Miguel Batista or: How I Learned How to Stop Pitching and Give Up the Bomb

The Cardinals opening day roster was announced today. There were very few surprises. Kyle McClellan won the starting role vacated by Adam Wainwright when he announced his injury and broke the spirits of Cardinals fans everywhere. Jason Motte fortunately didn’t lose his spot because of a weak spring. Tyler Greene, Ryan Theriot, and Skip Schumaker are all present and willing to give up their individuality to blend into an indistinguishable mass of hustle, scrap, and grit. The only real shock is the presence of rookie Bryan Augenstein instead of Fernando Salas.

Augenstein came out of nowhere to put together a fantastic spring. He struck out 13 and walked only 3 in just over 11 innings. He completely deserves his spot on the MLB roster. If everyone is determined to make the competition for the last bullpen spot a battle between Augenstein and Salas, then the Cardinals made the right choice. Augenstein out-pitched Salas and earned a spot on the team.

But it’s not that simple. The real story here isn’t that Augenstein beat out Salas. The real story, or what everyone should be talking about, is the selection of Miguel Batista over Salas.

Miguel Batista is the 40 year old author of the crime novel Through the Eyes of the Law and, apparently, still a major league pitcher. Last year, with the Washington Nationals, he had an ERA of 3.70 and a 1.33 WHIP. These numbers are deceptively mediocre. He wasn’t nearly that passable.

In 82 innings, Miguel Batista struck out 55 batters and walked 39. He gave up 9 HR and had a BAbip of .257. His career BAbip is .299. So basically he was just lucky. He was lucky to be sufficient. And he’s only a year older now. His stuff is fading. He’s made an admirable career of being just decent enough (which is a lot better than most people could ever be in MLB) but it’s probably time to hang up the spikes.

I’m sure some people will point to Batista’s stats in spring training as the reason he made the team. He had a 1.59 ERA! That’s amazingly low! That would have been one of the best seasons in history if extrapolated to 162 games!

Spring training stats are meaningless. Especially for relievers. Relievers enter games in the later innings, when the starters are on the bench. The prospects and AAA fodder are taking at-bats. Most of the batters Batista faced in spring training were not MLB caliber players.

And that makes the next part worse. Miguel Batista didn’t really have a good spring. In eleven innings, he only struck out 6 and walked five. He also hit one batter and gave up 9 hits. That’s not good. That’s bad. He had a bad spring training and he still made the team.

Meanwhile, Fernando Salas gave up only 4 hits. He struck out 8 and walked 7 (still not great). He didn’t give up any HR. He even had an !!ERA!! of 0.73. So not only did he do the important things as well, or better, than Batista…he was also better at the unimportant things. He was better in every way.

And that’s not surprising. While Miguel Batista was lucking into mediocrity last season, Fernando Salas was putting up good numbers for the Cardinals in MLB and AAA. Salas had 29 strikeouts and 15 walks in thirty MLB innings last year. In AAA he had an exceptional 11.1 K/9.

There is no reason for Miguel Batista to make the MLB team this year while Salas continues to play in AAA. The bullpen is a weakness for the team. Instead of putting the best players out there, a washed-up veteran gets playing time over a MLB-ready rookie.

I wish I could say this was a surprise.

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