Monday night the Cardinals went with a ‘bullpen game’ because they were short of starting pitching. Winning a game started by the bullpen arms against a Major League team is a tough proposition, even if the opponent is the Royals or Pirates. Against the Dodgers it was almost tantamount to surrender. Sure enough, the Cardinals lost 12-4, and it wasn’t that close.
Calls for another arm have gotten louder since Kyle Lohse’s surgery to repair the compression syndrome in his right forearm. Dave Duncan has recently joined the chorus, so you kinda knew it was only a matter of time. Well, today the clock struck midnight, as the Cardinals added some help in the form of Jeff Suppan.
Or is it some form of help, because this certainly isn’t the Jeff Suppan who won 44 games for the Cardinals from 2004-2006.
This move says a couple of things to me. One, the Cardinals are watching their season slip away from them and felt they needed to act now. Two, they haven’t got the prospects to pry a better arm from another team (like Oswalt, Lee, or whomever). Third, there is ABSOLUTELY no free agent they trust (read Pedro Martinez), and they feel at least based on historical track record they know what they’re getting with Suppan.
Even in his prime Suppan wasn’t that dominant; his best ERA+ year (119) was 2005. He’s declined by that metric every year since (108-96-85-76-51 this year). He was durable, throwing at least 190 innings every season from 1999-2007. Even the last two years in Milwaukee he threw a lot of innings (177 and 161, respectively).
Some cause for hope: His career FIP is 4.85, and he had a 4.88 FIP this year. His career xFIP is 4.66, and he sat at 5.06 in 31 innings this season. So perhaps he hasn’t been as G0d-awful as his ERA, record, and lack of usage would suggest. I can tell you I watched him pitch against San Diego on 29 April. He gave up 5 straight hits, but only one was well-struck. The rest found a hole as weak ground balls and bloops. He then retired the last 10 hitters he faced, striking out 4.
If THAT Jeff Suppan pitches every 5 days, we’re going to be OK. I hope he does, but I won’t hold my breath.
Welcome back, Jeff Suppan. We need you to pitch well.