Quad Cities Bandits 2012 Reliever of the Year

In a close competition, Ethan Cole edged out Heath Wyatt as our choice as the Cardinals top Midwest League reliever.

From the first week of the season, the Quad Cities River Bandits' bullpen struggled. Fans wondered all year what the Cardinals saw in some of the relief pitchers and why they kept their jobs. Missing the playoffs cannot be blamed on just the relievers, but since the season came down to just two games, it's easy to say that several bullpen breakdowns cost them the chance to defend their Midwest League title from 2011.

Today's recap is meant to point out the highlights, though. To select a Reliever of the Year, I used the following criteria:

* At least 50 innings pitched
* ERA less than 3.50
* Primary role was as a reliever instead of a starter
* WHIP less than 1.40

With those qualifications in mind, I considered four relievers for this year's honor. They are Jonathan Cornelius, Danny Miranda, Heath Wyatt, and Ethan Cole. I'll review the highlights of each.

Jonathan Cornelius came to the Quad Cities as a starter replacement for Todd McInnis. Jon did a good job in the starting position, but was quickly transitioned to the bullpen. He had eight starts and fifteen appearances from the pen. The left-hander carried an ERA of 3.27 and a WHIP of 1.31. Jon had a good head for the game, threw hard and exhibited good control while keeping batters off balance with a mix of pitches. While carrying a record of just 1-2, he kept the Bandits in many games that would have otherwise been blowouts. I'll keep him on my personal watch list.

Danny Miranda turned 22 right at the end of the season. He's built more like a football player than a pitcher, but he was also very effective as a reliever. Danny was promoted to Palm Beach in early August. While he was in the Quad Cities, his ERA was 3.25 in 38 appearances. The lefty struck out 48 and gave up 16 walks. It seemed that he was able to hold the opponent off the bases in close games that helped the team stay in the race at the end of the season.

Ethan Cole was one of the unofficial designated closers this year. He has shown good power and control from the mound. The right-hander averaged just less than two innings per outing and had an ERA of 1.98. Late in the game, it was sometimes easy to miss the pitching change but it was east to tell that Ethan had come in because he quietly made his presence known as he controlled the final innings. With a record of just 4-1, it shows that he was called on when his team already had the lead in the game. Cole only recorded one save - more evidence that his job was to hold the lead.

Heath Wyatt, 6'2", 185 pounds, has a real pitcher's build. He turned 24 at the end of the season so he is older than most of the guys in the league. With 20 saves on the year, the right-hander outdistanced the rest of the team in that category. He only gave up two home runs in 55 games. Heath struck out 57 and walked 20 in 64.1 innings. His WHIP was just 1.13 for the season.

The rest of the bullpen was eliminated by these four categories, but I think that one more pitcher deserves an honorable mention. Robert Stock came back to the Quad Cities under very challenging circumstances to transition from catcher to pitcher. He didn't have a stellar year, but he did well in his first season of pitching since college. I'm sure that he would have preferred catching in Palm Beach instead of pitching here, but he had an all-star attitude all summer. Kudos to Rob!

My congratulations go to Ethan Cole as The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Quad Cities Reliever of the Year. I've spent a month trying to decide between Ethan and Heath and it could have gone to either of them. But in the end, Ethan's stats were just a little better. I don't expect to see any of these guys back in the Midwest League next year.

Link to master article with all 2012 award winners, team recaps and article schedules.

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