The St. Louis Cardinals, are claiming to anyone who will listen, they are planning to go with the "closer by committee option" heading into Spring Training. What this translates to is the Cardinals have no idea who their closer will be going into the 2019 season.
Call me old school, or whatever you want, but I'm not a big fan of this closer by committee approach. I believe the Cardinals will need to identify a closer early in the season. If the team is still trying to find who can close out games in August, then the Cardinals will be in trouble.
Nevertheless, let's look at the Cardinals side of this argument and why I believe, in spite of what they're saying, they will not use the closer by committee approach.
THE VIEW FROM THE FRONT OFFICE
President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak started the conversation by telling MLB.com's Jenifer Langosh,"We don't feel like there's that one player out there we could target if we were patient enough." Now, Mozeliak wasn't specifically just talking about the Closer position, but the translation is clear, the Cardinals are not planning to sign or trade for a closer. In other words, the Cardinals won't be pursing Craig Kimbrel or anyone else.
General Manager Michael Girsch continued the Cardinal organizational line by telling Mark Saxon of the Athletic, they would focus on versatile bullpen help if they need to make another move before spring training. In other words, they won't be looking for bullpen specialists.
It seems by these statements, the Cardinals without a named closer, are leaning toward the bullpen-by-committee approach.
However, Mozeliak also told Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "ultimately, I hope we have someone we can count on for that ninth." Say what? This does seem like a little double talk.
THE VIEW FROM MIKE SCHILDT AT THE WWU.
Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt followed up Mozeliak's and Girsh's statements with Hochman of the Post Dispatch at the WWU. Shildt stated, the Cardinals may not have an official closer, and "the games has evolved, we have more information now."
Using Andrew Miller and Jordan Hicks as examples, Schildt said there are times he would use Hicks in the eighth inning and Miller in the nine. Schildt continued,'two days later that could be conversed, and that's my ultimate job to guys in the position where they can best be successful.
In other words, the situation will dictate who closes out a game. Consequently, Shildt will manage the game situation and make a determination who will close. It might be a lefty like Miller one day, or a right hander such as Hicks or John Brebbia on another.
If you want to read more about the Cardinals view on the closer situation, read fellow CN-247 Network writer Donald A. Glenn, Jr's article, 'In Search of a Closer', on his conversation with Al Hrabrosky at the WWU.
JORDAN HICKS IS THE REAL PLAN
No matter what is currently being promoted, Jordan HIcks is where the Cardinals plan to land in the closer role for 2019. This is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to what the Cardinals have been saying about Hicks.
The young fireballer has a fast ball that has reached 105 mph and a sinker that can also reach triple digits. Additionally, Hicks has the high self-confidence in himself and a seemly cool head that's needed in a closer. Finally, he got some experience in 2018 in high leverage situations by accumulating six saves.
The knock on Hicks is his high walk rate and a ERA of 3.59. Not bad for most pitchers, but for a closer it's not good enough. So the Cardinals will be asking Hicks to increase his strikeout rate and reducing his walks by more use of his sinker.
The closer-by-committee approach is really just to give Jordan Hicks time to gradually ease into the closer role. Hence, why the statement from John Mozeliak seems to be contradictory.
Historically, this is consistent approach by the St. Louis Cardinals when in search of or trying to develop a closer. Not wanting to put pressure on young relievers who are not use to pitching in high leverage situations, the Cardinals will often rely on a series of pitchers to assume the role..if only temporarily.
In 2011, Cardinal Manager Tony LaRussa refused to name Jason Motte the official closer during the Cards stretch run. LaRussa used a 'bullpen by committee' approach with pitchers such as Fernado Salas, Michell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez, and Motte. But by the post season, Motte was the de facto closer.
This approach was also used in 2013 to transition Trevor Rosenthal into the closer role by Manager Mike Matheny.
The closer by committee approach is just to buy time to identify a permanent single closer, and not the solution. The St. Louis Cardinals will give Jordan Hicks time to ease into the role, and if he can't, another option will be found either internally or through trade.
Using the bullpen by committee is for the entire year is just a recipe for failure. As stated earlier, if the 'committee' approach is still being used August, the Cardinals will be in trouble. That's why I think they will identify a permanent closer, sooner than later.
Thanks for reading and let us know what your think. Follow us on our Twitter Page @CN_247 Network or on our Cn24-7 Facebook page. You can follow me @frrobinson1957 on Twitter.