As we continue The Cardinal Nation’s annual recaps of the just-completed season across the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, we offer our review of relief pitchers from the Appalachian League Johnson City Cardinals.
Pitching was not the strength of the rookie-level club, as the staff came in seventh in the 10-team circuit with an ERA of 3.93, a full run behind the league leader. The Cardinals issued the fourth-fewest walks but were a middle-of-the-pack sixth in strikeouts.
The Cardinal Nation’s Johnson City Cardinals reporter Curtis Carden watched the club all season long and weighed in with TCN’s winner of the club’s Relief Pitcher of the Year. For fun, Brian Walton decided in parallel to take a stats-based look as was done for the other club’s bullpenners.
First is Curtis’ decision.
The selection of the Johnson City Cardinals 2014 Reliever of the Year Award came down to the wire with Jonathan Escudero walking away with the honors.
During the Cardinals’ Appy League title race, the 21-year-old pitched in 20 games, often for multiple innings, and finished the year with a 5-1 record, two saves and a 2.68 ERA. Also in consideration were the club’s top closer, Ismael Brito, Anderson Gerdel and Juan Caballero.
Escudero boasted the third-lowest ERA on the team, trailing only starter Ian McKinney (1.26) and Gerdel (1.50). Johnson City's first-year player brought heat to the hill, as evidenced by his fanning 56 batters over 40 1/3 innings pitched. Both numbers were Cardinals reliever bests.
The month of August was crucial to the Cardinals’ title hopes and Escudero was front and center when it mattered most. The righty appeared in six games during the final month, going 4-0 with one save in one opportunity. Without his contributions, especially down the stretch, the Cardinals may very well have missed the post-season.
Speaking of which, the Colombian native added 6 1/3 innings of work in the playoffs, allowing just one run.
Now, let’s look at the numbers.
Manager Johnny Rodriguez had five relievers with a total of 24 converted saves. Brito was the team leader with just over one-third, nine. Speaking of nine, that is how many relievers finished games. Nine of the 10 relievers in the table below also earned holds.
Ten Cardinals who were primarily relievers pitched at least 10 innings. Their stats follow, listed in ascending ERA order.
|JC Cards relievers||W||L||ERA||G||SV||IP||H||R||ER||HR||BB||SO||HLD||GF|
A quick look at the data suggests that Gerdel and Escudero would be the leading candidates as the only relievers with ERAs under 3.00. Brito is down the page despite his save total, as is Caballero to a lesser extent.
Let’s also look at strikeouts, walks and baserunners allowed, with WHIP, walks and hits per innings pitched, as the surrogate for the latter.
|JC Cards relievers||ERA||WHIP||K/9||BB/9||K/BB|
The above table is sorted by the right column, strikeout to walk ratio.
From our contenders, Escudero had the best strikeout rate as the only reliever with better than 11.5 K’s per nine innings. Gerdel, also 21 years of age, was stingiest with free passes. Because Escudero’s walk rate was over double Gerdel’s, the latter comes out better in strikeout to walk ratio.
However, when it gets right down to it, the numbers are close enough that given Escudero’s playoff-assisting heroics, I understand how Curtis made his choice – with his eyes more than a spreadsheet.
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation Johnson City Cardinals Reliever of the Year for 2014, Jonathan Escudero.
Link to master article with all 2014 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Johnson City Cardinals Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
© 2014 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.