Earlier today, Dave wrote about how we might be in a buyer’s market now. He was referring mostly to starting pitchers, but might that apply to relievers as well? The only reliever we seem to be getting news about is Jonathan Papelbon, and the news is that his market seems to be drying up. And with the Red Sox and Rays now looking to trade relievers, there may be more guys in play than previously thought. Either way, the Cardinals, true to their form, weren’t waiting around for the market to heat up. They have acquired the first relief pitcher of the trade deadline season, and didn’t pay much for it. Via Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:
— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) July 24, 2015
Steve Cishek is an interesting get. Entering the year, he was one of the better relievers in the league. From his full season debut in 2011 through the end of 2014, he had the 19th-best FIP- among qualified relievers, and three of the guys on the list ahead of him are out of baseball now. Last season, he whiffed a career best 30.6% of the batters he faced. He rode his slider — which he didn’t learn until 2009 — into prominence, and last year leaned on it more than ever.
This year, he hasn’t been as effective. Or, he wasn’t as effective in the season’s first two months. At the end of May, he had a 6.98 ERA, 4.20 FIP and 4.37 xFIP, and he had struck out 17 batters against 10 walks in 19.1 innings. He finished the month by taking the collar in a loss to the Mets, and that was the final indignity that got him sent packing.
After six scoreless, walk-free innings in Double-A, he was called back up, and has been much better since — a 0.71 ERA, 2.27 FIP and 3.49 xFIP in 12.2 innings. He has struck out 11 and walked just 4 since being recalled. And those strikeout numbers may come up in the near future, as Cishek’s contact percentage hasn’t changed since 2012. While his strikeout percentage last year may have been on the high end of the spectrum, this year’s 19.4% K% would seem to be on the far low end.
With the positive recent results and the harbinger of better results in the future, there is a decent chance that Cishek’s early season troubles are behind him, and that he’ll be a vital member of the Cardinals bullpen moving forward. They don’t need him to be the closer, Trevor Rosenthal has that job covered. The Cardinals in fact already had a pretty strong bullpen. Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness both have good SD-MD numbers as well, and overall the unit’s FIP- ranks 10th for the season, though it has been just 15th over the past 30 days. Add in Cishek and the rehabbing Jordan Walden, and there is quality depth there. And it didn’t cost St. Louis hardly anything.
A seventh round pick in 2012, Kyle Barraclough didn’t reach Double-A until his age-25 season this year, and in his first 24.2 innings there, he has walked 17.7 percent of the batters he has faced. He also walked a higher percentage of batters in his second turn at High-A than his first. He gets a decent amount of strikeouts, but he is not going to generate much excitement, and he represents another data point that the trade market thus far is favoring the buyers.