The Cardinals’ unreliable bullpen was one of the biggest flaws of the 2016 season. Brett Cecil looks to change that.

Cecil’s ability to keep a lead and get lefties out will be invaluable this season.

The Cardinals bullpen last year wasn’t awful, but it most certainly was not great. It ranked 13th in the MLB in fWAR, at 4.2, and 13th with its 3.62 ERA.

Combined with questionable bullpen management skills, the Cardinals reliever corp combined to be “meh”.

Thankfully, Brett Cecil is pretty hard to misuse as a manager. As a former starter, Cecil has an ability to get out both LHH and RHH. Discounting his down 2016 due to injury (one in which he tremendously rebounded in during the second half), Cecil’s splits have been even as a reliever. In 2015, he limited RHH to .198 BAA, and LHH to .195 BAA. In 2014, he was better against RHH by .34.

Cecil’s career since moving to the bullpen has been largely successful. From 2013-2015, he posted ERAs of 2.82, 2.70, and 2.48, showing dominance in one of the hardest divisions to pitch in: the AL East. Now, as Cecil hops leagues into the NL Central, he’ll face new competition that he’ll look to feast on.

2016 was not Cecil’s best. Limited to only 36.2 innings due to injury, it was really the tale of two seasons. After recovering from his lat injury, he found success in the second half – posting a 3.18 ERA over the last months of the season.

In 2017, look for him to be better. An already dominant reliever, he will be adding a change up to his repertoire. This will be another weapon that will be especially effective versus righties.

Cecil has shown he can get both lefties and righties out effectively, making him really tough for Mike Matheny to misuse. He can pitch in all situations, thus making him the safety net of the bullpen.

With the injury to Zach Duke, Cecil becomes even more valuable. The loss of the dominant LOOGY from 2016 would be much more worrisome if it weren’t for Cecil, and he can do much more than Duke could in the first place.

Factor in Cecil and a full year of Oh in the bullpen, Cardinals fans should have a lot of confidence in the ‘pen this season. Make sure to stay tuned in until Opening Day as Cardsblog breaks down the top 30 things to be excited for this season!

PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports