After making two starts for the team, the St. Louis Cardinals have taken Alex Reyes out of the rotation and placed him back into the bullpen. Is that where he belongs?
Mike Matheny has received a lot of flack this season for his decision making, especially when it comes to managing the bullpen. That makes this question of whether or not Alex Reyes belongs in the bullpen even more of a controversy. Although it doesn’t happen a lot, I actually agree with his decision to keep Reyes in the bullpen, but only for the time being.
The reason behind this is a combination of many things, with the main thought process that subscribes to the philosophy of “working with what you got”. Right now the Cardinals have another option for the slot Michael Wacha left behind, and his name is Luke Weaver. Sure he may not be as dominant as Reyes, but he profiles as more of a starter at the moment. And likewise, Reyes profiles way more as a reliever than Weaver.
Finesse Pitchers vs. Power Pitchers
For the sake of this discussion lets say there are two types of pitchers: finesse pitchers and strength pitchers. Finesse pitchers don’t throw as hard, but have more pitches in their arsenal and are typically more worried about hitting their targets. Strength pitchers throw hard, have two, maybe three good pitches, and can usually afford to miss a location or two. Examples of these include Aroldis Chapman, Trevor Rosenthal, and Craig Kimbrel. In today’s game, and throughout the history of baseball, finesse pitchers are usually given the role of starter. Throwing slower means less arm fatigue during and after games. More pitch variety means more ways to get the same batter out a couple times per game.
Weaver definitely fits into this category of finesse, sitting at an average fastball velocity of 92 mph and utilizing an arsenal of 4 pitches. Since he’s not going to be able to overpower the majority of professional hitters, he has to make use of his toolbox of pitches and his ability to hit spots and change speeds. Despite a lower velocity, Weaver has shown that he is still able to strike batters out; he has averaged 11.14 Ks per nine innings so far this season.
.@DreamWeava7 strikes out 2 and tosses a scoreless frame in the 1st.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 6, 2016
Alex Reyes, on the other-hand, profiles more as a strength pitcher. With a fastball that can hit 100 at times, Reyes can actually use his fastball as a reliable “out” pitch. Reyes is a guy that, with time, could transition to more of a finesse role even though he throws hard. Carlos Martinez is a perfect example that throwing hard doesn’t necessarily mean a guy is going to be put in the bullpen. A big problem with Reyes being a starter right now is his high pitch counts. In his starts so far this season, he always seems to be hovering at the high 80 pitch mark in the fifth inning of games.
A starting pitcher’s job is to keep their team in the game for as long as possible
If a starter consistently throws too few outs in a game, then the bullpen becomes more heavily taxed. Unlike Martinez, Reyes has been unable to maintain a lower pitch count. In his two starts with the team, Alex Reyes has gone 4.2 innings and 6.0 innings. Weaver has gone 6.0 innings both times in his last two starts. Although it’s not enough data to come to any real conclusions, Weaver has been able to eat up more innings for the team, which is another thing that favors him in the starting role over Reyes.
Another factor in taking Reyes out of the starting rotation and keeping Weaver in is their abilities to contain the long ball. So far this season Weaver has posted a HR/9 of 1.71, meaning that on average he gives up 1.71 home-runs per nine innings. Reyes on the other hand hasn’t given up a home-run in his 20 innings of pitching with the team, so his HR/9 is 0.00. Both of their minor league numbers show the same trend. Usually a team doesn’t want someone in their bullpen who is more prone to having home-runs hit off them. Because of this, Reyes, once again, belongs in the bullpen role for right now, since Weaver is their other option.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports