Trevor Rosenthal, The Cardinals’ MVP?

Now, with the 2017 MLB regular season behind us, the offseason frenzy is in full swing already for those teams that didn’t make the playoffs. The biggest glaring issue that was noticed by millions of fans nationwide, appears to be the inconsistency, and overall treachery of the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen arms. Now, coming out of this season, in which they missed the playoffs, questions are asked about the abilities of their bullpen arms, as well as the consistency of all of them. The acquisition of Brett Cecil at the beginning of the year had looked as if it could be a great signing; however, he was anything but that. Let that segue into today’s discussion, Trevor Rosenthal.

Being a Cardinals fan definitely has its ups and downs, and like most, I ride high with the ups, and fall hard with the downs. Trevor Rosenthal has always been a well-liked player of mine, and one that I not only love watching, but also feel is a vital piece to the Cardinals’ puzzle. After Trevor’s tumultuous 2016 season, and his bounce-back 2017 season, eyebrows are still raised over the 27-year-old’s future with the team. Rosenthal was placed in the bullpen, and used as a mid-innings guy, usually when the game was out of reach for either side in 2016. Again, he did not impress whatsoever, and the offseason that followed would be a “make it or break it” one for Trevor Rosenthal. 2017 was a different story for him, however. He was able to find himself, show his life and velocity on his fastball, clocking over 100 mph multiple times a game. Cutting his ERA down to a solid 3.40, with a 2.71 FIP. His K/9 rose from a 12.5 to a 14.3, and his BB/9 dropped from 6.5 to a 3.8. His abilities to strike out batters at an extremely efficient rate, and his cutting down on H/9, led him to regain the closer role on the team, especially with Oh’s horrendous season. Yet having to undergo Tommy John surgery ended Rosenthal’s season, and ultimately the Cardinals’ bullpen as a whole.

When Rosenthal was placed on the 10-Day DL, on August 16th, the Cardinals record stood at 61-59. They finished the season at 83-79, going 22-20 over their last two months of the season. Of those 20 losses, 13 of them were due to bullpen implosions. They clearly struggled mightily, and finished the year with a team bullpen record of 22-29, and a combined ERA of a 3.81, with the 12th-highest WAR (4.4). Although these stats may not seem out of line or too terrible, when watching the game itself, you could visibly see the struggles. Their starting pitching vastly outperformed that of their bullpen, and the tumultuous headlining of Oh among the others.

Now, my main debate here is to address the following question that is in the back of my mind, and one that I certainly feel is understandable in many ways, more so than most would think and see…

Is Trevor Rosenthal the Cardinals’ most valuable player?

Rosenthal is a guy who, as mentioned prior, was crucial to the Cardinals success. Yet saying the words “most valuable player” means that he was not literally their best player, but instead their most valuable. While their best player this season had to have been Tommy Pham on the offensive side (.306/.411/.520 slash with a 5.9 WAR and 148 wRC+), with their best on the pitching side being either Lance Lynn (11-8, 3.46 ERA, 7.39 K/9 over 186.1 IP) or Carlos Martinez (12-11, 3.64 ERA, 9.53 K/9 over 205 IP), it is still bold to say that none of them are the most valuable to the team. With Rosenthal, the Cardinals clearly relied heavily on him, as he appeared in 50 games, pitching 47.2 innings. With his fireball abilities, and fantastic strikeout ratio (again, 14.6 per nine), and his 1.6 WAR. Rosenthal’s importance cannot be simply stated with statistics. Watching him pitch, his demeanor and influence on the game is virtually unrivaled. When Rosenthal was brought on, the team and fans felt safer. He often came on, threw 12 to 18 pitches, and got the three outs needed. Despite this, his ERA was an inflated 3.40. His xFIP counters this at a more-than-respectable 2.55. When opponents got a hit off of him, it was most of the time lucky (.337 BABIP against a .206 BAA), and he rarely gave up the long ball (0.57 per nine, down from 0.67 the year before). So this leads you to believe that he was their savior, or their Andrew Miller even. Rosenthal’s value for the Cardinals will be truly tested come this offseason, as they gauge whether or not to gamble on their star bullpen arm, being that he is a free agent, or if they ride the roller coaster that is their current pen.

The reason behind Rosenthal’s team MVP claim is that despite Pham’s remarkable season, and even DeJong’s and Jose Martinez’s, they did not truly impact their team. The Cardinals offense ranked 13th in runs (761), 18th in home runs (196), and 9th in team offensive WAR (0.6). When it came down to it, their contributions weren’t enough to propel the Cardinals to a ton of runs per game, and they certainly did not do enough to lead the team to the playoffs. When Rosenthal was told he would miss the season, the whole fan base felt a seemingly sharp pain in their stomach. The Cardinals were still very much in the playoff picture, sitting only 4.5 games back of first in the NL Central, yet now the team and fans knew it was going to be a much rockier go at things. Rosenthal is the Cardinals’ hardest thrower, and has the best K/9 on the team. His contributions, and ability to get the team out of sticky situations, would no longer be usable, and his elbow is now going to be a question for the future. Yet, if you’re the St. Louis Cardinals, do you re-sign your clear-cut best bullpen arm, despite the TJ surgery? If not, who do you call upon or sign to replace him? Rosenthal is not a simple piece to replace, and his value is not matched by anyone else in the pen.



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Want to get into Sabermetrics, post college... Majoring in Statistics, Minoring in Communications

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pedeysRSox
Member

very interesting article. I would say that Rosenthal was a key part of the Cardinals season. He should be signed to a deal like the one Greg Holland got from the Rockies with the first year being a small amount of pay since he probably won’t pitch in 2018 at all, with 2019 and or 2020 being highly incentive filled should he perform like he used to.

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

It’s an interesting argument, but I can’t call anyone an MVP who misses a month and a half of the season.

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

Technically, he’s not yet a free agent, as he has one more year of arbitration eligibility, but with the TJS he’ll clearly be non-tendered and become a free agent.

Anyway, the Cardinals could look at resigning him to something like an incentive-laden two year deal, although the Cards may prefer to focus on less risky bullpen options like Nicasio.