Not unlike many major league clubs, the St. Louis Cardinals entered the 2011 season with a mix of veterans and less-experienced relievers. Though the four vets were expected to anchor the pen, they ended up dragging their own anchors and soon moved on.
As the incumbent closer, Franklin had the furthest to fall. He flamed out quickly, losing the ninth-inning job in April. By the end of June, he was released with an 8.46 ERA. Franklin did not re-sign elsewhere and announced his retirement after the season.
Batista often seemed to be playing with fire as he walked 19 in 29 1/3 innings before his release on June 22. He then signed on with the Mets and pitched for them both in the minors and majors before again becoming a free agent after the season.
Tallet was injured in mid-April and upon his return was undependable. He logged an 8.31 ERA in 18 games. Miller lost his ability to execute his primary assignment, consistently retiring first batters, as evidenced by 10 walks in 15 2/3 innings. Both lefties were sent to Toronto in trade in late July. Not surprisingly, each continued to struggle, and were quickly released by the Jays. Miller signed with Boston, but is now a free agent.
Among the in-season additions to the pen were four much younger pitchers who became solid contributors down the stretch for St. Louis: Eduardo Sanchez, 22, Lance Lynn, 24, Marc Rzepczynski, 25 and Fernando Salas, 26. Other than “Scrabble,” they all came up through the Cardinals farm system.
The smooth transition from ineffective veterans to young guns, occurring during a push toward the post-season, was a factor in the team’s ability to go on to take the World Championship.
In all fairness, the new formula was not all youth driven, as Octavio Dotel, 37, was a big addition for the second half. Dotel and Rzepczynski arrived in the same trade as Miller and Tallet departed. 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes signed on starting in August, but was less productive. Neither Dotel nor Rhodes will be back for 2012.
Looking ahead to next season, seven of the Cardinals relievers will be under the age of 30. The four younger men noted above will be joined in the competition by Kyle McClellan and Mitchell Boggs, both 27, and closer Jason Motte, 29. In pitching age, the former catcher Motte is the least experienced of the lot. All three are also homegrown Cardinals.
The club did make one move to add veteran presence to the pen when they signed left-hander J.C. Romero last week. The 35-year-old may be kept busy sharing his experiences with his new seven under-30 pen-mates.
Note: To view detailed stats of all the Cardinals’ 2011 relievers, click here to be taken to the article, “St. Louis Cardinals 2011 Reliever of the Year” at TheCardinalNation.com.