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.