarding McClellan is: why are we so dependant on him? Why not bring in Franklin in for a 4 out save last night? He has all the confidence in the world right now and he also has all of the fans confidence which speaks volumes of what he has been able to do this year. Why not bring in Chris Perez? He threw 8 pitches the night before. Lack of confidence in the young reliever? I have yet to see McClellan come in and shut the other teams down in the 8th or 9th inning. I dont want to generalize and say that he has never been able to do that, but the bad outings overshadow the good outings. THATS JUST BASEBALL and its unfortunate that his bad outings outweigh his good outings too. Another thing, is it me or does he feel the need to load the bases and THEN execute his pitches and try to pull a Houdini to get out of the inning much like how Izzy would go about his business when he took the mound? It worked two nights ago, but not last night. I dont know if he lacks confidence or if his nerves are getting the best of him (see curveball BEHIND the right handed Diaz), but I think TLR needs to have a little chat with him behind closed doors. When you see Lohse pitch a gem like he did last night, you have to reward him with the victory much like the night before with Pineiro. Regardless of the score being 1-0 or 10-0, GIVE THE STARTING PITCHER HIS WELL DESERVED WIN because he went out there for 6+ shutout innings and didnt let up a run, so why cant a reliever go out there and pitch a scoreless half inning? That baffles me. Isnt that what they get paid to do? Isnt that the sole reason why they are on the big league ball club? Our bullpen needs to take it upon themselves to do their jobs and take pride in the fact that they need to help out their teammates and give them confidence that no matter what, they will take the game into their own hands and take care of business.
I know that McClellan is not the only guy to blame. You can blame our offense for not scoring enough runs (thats a first), you can tip your cap to Jo-Jo Reyes for keeping the Braves within striking distance or you can take the route that a lot of Cardinal fans do and just blame TLR or the FO for not getting a surefire closer. Whatever the reason, it came down to not executing pitches in the 8th inning with a struggling reliever on the mound. I believe that the Cardinals will be a great team this year with a 90+ win season, but if we want to make it deep into October, we are going to need to nail down our main issues at hand and that is our bullpen.