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We need to talk about Trevor

August 7, 2014

I’m about as popular on Twitter as I was in seventh grade—that is, not at all—but during one of Trevor Rosenthal’s ninth-inning fire-walking acts against the Brewers this past weekend, this happened:

trevor

See that? Forty retweets and 97 favorites, for the scrawny girl who entered math contests and started a detective club. I’m not alone here; there’s a whole community of us out there shvitzing in our jerseys every time that god-awful, bone-chilling “Here comes Trevor!” tweet appears on the Cardinals’ feed (ahem), unsoothed by the assurances of management and fellow fans who point to his league-leading save totals and instruct us to relax.

It’s time we stood up for ourselves and owned our suffering. (We could call it The Trevor Project, if that name weren’t already in use for a cause that’s roughly a million times more important.)

This isn’t hypochondria; behind Rosenthal’s 35 saves lie some troubling numbers. Among closers with 20 or more saves, here are few of his rankings that haven’t gotten quite so much air time:

        Total batters faced: 1st with 233; Zach Britton is 2nd with 211
        Total pitches thrown: 1st with 959; Steve Cishek is a distant 2nd with 813
        Walks: 1st with 28; Craig Kimbrel is 2nd with 20
        WHIP: 2nd with 1.36; Joe Nathan leads with 1.43
        Average fan pulse-rate increase: 1st with 20 beats/minute (sabermetric projection)

Rosenthal’s runs-allowed totals aren’t terrible, thanks in part to seven double-play balls (for which he shares credit with the Cards’ improved infield defense) and his having allowed only one home run thus far. But the combination of Moneyball statistics and Trouble With the Curve gut feelings tells us that there’s a problem here—or, actually, several problems.

1) Rosenthal’s been vulnerable all year. He’s been scored upon in 13 of 53 appearances, and he’s thrown precious few 1-2-3 innings, as your central nervous system already knew. His fastball has picked up velocity along the way, but he still leaves it in the upper part of the zone way too often for comfort.

2) He’s been badly overused. The Cardinals have had pretty good starting pitching and pretty lousy offense all season, and that translates to lots of save opportunities—another category in which Rosenthal leads the majors. The workload increases due to his unfortunate allergy to clean innings, and it increases again due to the fact that….

3) His manager is delusional. Admittedly, I’m feeling especially bitter toward Mike Matheny after last night’s utterly predictable loss to the Red Sox, but it was a classic example of managing with the heart instead of the head, with faith instead of facts. Rosenthal was tired; the rest of the bullpen was relatively fresh; Here Came Trevor; and the game immediately went to hell.* “We want our closer to feel like he’s king of the world when he walks out on that field,” Matheny told reporters last month after allowing King Trevor to throw approximately eight million pitches in two consecutive uglier-than-this-blogger-in-seventh-grade outings against the Marlins.

Seriously, Mike?

The “king” isn’t an idiot. This emperor knows when he’s been pantsed. He can hear the crack of the bat and he can read the scoreboard. When you send him to the mound after he’s already thrown thirty pitches four games in a row, that’s not a coronation—it’s an invitation to the other team to wait for a high fastball they can wallop, to the fans to grumble and seethe, and to Dr. Andrews to start a file for Rosey in his “future Tommy John patients” folder. Oh, and by the way, it’s a great way to make all those other guys in the bullpen feel like peons, but hey, long live the king, right?

Pssst….Dr. Andrews….I don’t suppose you have a colleague who specializes in closer-induced cardiac problems, do you? Because I know at least 97 people who need appointments.

 

* Yes, the game was already most of the way there thanks to the napping offense and the Holliday-assisted RBI “double,” but I’m ranting about other things right now.

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