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Hot Stove Report #5 The bullpen, HEAT from HELL

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

There is just no denying what Ryan Helsley did out of the bullpen for the St Louis Cardinals this past season. 9-1 with a 1.25 ERA, 0.74 WHIP he struck out 94 batters and walked 20. he threw 64 2/3 innings in 54 games and converted 19 out of 23 save opportunities. So going forward one would have to figure that Helsley is the odds-on favorite for closing duty.

Bullpen Emergence?

Overall the bullpen was 40-16 with a 3.64 ERA, and 37 saves. The main workhorses were Helsley(54 games, 64 2/3 IP) and Giovanny Gallegos(57 games, 59 IP), In April the bullpen was very good, 4-1 with 4 saves and a sub-3 ERA in 77 innings with a 1.130 WHIP. Then in May, they went 8-3, 7 saves, but with an REA over 4.40 in 110 innings with 1.378 WHIP. So it was a mixed bag. There was never really a bad month arguably the worst was July, 4-4, and 5 saves, but a very respectable 3.58 ERA and 1.180 WHIP. So why am I bringing up the bullpen? Well, as good as the pen was, It was pretty much average. That may sound harsh considering it WAS the bullpen that carried the team through most of the year. But

If you look at league averages for relievers and the Cardinal numbers it is true.

League / St Louis

ERA 3.86/ 3.64

WHIP 1.275 / 1.252

SO/BBB % 2.58 / 2.37%

SO/9 ing 9.0 / 8.0

Inherited Runners scoring 34% / 34%

Blown saves avg 21 / 17

Save PCT 64%/ 69%

So in four areas, the Cardinals were better than League Average and in two areas they were worse, and one is right at the league average. Now some of the guys who brought the numbers down are gone; like TJ McFarland, Nick Witgren Aaron Brooks

So what have they got?

In truth, the Redbirds have a mixed lot in the bullpen.

On the upside, you have the aforementioned Helsley as the closer and Gallegos as well as three guys who I think are very good set-up candidates in Andre Pallente, Jordan Hicks, and Genesis Cabrera.

After that, it becomes a little more cloudy.

you have a collection of young relievers, Jojo Romero and Packy Naughton,

Veteran guys like Drew VerHagen and Chris Stratton,

and converted Starters Jake Woodford, Zach Thompson, and possibly Dakota Hudson or even Steven Matz.

veteran relievers, and converted starters.

then going by relief appearances Gallegos 57, Genesis Cabrera 39, Andre Pallente 37, Jordan Hicks 27, Jake Woodford 26, Packy Naughton 23, Brad Thompson 21, Chris Stratton 20, Drew Ver Hagen 19, and Jojo Romero 15. This does not count the possibility of Dakota Hudson, Steven Matz, and Mathew Liberatore as they were used starters primarily.

Where do you start?

So looking at the realities here. Contracts are going to play a role, and the Cardinals have two relievers under contract who are NOT Arbitration eligible and they are. Geovanny Gallegos and Drew VerHagen.

Gallegos signed an extension last season and Verhagen was signed to a two-year Free Agent deal last year.

Giovanny Gallegos by Dillip Vishwanat via Getty Images Drew VerHagen by Bill Greenblat via UPI

A little bit of a glossary here SVR = Save %(Saves /Save opportunities) HLDR = Hold Rate(Holds/Save Situations) IRSR=Inhierted Runners Scored rate(Inhierted Runners scored/Ihierted Runners)

Gallegos 3-6, 14 Saves, 3.05 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, 70% SVR(14-20), 37% HLDR(12-32), 45% IRSR(11-5) 59 games. has been an effective setup for the closer, and closer when needed

VerHagen is 3-1, 0 Saves, 6.65 ERA, 1.892 WHIP, 0% SVR, 75% HLDR(3-4), 10% IRSR(1-10) 19 games VerHagen when he is on is one of those pitchers who can stop a rally in the fifth or sixth inning (middle relief) and get out of a jam. The one concern about Verhagen is how will he be after his hip surgery. So even though he is under contract he may not make the roster.

Where's the beef?

Just like the old Hamburger commercial where is the meat of this bullpen going to come from? These next four guys are probably the odds-on favorite to be that answer. Ryan Helsley, Andre Pallente, Jordan Hicks, and Genesis Cabrera.

Top left Ryan Helsley by Archie Carpenter via UPI, Genesis Cabrera by Jeff Curry via USA Today, bottom left Jordan Hicks by Jeff Curry via USA Today, Andre Pallente by Nuccio DiNuzzo via Getty Images.

Helsley 9-1, 19 Saves, 1.25 ERA, 0.742 WHIP, 83% SVR(19-23) , 23% HLDR(7-30), 14% IRSR(3-21) 57 games. Helsley emerged as the dominant closer and will more than likely retain that role. With only 14% of inherited runners scoring, he makes a strong argument to be in that spot.

Pallente 3-2, 0 Saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.416 WHIP, 0% SVR, 90% HLDR(9-10), 39% IRSR(9-23) 37 games. While he registered no saves his 90% hold rate and the fact he can go multiple innings make him an option from the fifth inning on. He is also no stranger to starting having started 10 games last year. which makes him also a good choice for a long man and emergency starter.

Hicks 3-6, 0 Saves, 4.84 ERA, 1.321 WHIP, 0% SVR(8-9), 88% HLDR(8-9), 24% IRSR(4-17) 27 games. Good to have as a fireman type who can get multiple innings. He is another one who can be slotted for the 6th to the 8th innings, and even close in a pinch.

Cabrera 4-2, 1 Saves, 4.63 ERA, 1.321 WHIP, 50% SVR(1-2), 86%HLDR(13-15), 50% IRSR(8-16) 39 games. Shown to be a good set-up hold type who can go 2 innings if need be. and he is a Left-Hander.

So who is left?

If you carry an eight-man Bullpen that leaves two spots. I think with Helsley, Gallegos, Hicks, and Cabrera, the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings are covered. You also have Pallente for long relief and possibly VerHagen for the middle. So you are looking middle long relief. Since Cabrera is the only Left-hander so far you need to have at least one more.

There are three Left-Hand possibilities on the Cardinal 40-man roster.

Zack Thompson by Jeff Curry via AP Jojo Romero by Keith Skrakocic via AP Packy Naughton via STL Cardinals

ZackThompson 1-1, 1 save, 0.91 ERA, 0.843 WHIP, 100% SVR(1-1), 0% HLDR, 60% IRSR(3-5) 22 games

Zack has been a starter in the minors so picking up an emergency start is not out of his realm but he did do very well in short relief also. With Matz, Montgomery, and Liberatore vying for starting jobs Thompson's route to the big leagues could take him through the bullpen.

Jojo Romero 0-0, 0, 2.30 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, 0% SVR, 0% HLDR, 13% IRSR(1-8), 15 games

Romero was a fireman but with a small Cardinal samples size, He spent 2 + years in Philly and did not have the success he did with St Louis SO I think he will get a serious look in the Spring to be the second lefty out of the pen.

Packy Naughten 0-0, 1 Save, 3.24 ERA, 1.360 WHIP, 50% SVR (1-2), 60% HLDR (3-5), 29 IRSR (5-17), 26 games Nuaghten can get you an effective 3 innings While he has pitched in the back end and started neither are really his specialty. He is someone who can come in the fourth, fifth, or sixth inning and take pressure off the rest of the pen.

Now there are two others who will get their shot in Spring Training and depending on any future moves may have a good shot at being on the opening-day roster.

Jake Woodford by Daniel Shular vis STL Post Dispatch

Jake Woodford 3-0, 0 Saves 2.30 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, 0% SVR, 0% HLDR, 23% IRSR in 27 games

Woody has Started, he has gone long relief and middle relief as well and seems to do well in those e situations. With both Mikolas and Wainwright in the WBC. look for Woody to get a few starts in Spring Training.

Chris Stratton via STL Cardinals

Chris Stratton 5-0, 0 Saves, 2.78 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 0% SVR, 0%HLDR, 31% IRSR, 20 games.

Stratton like Romero a mid-season pick-up last year had a fair level of success out of the Cardinal pen. and could figure into plans as well in a middle-relief role. If he has a good spring he could figure into the bullpen plans for the 2023 season.

Now the Redbirds don't HAVE to add to the pen, but there are some arms out there still available that could give the pen an upgrade.

Brad Hand is a former closer and effective LH hold/set-up guy that you could bring in to give you a closer option from the left side.

3-2, 5 Saves, 2.80 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 71% SVR(5-7), 65% HLDR(13-20), 47% IRSR, 55 games.

Michael Fulmer is one who can do the setup role as well. He has a Very good hold rate and is very stingy in terms of inherited runners.

2-2, 1 Save, 3.70 ERA, 1.562 WHIP, 100% SVR(1-1), 87% HLDR(7-8), 20% IRSR(1-5) 26 games.

There are some former closers still left as well, Aroldis Chapman, and Craig Kimbrell I don't think closing is what we need to think about as bridging the gap between Closer and starter.

Thanks for reading, I probably won't have another hot stove edition until after the first of the year. Unless the Cardinals make a move. So until then have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. and we will see you in 2023

Also, don't forget to check out my podcast Talking Sports on the Bleachers found here at Gateway City Sports or on Spotify, google podcasts and Apple podcasts. or go to HTTPS://

or hit me up on Twitter @tsotbgcs or email me at

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