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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

What might be wrong with Mitchell Boggs?

One of Major League Baseball’s most reliable set up men in 2012 was Mitchell Boggs. The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander led the National League with 34 holds, setting a Cardinals team record in the process.

His 17.1 percentage of inherited runners scoring was seventh-lowest in the league and his ERA of 2.21 was sixth-best. Boggs had one streak of over two months, covering 23 consecutive appearances, without allowing a runner across home plate.

So, what changed in 2013? Jason Motte’s elbow is what.

Shifting Boggs from the eighth inning to the ninth to cover for Motte seemed a natural move to many. Yet with other options in the Cardinals pen, the move was not a no-brainer, either. Others wondered if the Edward Mujica (seventh) and Boggs (eighth) ingredients of St. Louis’ effective bullpen formula should remain as in the second half of 2012.

In the past, I had not been a strong proponent of the “disrupting roles” theory, but I also remember Boggs brief, failed prior stint as closer back in April 2011. The resultant skid temporarily put Boggs back in Memphis – as a starter.

Further, I respect those who have played this game at the highest level. I received the following from a former MLB pitcher (not a closer).

The kicker is that it arrived not after Sunday night’s Boggs loss in Philadelphia. It was written two weeks ago, on April 8.

At the time, I thought it interesting, but now even more so.

“The Cardinals relied on a very effective 7, 8, and 9 inning formation at the end of last year.

“When a team has that very effective order and then they lose a person covering one of those innings, the least disruption to the pattern the better.  I would not have moved Boggs from his 8th inning role until all other options were unavailable.

“It wouldn’t bother me at all to have Rosenthal, Kelly, Salas, Zep, or some minor league guy try their hand at closing before I would disrupt two key innings of the formation by also moving Boggs…

“It never fails to cause issues when multiple guys have to move to accommodate an injury.  I saw it too many times in my own career.”

Is he right? We will never know, and are only left to wonder.

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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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33 Responses to “What might be wrong with Mitchell Boggs?”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    Boggs, Mujica, and Motte were all heavily used during 2012 and excelled. There was always a solid chance that each could have dip in performance during 2013.
    It turns out, Motte’s elbow ligament may have given out.
    For the closer, its good to try a veteran. Boggs was the logical next choice. And the next choice is Mujica and he is being tried next.
    As TLR says, their coconuts matter. Last night Boggs was back at this 8th inning slot and had a rough outing. Its baseball. These things happen, even to a pitcher who had a great 2012.

  2. blingboy says:

    I keep getting shot down trying to talk about pitching fails on the main site.

    As I understand it, its not an issue because its April and there will always be tomorrow and mentioning it now proves you are an amatuer rather than a pro.

    Thankfully, Mo and Mike are pros, so they will not be troubling themselves.

    • Brian Walton says:

      What do you want to say that you believe is not being heard?

      Personally, I tend to avoid these kinds of discussions immediately after a tough loss as many of those posting are more emotional and less rational about whatever the current problem is.

      Not saying that about you personally. Just a general observation.

      • blingboy says:

        In a nutshell, the pen is not working and needs to be fixed, like last year. Waiting and hoping for it to spontaneously fix itself is futile, like last year. And there is no point waiting until the end of July like last year.

        As I mentioned on the other board, I’ve been watching teams run out of tomorrows for 50 years, so am less inclined to abide the common wisdom than those commenters who have less experience with reality.

        I am used to it, though. Most everybody I talk baseball with fails to see the light as well. But as is the case here, its them not me. 🙂

        • Brian Walton says:

          Sure, the bullpen needs to get better. I don’t see your point other than you seem to be upset that more people aren’t upset about it.

          • blingboy says:

            My point is its silly to stick our head in the sand until the all star break.

            I do understand that is what one has to do to be in the club. The guy quoted in the article is probably an old guy like me and doesn’t need to care about that any more, otherwise he’d have included the caveats and disclaimers about how its early, etc.

            • Brian Walton says:

              What do you recommend? Trades, promotions/demotions, demonstrations in the street?

              It is easy to complain, but harder to come up with thoughtful ideas on how to improve the situation.

              • blingboy says:

                Arguing that we should acknowledge there is a problem is worthy in its own right, IMO.

                But if you want to shift the discussion to possible courses of action, I’m game.

                I would not be keen to start trading guys at this point. Last year, by the time the issue was addressed it was July, so the trade made sense. In April, it makes more sense to try less drastic measures.

                Since Boggs has an option left, I think I’d use it to install him as Memphis’s closer for a while. Mentally, he has to be toast by this point. I like him as the most logical choice to close this year, but he has to get zoned in or whatever.

                That leaves us needing both an 8th inning guy and a closer, as well as somebody to come up from Memphis. Lot’s of confusion for a while, but its not working anyway.

                The answer mentioned in the article is another possibility. Put Mujica and Boggs back in their roles and put somebody who was not a key to the pen last year in the closer spot. That worked rather well in 2006 after all.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Those ideas are at least worthy of discussion. Complaining for complaining sake is less so, IMO.

                  Not sure who in Memphis can help. Freeman has been up and down. Cleto has been struggling. Marte seems more steady after a bad start, but offers little upside. Sanchez would be interesting but he is injured.

                  Before doing any of that, why not try Kelly in more meaningful situations? A few weeks ago, he was almost the fifth starter. Now he is invisible.

                  • blingboy says:

                    Yes, I was thinking Kelly could be tried in the 9th, with Boggs and Mujica back in their roles. The problem I don’t like is the negative effect on Boggs if the team gives up on him as a closer. We know he wants it bad. So that is why I would try to make it work by getting him ready for it in Memphis and letting him re-set. I still see him as the best choice for the duration.

                    As to somebody to come up, I agree nobody stands out. There is room on the 40 man roster, though, so it is not limited to the guys mentioned.

                    Another troubling thing is that Rosenthal isn’t contributing like somebody with his ability should. He doesn’t seem to have a role either, similar to Kelly, although he gets used a bit more.

            • crdswmn says:

              Yeah, because those of us who think April 22 is too early to jump off a bridge because of the bullpen are going to stick our heads in the sand until the All Star Break. Your generalizing snap conclusions are always appreciated.

              Just because I answered “No” to the question you asked on the main site shouldn’t prevent you from speaking your mind anyway. It wouldn’t stop me. Go for it.

              Sending Boggs to Memphis is a terrible idea. TLR did that to him and it ruined him for the rest of the season. I think a better option would be to use him in low leverage situations for a while to get his confidence back. Demoting him will do more harm than good.

              • blingboy says:

                I do not support using Boggs for mop up so he can get his confidence back. It would have the opposite effect, IMO.

                I am surprised you would suggest it, as it assumes there is a problem to be addressed. Unless you are suggesting a future course of action, once a problem is admitted, say, around Memorial Day, if it actually turns out there is a problem which cannot yet be known since it is April 22.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Ignoring the second paragraph, I have a question about the first, bb. How would being sent to Memphis be better than pitching in less stressful situations in the majors? I am guessing 99.99 percent of all players, given the choice, would feel better about staying and trying to work it out in the bigs.

                  • blingboy says:

                    I think rehabbing Boggs offers the best chance of having in place a reliable closer for most of the season. A turn in Memphis as closer would be a plan to do that.

                    Shifting him to middle relief and trying someone else doesn’t really seem like any plan at all to me, other than hoping somebody else will emerge to claim the role.

                    For Boggs, while he would rather stay in St. Louis, a plan to revive his closer chances might be better that the obscurity of middle relief, having failed and been given up on.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      You seem to be interleaving two objectives. One is to get Boggs right. The other is to find a reliable closer.

                      On the first, you did not help me understand why you believe Memphis would be less obscure and discouraging to Boggs than middle relief in St. Louis. Apparently, we will have to agree to disagree on that.

                      Finding a reliable closer at this point does not seem to include Boggs.

                      I guess it gets down to what one thinks is the most likely objective for him, whether reliable set up man or reliable closer. Perhaps the former is a better fit. After all, he did it once very successfully for an entire season.

                      My point being that how they ultimately plan to use him should affect how they get him ready.

                • crdswmn says:

                  Oh it is not the lack of an issue, that is obvious. It’s the premature oanic and knee jerk reactions to the issue. Boggs needs to straighten himself out and not in Memphis and other internal options that make sense should be tried, like Mujica and more use of Kelly.

    • blingboy says:

      I want to point out that my original purpose, on the main site, was not to push my solutions to the pitching issues, or support any one possible move over another.

      Rather, I said there were pitching problems, and a debate ensued about the propriety of declaring the existence of a problem at this early stage.

      I consider that debate to be worthwhile, and not at all a matter of complaining without offering solutions. I did do a certain amount of complaining that nobody agreed with me.

      I don’t consider any ideas I have about pitching moves to be especially worthy of discussion, and wouldn’t have bothered had I not been asked.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        There are some real issues here……….namely what the F is Boggs doing with his mechanics at this point?????????????? Be honest………he preparing for a new career????????? Another point…….they have been making a huge attempt at converting Rosenthal. He is all over the place now…..they moving him toward high ground…….or just what? In season progression toward what????? they know Garcia is going down eventually……….. they are trying to steer him to a starting role…….against logic for this season…….. Kelly is being shopped…….they aren’t using him for that reason….. the FO is heavy in all this stuff via Matheny…. …………………. Boggs is Boggs. He knows he has a problem. It is mechanical at this point…….. are they into fixing it…….or are they up to something different……… Why Craig against Danny H…..instead of Carlos from the left side……….Adams is great…… but Defensively? That’s not about rest…………..I think they believe Miller is going to get hammered tonight……..lets see.

        • blingboy says:

          I have heard announcers say that Boggs is falling off toward 1B with the result he can only hit the right side of the plate, unless he misses location. And his sinker isn’t sinking or whatever. I have no idea of the causes, but the existance of a problem has been apparent as he is not the pitcher we saw last season. Same with Rosenthal. What to do, I don’t know. But I am against waiting and doing nothing.

          Your explanation for Kelly’s non-use is the best I’ve heard, which is not surprising, since I haven’t heard any other explanations.

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          Last year WC new hitting mechanics better than any of the Cardinal coaches, this year it’s pitching mechanics – quite the jack (***) of all trades! Of course they don’t want to fix Boggs as WC alludes – then they might win and spoil the 5 year plan! Guys being shopped dont get hid on the bench. They get showcased.

          I guess we saw.

          • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

            You’d like somebody to see your little friend………..wouldn’t you?????? that’s why you keep him hidden away………… so only you can play with him…………… and maybe somebody would like to watch….. that would be alright I suppose………… showcase is a good word for it I think.

      • crdswmn says:

        Why didn’t you just ignore my response to your question and post your thoughts? I never expect anyone to actually listen to me. 😉

        The debate that some of us are tired of is the constant gloom and doom of every little thing that goes wrong, and the knee jerk conclusions that poor performance in any given game gives license to commit a public flogging of said player. If I had a dollar for every post where the word “suck” was used, I would never have to work again. In the minds of some, the whole bullpen needs to be chucked for a new one. And all this over 3 WEEKS of play. These guys are not robots, you can’t just push a start button and they immediately play all star caliber baseball.

        Boggs is struggling, this is obvious. Salas isn’t overwhelming anybody either. But that doesn’t mean they never will. Their past history suggests that they are better pitchers than they are showing. What it takes to get them back there I leave to the experts.

        Perhaps we all need to step back and chill a little, including me. I don’t warm up too much to panic posts and not well thought out ideas for solutions. Thus I tend to react negatively to them. My responses can be at times too sarcastic and acerbic for others. I am not blind to my faults. I have strong opinions but no need for others to always agree. We should be able to discuss issues like adults, but variable personalities make this virtually impossible. I try to police myself but I am not always successful. When I am out of line I expect Brian or one of the moderators to set me straight. That is how I conduct my posting life.

        Now, go back to the thread Bling and say what you want to say.

  3. Nutlaw says:

    Looks like Boggs is averaging a 93 MPH fastball this year, as opposed to 95.7 last year. That’s a reasonably large drop.

    As for his sinker not sinking and his slider not sliding, at least last night, Pitch F/X agrees:

  4. blingboy says:

    I wonder what could be going on with Jay. He is simultaneously bad on both O and D. His defensive troubles are across the board. Bad jumps, not closing on the ball, and not making strong throws. His offensive woes also, not hitting, not taking walks. Looking bad out there all around. Very not like him.

  5. JumboShrimp says:

    Nothing wrong with Mujica tonight. Great win.

  6. blingboy says:

    I like it when the Cards do the unthinkable, win a one run game.

    Hopefully, MM is on to something with the reordered pen.

    It will be interesting to see how Boggs does his next few outings.

    We are down to about a week until the Cards find out Motte’s elbow ligament did not perform a TJ on itself, or grow back together, or whatever they are hoping for. Its too bad he will not be a month into recovery by then.

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