Unlike 2013, when he came into camp competing as a starter – only to become the closer in September – Trevor Rosenthal spent the entire 2014 season as St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s ninth-inning man.
When a closer accumulates 45 saves, just two off a share of the team’s all-time single-season record, and then goes three of four in the post-season, one might assume he had generally smooth sailing. That was not the case, however.
Cardinals fans know all too well that a ride with Rosenthal was often bumpy. Among the top half of National League closers, determined by the eight with the most saves, he had the:
• Most pitches thrown (by a considerable margin)
• Second-most hits allowed (one from a share of the lead)
• Most walks issued (by a considerable margin)
• Highest WHIP (also by a considerable margin)
• Highest ERA
• Most blown saves
• Most losses
• Lowest bWAR (tied)
If we lower the bar to include all NL relievers, Rosenthal’s six losses were tied for fifth-most, while his six blown saves were tied for sixth-most in the entire league. His total of 1,263 pitches thrown in game action was second-most by any NL reliever in any role.
By any of these measures, it was far from a dominating year for the 24-year-old, who was called into action in a team-high 72 games. That includes pitching on four consecutive days during May and three consecutive days three other times – twice in June and again in July. Rosenthal was also asked to throw more than one inning four times – all in the first half.
Perhaps most frustrating was Rosenthal’s struggles retiring his first batter faced (just over 40 percent reached base), partially fueled by an alarming walk rate of 5.4 batters per nine innings. The latter was up dramatically, in fact over double his 2012 and 2013 rate of 2.5 with St. Louis. It rarely seemed easy as Rosenthal averaged over 17.5 pitches per appearance during the course of the season.
Pat Neshek came to 2014 spring camp as a non-roster invitee, yet it was the veteran setup man who went on to earn a National League all-star berth, not Rosenthal.
Even as the bases on balls increased to an alarming rate in August, 11 in 11 1/3 innings, manager Mike Matheny stuck with Rosenthal as his closer. Results in September were better, but Rosenthal was back to dodging bullets in the post-season, with a whopping 10 baserunners allowed in 3 2/3 innings. Two came around to score, including one in his pivotal NLCS Game 2 blown save against San Francisco, in what became St. Louis’ final home game of the year.
Though in recent years Rosenthal has expressed a desire to start games again, the current arrangement appears to be remaining in place for 2015. One must hope for more consistency – in usage and results – this coming season, however.
Latest posts by Brian Walton (see all)
- Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 03/27/17 - March 27, 2017
- Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 03/25/17 - March 25, 2017
- Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 03/24/17 - March 24, 2017