The 2008 Johnson City Cardinals roster saw forty-one different players receive playing time during the season. Twenty-two of those were pitchers and nineteen were position players. Of the twenty-two pitchers, seventeen were part of the tandem starting (piggyback) pitcher rotation system and eleven were relievers. Six pitchers saw action at various times during the season as both a starter and a reliever. Of the forty-one players who saw playing time, twenty-one players (fifty-one percent of the roster) were on another Cardinal minor league team at some point during the season.
As most who read this article know,
the Johnson City Cardinals used what is known as the "piggyback" starting system
this year. The piggyback or tandem
starting system pairs two pitchers together as a unit for a game. This year,
I categorized each pitcher as a
"piggyback starter" or "reliever" for each of
One advantage of being a reliever in a piggyback starter system is your win-loss percentage. Since a starter must complete five innings to qualify for a win and since that same starter is being limited to about sixty-five pitches, it was not unusual for a starter to last only four innings. A reliever would almost always pitch between the two piggyback starters in these cases and they would often qualify as the winning pitcher if the first starter pitched well, if not efficiently.
The relievers for
The relievers led the statistics in several categories that most would expect them to. The relievers finished 54 of the 66 games (82%) while recording 76% of the team's saves and 53% of the team's holds.
The list below shows the reliever names, number of games pitched as a reliever, saves as a reliever, innings pitched as a reliever, and number of holds as a reliever. The list is ordered from top to bottom by the number of games pitched as a reliever.
Those pitchers who threw more innings as a starter or who threw more innings at another level in the Cardinals organization were not considered to be "in the running" for Relief Pitcher of the Year.
Andres Rosales, Scott McGregor, Carlos Gonzalez, and Jose Mateo all threw more innings as piggyback starters than as relievers. David Carpenter threw more innings for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals and LaCurtis Mayes threw more innings for the Batavia Muckdogs.
I will discuss each of the remaining five relief pitchers above in reverse order of how I ranked them for the award. All the rankings are relative to the five relief pitchers considered for the award.
Pichardo, 5th –
Pichardo ranked as the second-best reliever in 2007 for
Rondon, 4th – Rondon
became the closer of choice soon after LaCurtis Mayes was promoted to
Matt Frevert, 3rd – Frevert was a 28th round selection in the 2008 June draft who was also a late season promotion to the Quad Cities River Bandits. He finished second in ERA (3.26), first in WHIP (1.24), third in K/9 (10.7), and first in BB/9 (2.8). Frevert had one save, one blown save, and finished with a 4-0 record. He and Joel Pichardo were the only two relievers that didn't hit a batter all season. Frevert threw four scoreless innings in three appearances with the River Bandits while allowing a .267 batting average.
Maertz, 2nd – Maertz
has the most over-the-top delivery of all the pitchers on the staff. His "12-to-6" delivery motion produces a
lot of movement on his pitches so, as you might expect, you also get above
average walks and above average strikeouts. Maertz was a 44th round pick
in the June draft that played the entire season with
Samuel Freeman, 1st – Freeman has the highest velocity of all the relievers and had the added advantage of being the only left-handed reliever on the staff. Freeman had the ability to strike out hitters with nothing but his fastball. Freeman finished with a 4-1 record while recording two saves and two blown saves. Freeman was a 32nd round pick in the 2008 draft after being drafted and unsigned by the Cardinals in 2007. As a reliever, Freeman finished fourth in ERA (4.22), second in WHIP (1.59), first in K/9 (13.1), and fourth in BB/9 (5.1).
Freeman pitched his best game as a
spot piggyback starter, going three innings and allowing one hit, no runs, and
no walks while recording three strikeouts.
He was promoted to
Freeman's velocity will give him a
long look by the Cardinals. He can
throw as high as 94 MPH. His future
as a left-handed short reliever looks bright, especially if he can develop
slightly better control. Freeman
should be competing for the closer spot in
Note: Master article with all 2008 Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year and the schedule for daily announcements: link. (This link is also permanently located at the lower left of The Birdhouse home page.)
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