Edward Mujica gives bullpen new optimism and momentum

9:23 AM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
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(The Chirp) -- For yet another day, the Cardinals bullpen is ranked last in the league.  With a collective ERA of 5.44, a 0-4 record and a WHIP (Hits plus walks allowed divided by innings pitched ((H+W)/IP), of 1.48, the numbers are scary.  But the difference between being ranked last on Monday and again on Tuesday, is that optimism may be returning to this unit's future.

Rookie Trevor Rosenthal did his job Monday night, and avoided trouble in the eight inning, with two men on as he was able to sit down the heart of the Nationals line up.  But the big story right now is Edward Mujica.  Mujica, filling in for Mitchell Boggs as the team's closer by committee right now, pitched a perfect ninth, to solidify the Cardinals win. 

So, for now at least, the Cardinals do have an arm they can rely on in the ninth.

In his article this morning for the Daily Stateman, baseball writer Corey Noles takes a look at Mujica and examines if he could be the answer, at least until we know more about Jason Motte's immediate future. 

Mujica could be Cardinals' bullpen savior

When it was announced that the St. Louis Cardinals had traded third base prospect Zack Cox to the Miami Marlins for reliever Edward Mujica, it was at best a head scratcher. Now he is quickly becoming another deal where Cardinals General Manager saw a diamond in the rough.

Prior to coming to the Cardinals, Mujica was a home run machine-well, those batting against him were at least. He had quality pitches and put together a sub-3.00 ERA in Miami, but was susceptible to the longball.

For instance, during his two year stint with the San Diego Padres where he pitched in one of the largest ballparks in MLB, he had consecutive 14 home run seasons. Those are hefty numbers for a reliever.

When Mozeliak went after Mujica, he was looking to fill a very specific need-to solidify the Cardinals seventh inning. A quick glance at his numbers show what the front office saw in Mujica.

They saw a solution.

Once he arrived in St. Louis, the Cardinals put him in a position to succeed. The seventh inning was his home and with good reason. In 110 career appearances in the seventh, Mujica boasts a 1.88 ERA and has given up only 32 runs against 320 batters with a 6.91 SO/BB rate.
The seventh inning became his home and what he brought to the team made the difference for the Cardinals.

Without Mujica, the chances of the Cardinals making it to the postseason, let alone the NLCS, are slim at best.

He did his job.

Now, the Cardinals see Mujica as a potential solution to another problem.  In the absence of closer Jason Motte, the Cardinals have been looking for a closer to step forward. Mitchell Boggs had his shot, but after two blown saves in four opportunities and 12 ER in 8.2 innings, his chance has passed.

Boggs was highly successful as an 8th inning setup man in 2012, but it didn't translate well into the closer role. Batters hit .351 off of Boggs in his 10 appearances this season. When compared to the .211 average he held batters to over 78 games in 2012, the contrast makes it difficult to argue against moving him away from the ninth.

Boggs is a quality reliever, but his rough start to 2013 has cost the Cardinals three wins so far. In the tighter than ever NL Central, three wins will likely be larger than the margin between first and second place in late September.

Enter Edward Mujica.

In his 3.2 innings as a closer, Mujica has surrendered two hits and no runs. He's 2-for-2 in saves and had a solid 10-pitch ninth against the Washington Nationals on Monday to close out a one-run game.

He seems to be well composed on the mound in the ninth inning and has yet to be seriously shaken. He has good movement on both his fourseam fastball and his splitter.

His splitter, the only other pitch he's thrown in 2013, has been reserved mostly for getting the count back into his favor when the batter is ahead, according to Brooks Baseball.

Coincidentally, it seems to be working since he's drawing called strikes on it a full 50-percent of the time.

Regardless of what he's throwing, they all look nasty and seem to be keeping batters on their toes.

Whether his new found home in the ninth inning is short-term is entirely up to Mujica.

If he owns it, like he has so far, the job will be his.

Of course, the rest of the bullpen has to get him into save situations. While they have struggled early on, if Mujica hangs onto his new role it should give the other arms a better idea of their own day-to-day roles with the club.

With a little luck and a dash of consistency, Mujica closing could help to settle down the rest of the bullpen. The Cardinals need someone to steady the ship and right now Mujica is getting things done.
Corey Noles is a Cardinals Writer and Columnist for The Daily Statesman. His work is featured in numerous publications, as well as both regional and national websites. Contact him at cnoles@dailystatesman.com or on Twitter @coreynoles.

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