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Fully appreciating Octavio Dotel

Though it was not always the responsibility of the bullpen, I cannot get out of my head the fact that the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals are just 16-30 in one-run and two-run decisions this season.

I guess in a way it is sort of the ugly underbelly of all the MLB-best run differential talk we have heard of late. After all, it would seem such a club should be a division-leader instead of resting in third place.

Where there is still time remaining, the clock is down to 52 games and counting.

The relief corps has looked much sharper overall since the acquisition of Edward Mujica to stabilize the seventh inning ahead of Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte. Still, I can’t help but wonder, “what if?”

What if the Cardinals were 30-16 in one- and two-run games instead? Assuming the worst case – that none of those turnaround games would have been against the Reds – it would still flip what is today a six-game division deficit into an eight-game lead.

OK, maybe that isn’t realistic. Instead, let’s pretend the Cards just managed to split those tight games down the middle. That isn’t setting the bar unreasonably high. At just 23-23 in those contests, St. Louis would still lead the once-surging Reds by one game and would tie the Washington Nationals for the best record in baseball.

How might they have accomplished that, you ask? I suggest by having fixed their set-up problem from the start of the season. Or, more accurately, by not letting it get away from them in the first place.

Last summer’s megatrade brought some very important pieces to the eventual World Champions. Much has been written about lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski and starter Edwin Jackson, both of whose contributions were considerable.

Maybe it is because he is the definition of journeyman, now on his 13th team in 14 years, but Octavio Dotel seemed more of an afterthought to most, both then and now.

After all, right-handed set-up men are a dime a dozen, right? The Cardinals had a bevy of young relief arms ready to take over, right?

While I admit that liked the youngsters as well or better than most, I also worried all along about the lack of veteran leadership in the pen. Other than scrap-heap additions J.C. Romero and Scott Linebrink, both quickly jettisoned, Kyle McClellan was the club’s most veteran reliever at four seasons of MLB experience coming into 2012. Motte was next at a tad over three years.

Knowing what we know now, I submit that Dotel may have been the loss that contributed most to that 16-30 mark this season.

Let’s review how dominant Dotel was.

After joining the Cardinals last summer, the now-38-year-old allowed 15 hits, struck out 32 and walked just five in 24 2/3 innings. That K:BB rate of 6.4:1 almost doubled the next-best ratio in the pen.

Dotel retired 79.7 percent of first batters faced last season, again better than any other member of the Cardinals pen. Only 16 percent of Dotel’s inherited runners scored in 2011. Yes, that was also tops on the club. As a point of reference, Motte’s rate was just over double at 32.1 percent.

Without quoting the details chapter and verse, suffice it to say that Dotel still has ample fuel in the tank. In fact, his 2012 results to date with his new club, the Detroit Tigers, are quite comparable to his stellar stats with St. Louis. (Click on his highlighted name above to view his numbers at

Perhaps there is still time for Mujica to become “Dotel II.” In fact, he has a nice start at doing just that.

Even so, I still can’t help but think “what if” “Dotel I” had just been kept around for 2012 in the first place?

Next time, I will come back at this subject from the business perspective – money, draft picks, trade value and the like.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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32 Responses to “Fully appreciating Octavio Dotel”

  1. blingboy says:

    I hadn’t expected Sanchez to tank, Salas to struggle and McClellan to be a non-factor. And personally, I figured Dotel was likely about done anyway.

  2. Nutlaw says:

    I figured that all of the young guys in the ‘pen would only improve. I was disappointed.

  3. kray66 says:

    I liked Dotel and still thought he would be good to keep around for 2012. But I also had faith that the young guys would be able to handle it, but that was misguided.

  4. friendmouse says:

    Right you are, Brian. Unfortunately, my “strongest” memory of O.Dotel last year was when I was in attendance at Minute Maid Park for the final three games of the season, when our hopes of making the playoffs was hanging by a thread. The first game was on a Monday night. We hit like 5 doubles. We were behind much of the game, but came back to tie it with 2 runs in the 8th. Dotel pitches a great bottom of 9th to keep game tied. Top of 10th, Yadi hits a 1-out double, then Theriot grounds into FC, with Yadi out at 3rd, then Theriot tries to steal 2nd, but gets thrown out. TLR leaves Dotel in for the bottom of the 10th (I thought at the time I didn’t like him going back out there), and Bogusevic leads off with a double. Bourgeois attempts to sacrifice him to 3rd, and Dotel boots the little dribbler for an error. 1st & 3rd, no outs. Then, Angel Sanchez, noticing Dotel’s less-than-athletic fielding attempt at the bunt, lays down another one, and “Bogus” scores the walk-off. Man, was I depressed…and hacked off at Dotel!!! I was convinced that our hopes for the playoffs were over…nothing short of a miracle would allow us to play in October. But, I’d already purchased tickets for the next two nights. I’m glad I did, and you know the rest of the story…the miracle happened. Right before my eyes! But, that Monday night, my heart was scarred a bit by Octavio, and it hasn’t fully recovered! 🙂

    Baseball…what a game, huh?!

  5. blingboy says:

    Thursday lineup
    1. Jon Jay (L) CF
    2. Allen Craig (R) 1B
    3. Matt Holliday (R) LF
    4. Carlos Beltran (S) RF
    5. David Freese (R) 3B
    6. Yadier Molina (R) C
    7. Daniel Descalso (L) 2B
    8. Rafael Furcal (S) SS
    9. Adam Wainwright (R) P

    About the only positive last night was Jay doing ok leading off.

  6. blingboy says:

    “You can get mad at Greene, or you can get mad at the people in charge who refuse to stop the fight, and put an end to the bleeding.”

    That’s from Bernie’s column this morning. One other thing that caught my eye:

    “The Angels, with their $151 million payroll, are in third place in the division. Oakland, with a $52 million payroll, has moved into second. . .”

    He didn’t mention the Pirates $51M is also in second, ahead of the Cardinals $111M.

    • kray66 says:

      Glad someone else brought it up. The little bit of the game I could stomach last night I noticed how badly he played. And how the announcers tried to blame it on limited playing time.

      Very worth noting about the Pirates. I can’t help but kind of root for them, at least until the Cards start to narrow the gap on them and then it’s war.

  7. crdswmn says:

    It was just announced that Tyler Greene has been traded to the Astros for a PTBNL or cash.

  8. blingboy says:

    Jay got on base again ahead of the thumpers.

    Craig is most likely the slowest #2 hitter in baseball.

    The chances that the boos and\or post game comments on the boos lit a fire under Mo?? Or just coincidence?

    Guesses on the call up?? Kozma is on the 40 man.

  9. blingboy says:

    Brendan won’t get many reps at 2nd with Altuve there. I think the ss situation is more unsettled at the moment. Given Greene’s inability to be a part time seldom used player, I’m not sure what Luhnow’s thinking is. Maybe just fence mending with Mo.

  10. blingboy says:

    Jay is making a case.

  11. blingboy says:

    Motte looks good in stirrups. His stuff will benefit.

  12. crdswmn says:

    Anyone want to venture a guess as to the roster move?

    Kozma would be the easy and the obvious choice, but not the best.
    Jackson would be a good add defensively, but his offense needs more work.
    Greg Garcia is a tantalizing choice, and he is hitting better than Jackson, but he is a lefty and we have too many lefties already.
    Could be a non MIF but I wouldn’t go there, that’s pretty risky with only Descalso/Skip for two positions if Furcal goes down.
    Could also be that Mo has a waiver claim in the works.

    I am going to guess Kozma, but I am not sold on that guess.

  13. CariocaCardinal says:

    My money is still on Greene being more than a positive contributor.

  14. JumboShrimp says:

    Dotel was said to be washed up. I doubted this and was proved right. This year, Octavio is suddenly our lost Savior. Wow. What a change of tone.

    Back here in everyday mundane reality, Dotel has been a fine ML closer and reliever. He is a wily, clever veteran who helped us a lot last year . This year, Octavio gave us an extra draft pick, thanks. Our replacement hopes of Sanchez, Salas, Cleto, and other have been disappointments.

  15. JumboShrimp says:

    Congratulations to Tyler Greene on escaping St Louis!

    Many guys need abundant at bats to become established at the ML level. He is one. A highly competitive team like St Louis had a hard time giving him at bats. In Houston, Greene could well excel. He is lucky to finally escape a situation unsuited to him.

    But who can be scapegoated next?

    • Bw52 says:

      I think we have seen thje best of Tyler Greene.A guy who is simply not good enough to start and fills out a roster.Big league pitching is just too much for him.

  16. blingboy says:

    Depraved though it may be, I’m rooting for the Cubs.

  17. crdswmn says:

    Brian, can you give me an assessment of Ryan Jackson? I’ve seen his stats, but I’ve only seen him play once.

    The only assessment I can find online is over at VEB, and they are proclaiming him to be worse than Tyler Greene. I find that hard to believe.

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