Miguel Batista's Mediocre ERA Finally Matches His Mediocre Year

All this year the St. Louis Cardinals have had two veteran relievers and ex-closers struggle through down seasons. One of them, Ryan Franklin, has become a bullpen pariah, unusable in all but the most clearly out-of-control games in either direction; the other, until Tuesday's game against the Washington Nationals, had an ERA of 2.28. Such are the vagaries of life as a relief pitcher, where one bad inning can mark an entire season, but in this case Batista's ERA now finally represents the way in which he's struggled in 2011. 16 strikeouts and 17 walks don't often lead to an ERA under three; they don't often lead to an ERA of 3.81, either, but this is an improvement, at least. 

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Miguel Batista is not a crafty veteran pitcher. I can't emphasize this enough. He's by all indications an intelligent, thoughtful pitcher, but he doesn't pitch in the way that "crafty" and "smart" have come to mean for pitchers in the post-Greg Maddux era. Walking more than five batters per nine innings, he resembles nobody so much as a 22-year-old flamethrower who's earned the ten-cent-head appellation—and that's his plan on the mound, too, where he pipes fastball after fastball in with middling command. The Todd Wellemeyer plan for relief success doesn't get any baseball-smarter as you get older, or smarter.

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I don't know what Tony La Russa sees in Miguel Batista, but it's the wrong thing. As his ERA rises to meet his peripherals, that will become clear to more people, and we can only hope he's one of them.

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