The Cardinal Nation July Reliever of Month

Chris Perry handed his promotion to Palm Beach by extending his scoreless streak to 11 1/3 innings over 10 games.

Perhaps I am going to have to attach a name to this new award for The Cardinal Nation in 2014, generically known as the Relief Pitcher of the Month. The intent is to offer a spotlight on those hurlers whose work would otherwise be obscured by more flashy numbers put up by starters.

After a review of the numbers for July, a familiar name is once again on top. The honoree is a 2014 repeater, though now with a new team. Chris Perry, our May winner with Peoria, again receives this recognition for his exceptional work in relief for both Peoria and Palm Beach last month. (In reality, Perry’s May was so good, he won the overall pitching award which included starters, too. The link to that article can be found in the table at the bottom of this page.)

Let’s start with the numbers. I narrowed down the long list of nearly 60 relief pitchers across the entire system to those who pitched at least 10 innings and logged an ERA under 1.50 during July.

10 candidates remained, five of whom had ERAs under 1.00. But only one was unscored upon all month.

Reliever Tm IP ERA WHIP R ER H HR BB K/9 BB/9
Chris Perry Peo-PB 11.3 0.00 0.450 0 0 2 0 13 3 10.3 2.4
Eric Fornataro Mem 18.7 0.48 1.044 2 1 12 0 17 7 8.2 3.4
Corey Baker PB 18.7 0.48 0.714 1 1 9 0 15 4 7.2 1.9
Dean Kiekhefer MEM 13.7 0.66 0.909 1 1 11 0 10 1 6.6 0.7
Jhonny Polanco PEO 12.0 0.75 1.000 1 1 3 0 15 9 11.3 6.8
Kevin Herget PEO 16.0 1.13 0.938 2 2 11 1 27 4 15.2 2.3
Kyle Grana SC 15.7 1.15 1.118 2 2 10 0 25 7 14.4 4.0
Steve Sabatino PEO 15.3 1.17 0.861 4 2 6 0 18 7 10.6 4.1
Kyle Barraclough PEO 13.3 1.35 1.145 5 2 11 0 18 4 12.1 2.7
Trey Nielsen SC 20.0 1.35 0.650 3 3 10 0 15 3 6.8 1.4

Not surprisingly, Perry also allowed the fewest baserunners as measured by walks plus hits per innings pitched, WHIP. Only five hitters even made it to first base in his 11 1/3 innings.

Perry, who turned 24 years of age during July, threw his first four frames with Peoria and his final 7 1/3 with Palm Beach following his July 9 promotion.

Lefty Dean Kiekhefer faced 51 batters last month and walked just one. Amazing. Six of the ten struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings, including Perry. The strikeout leader among this lowest ERA subset of 10 relievers is Kevin Herget of Peoria.

All things considered, we have our clear winner. Perry is hereby named The Cardinal Nation Reliever of the Month for July, though I think I will wait before renaming this award in a tribute to him. He was spanked in his first outing of August, but likely will get back to his dominating self very soon.

Other honorable mentions

Reliever Tm IP BB/9 ERA K/9
Dixon Llorens PB 11.7 6.2 1.54 16.2
Kevin Herget PEO 16.0 2.3 1.13 15.2
Kevin Carlow JC 11.3 3.2 8.74 15.1
Kyle Grana SC 15.7 4.0 1.15 14.4
Logan Billbrough PB 12.0 6.0 3.00 13.5
Jacob Booden SC 13.7 7.2 5.27 12.5
Josh Lucas PEO 11.0 0.0 4.91 12.3
Kyle Barraclough PEO 13.3 2.7 1.35 12.1

As the above table indicates, eight relievers with at least 10 innings pitched had 12 or more strikeouts per nine innings last month. ERAs and walk rates are listed to help provide context.

Herget was noted above, but his rate was only second-best overall. Leader Dixon Llorens is a regular on this list, but his walk rate of 6.6 per nine is a reminder that more work consistently throwing strikes is still needed. Same for Jacob Booden and Logan Billbrough.

High strikeout totals do not always translate to low ERAs. Take a look at the lines of Kevin Carlow, Josh Lucas and Booden in the above table if you need to be convinced.

For those wondering where hard-throwing Sam Tuivailala ranked, he fanned “only” 11.7 per nine last month, down from 19.2 in June. In his first month at Springfield, the right-hander kept his walk rate constant, still too high at 4.4 per nine.

Speaking of free passes, nine relievers pitched at least 10 innings and walked fewer than 1.5 batters per nine innings. Like above, strikeout rates and ERAs are included for comparison purposes.

Reliever Tm IP K/9 ERA BB/9
Danny Miranda PB 15.3 2.3 2.35 0.0
Josh Lucas PEO 11.0 12.3 4.91 0.0
Andrew Reidt GCL 10.0 8.1 5.40 0.0
Dean Kiekhefer MEM 13.7 6.6 0.66 0.7
Chris Thomas SPR 11.0 6.5 1.64 0.8
Anderson Gerdel JC 14.0 8.4 4.50 1.3
Trey Nielsen SC 20.0 6.8 1.35 1.4
Tyler Dunnington GCL 13.0 10.4 2.77 1.4
Ryan Sherriff SPR 12.3 5.8 4.38 1.5

Two of the three bullpenners who did not issue a free pass all month long had high ERAs, but not Danny Miranda of Palm Beach. Oddly, Lucas was among the top strikeout pitchers, walked no one in July, but still had an ERA approaching five. As August opened, the right-hander was sent down to State College from Peoria.

Last month’s winner

You may have noticed State College’s Kyle Grana remaining among the system-wide leaders in July, logging a 1.15 ERA following his June award. Grana was also fourth among qualifiers in strikeout rate at 14.4 in a strong follow-up month.

2014 monthly award winners

  Pitcher of Month Pitcher of Month Starter of Month Reliever of Month  
2014 The Cardinal Nation Cards organization The Cardinal Nation The Cardinal Nation 2014
April    Tim Cooney Nick Petree Justin Wright April 
May Chris Perry Chris Perry (none) (Perry) May
June   Rob Kaminsky Rob Kaminsky Kyle Grana June
July   Tim Cooney Sam Gaviglio Chris Perry July
Aug         Aug
  Player of Month        
2014 The Cardinal Nation Cards organization     2014
April  James Ramsey Jonathan Rodriguez     April 
May Randal Grichuk Randal Grichuk     May
June Rowan Wick Rowan Wick     June
July Magneuris Sierra Magneuris Sierra     July
Aug         Aug

Coming soon

Our monthly update to the Cardinals top 40 prospect rankings is coming this week, exclusively for TCN subscribers.

Premium Article Not yet a subscriber?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Take advantage of our seven-day free trial.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories