One attribute prevalent throughout coaching ranks in all professional leagues is a degree of loyalty to certain players. Sometimes the manager or coach sees a little of themselves in the player and they keep him around as a service to their lost youth. Other times it’s as simple as sharing common interests*. We’re unable to quantify exactly what that loyalty means to the team dynamic or the players individually. One probable result: the players don’t like it when horrible players are given more playing time because of said loyalty, especially on good teams.
Yet, that’s just what’s happening in St. Louis with Tony La Russa and members of his previous rosters.
Aaron Miles is already back; and for some reason, actually playing. Miles will soon be joined by former teammate Jeff Suppan who was released by the Milwaukee Brewers days ago. Suppan is best known as a sunk cost finally purged from the Brewers roster after making only two starts for them this season. The most steadfast and hopeful Cardinal supporters will point to Suppan’s success under Dave Duncan nearly half a decade ago. The reality is, though, that Suppan wasn’t all too different of a pitcher then than he was in Milwaukee:
MIL: 97 GS, 577 IP, 4.7 SO/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, ~5.00 FIP
STL: 95 GS, 572.1 IP, 5.2 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9, ~4.70 FIP
Yes, Suppan’s FIP and xFIP look improved this season relative to last, but again, he’s spent 90% of his appearances in relief, so of course the numbers should be improved. Suppan managed to tally 31 innings with the Brewers despite a 7.84 ERA. He’s not that bad. He may just be a replacement level starter in his career. That’s relevant because the Cardinals already have one of those in P.J. Walters, whom Suppan will likely replace. Frankly, Walters probably has more upside than Suppan, just as Tyler Greene has more upside than the aforementioned Miles.
This swap looks like a lateral move that’s only being made because Suppan has a history with Duncan and La Russa. If this were, say, Ian Snell, would the Cardinals have hopped on him? The Cardinals needed some rotation help heading into Thursday and it appears the same will hold true come Friday.
*A few years ago the Orlando Magic had a forward named Pat Garrity who had long since reached the end of his three-point sharpshooting usefulness, yet he stuck around on the inactive list. Why? Because Magic head coach Brian Hill and Garrity would go to museums together while on the road.