TCN 2014 St. Louis Relief Pitcher of the Year

It is Pat Neshek, not Trevor Rosenthal, who had the better season in a relief role for the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals.

Unlike 2013, when he came into camp competing as a starter, only to become the closer in September, Trevor Rosenthal spent the entire 2014 season as manager Mike Matheny’s ninth-inning man.

Normally, when a closer has 45 saves, just two off a share of the St. Louis Cardinals team record, his selection as The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Relief Pitcher of the Year would be a shoo-in.

Not so fast.

Cardinals fans know all too well that a ride with Rosenthal was often bumpy. Among the top half of National League closers, determined by the eight with the most saves, he had the:

• Second-most hits allowed (one from a share of the lead)
• Most walks issued by a considerable margin
• Highest WHIP, also by a considerable margin
• Highest ERA
• Most blown saves
• Most losses
• Lowest bWAR (tied)

If we lower the bar to include all NL relievers, Rosenthal’s six losses were tied for fifth-most, while his six blown saves were tied for sixth.

By any measure, it was far from a dominating year for the 24-year-old.


10 years Rosenthal’s senior, Pat Neshek faced the ultimate in insecurity this spring. The right-hander was without a sure big-league job, signing a minor league contract with St. Louis in early February that included a spring training invitation.

After making the team, it did not take long for the right-hander with the funky delivery to work his way into the set-up role. From April 11 through May 31, Neshek logged 22 consecutive scoreless outings covering 20 1/3 innings, the fifth-longest streak for any NL reliever this season. He went on to allow just two more runs through August 13, covering 49 appearances/46 innings.

When the All-Star Game selections were made, it was Neshek, not Rosenthal, who was named to the NL squad. Through the course of the season, the 34-year-old cemented his importance to the NL Central Division champions to the point he is The Cardinal Nation’s choice as St. Louis Reliever of the Year.

The tale of the tape between Rosenthal and Neshek will explain why.

  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
Saves 45 6  
Opportunities 51 10  
Percent 88.2% 60.0%  
NL rank #2   Rosenthal
  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
Holds 2 26  
NL rank   #6 Neshek

Of course, Rosenthal has the advantage in saves, as well as save percentage, but Neshek finished sixth in the NL in his comparable category, holds, with 26.

  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
Wins 2 7  
Losses 6 2  
Percent 0.250 0.778  
NL RP rank (Wins)   T5th Neshek

Neshek not only won over three-quarters of his decisions compared to Rosenthal’s 25 percent, his seven wins tied for fifth among all league relievers.

Now, let’s look at a couple of under-the-covers indicators.

  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
1st batter retired 43 58  
Appearances 72 71  
Percent 59.7% 81.7% Neshek
  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
Inh runners score 6 10  
Inherited runners 15 31  
Percent 40.0% 32.3% Neshek

Neshek retired more than 80 percent of his first batters faced, while Rosenthal was just under 60 percent. Further, under one-third of Neshek’s inherited runners came around to score, compared to Rosenthal at 40 percent.

  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
ERA 3.20 1.87  
NL RP rank   #7 Neshek
  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
FIP 2.99 2.37 Neshek

Neshek’s 1.87 ERA placed him seventh among NL relievers. Though the gap is narrowed when looking at fielding independent pitching, FIP, Rosenthal still comes up short in comparison.

  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
WHIP 1.408 0.787  
NL RP rank   #2 Neshek

In terms of walks and hits per inning pitched, WHIP, Neshek’s rate was almost half of Rosenthal’s and was second-best among all NL relief pitchers.

  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
K/BB ratio 2.07 7.56  
NL RP rank   #1 Neshek

Yes, Rosenthal strikes out a lot of batters, but he also issues a lot of walks. Neshek does not, which when put together, gives him the best strikeout to walk ratio among all National League bullpenners.

  Rosenthal Neshek Edge
bWAR 0.9 2.3 Neshek
fWAR 1.0 1.8 Neshek

No matter which flavor of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) you fancy, Neshek was more valuable in 2014.

With that, I rest my case. In every single measure noted above other than saves, Neshek had the superior year. With these results to back him up, TCN’s St. Louis Relief Pitcher of the Year should be able to cash in as a free agent this off-season.

For more

Link to master article with all 2014 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. That will include our selections as St. Louis Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year, coming this weekend.

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

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