Kevin Siegrist: The Comeback Kid of the Cardinals Pen

I had a problem during Sunday’s game. Kevin Siegrist was in to pitch the 8th inning against the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Cardinals had a 4-3 lead. He allowed a hit, got the next hitter out on a sacrifice, and then Mike Matheny pulled Siegrist for Jonathan Broxton before Khris Davis took his swing. This infuriated me. One reason? Kevin Siegrist shuts righthanded hitters down, better than anyone on the team, including Broxton. Why was Matheny doing this?

The tale didn’t end well. Brox threw a first pitch fastball and Davis planted it in center field. Brewers win. Questioning the move got me some heat because it’s apparently illegal in the Midwest to question a 71-40 team. It just didn’t sit well with me. It also showed something that some mainstream writers have been missing. The brilliant comeback season of Siegrist.

Remember 2013? Siegrist couldn’t be touched. He struck out 50 in 39.1 innings. His WHIP(average walks/hits allowed per inning) was a scintillating 0.88. Siegrist was the bridge of chaos before hitters the ring of fire in the 9th. He was another reason that the Cardinals were revered. Along with Trevor Rosenthal, the bullpen was stacked. After a decent 2013 postseason where Siegrist seemed to finally wear down a bit and the roller coaster started to slip off the rails, it fell off in 2014.

The lefty was stricken with a forearm injury that never went away and sucked up months of his season. He was out of action from May 23rd to July 25th and when he came the results weren’t pretty. Siegrist allowed 15 earned runs in 10.1 innings the rest of the season, striking out 10 but walking 8. His fastball was flat and his breaking pitches sat on a tee. He had lost it and going into the 2015 season, nobody knew if he had it back. He was healthy but was the sizzle from his fastball forever lost.

Siegrist answered quickly. He was firing heat past wooden bats again. The contact was gone. Hitters had no clue, having studied that 2014 tape too much and forgetting what the kid could do. In May and June, Siegrist struck out 17 batters in 12 and 12.1 innings. His walks were down. He wasn’t allowed much. He held games in check for Rosenthal, and also took a few rounds in the 9th inning himself. Siegrist was the everyman for this brutally stout Cards pen. When the rotation needed help, Siegrist helped lead the charge to pick up innings. His 53.2 innings are tied with Rosenthal for the bullpen lead. With Jordan Walden out since late April, Siegrist has forged his role into a multi-faceted attack. He’s done so on the strength of a recovered four seam fastball, a circle changeup and a slider(per Brooks Baseball).

Not too bad for the 1,235th pick in the 41st round in the 2008 draft making 518,000 dollars. Siegrist didn’t disappoint in his June 6th, 2013 debut against Arizona. In 1.2 innings, he struck out 4 batters. Two years later, fans expect that dominance out of the 6 foot 5 215 pound Buffalo, New York native. After a stormy 2013 season, Siegrist is back in a big way.

Sunday, here’s why I wanted Siegrist to stay in there, just so I am clear. In 133 at bats against righthanded hitters this season, the lefty has held them to a .150 average(20 hits and 1 home run) while striking out 51 and only walking 8. Against lefties, Siegrist is much more human, allowing a .316 average and walking 11 in less than 60 at bats. The decision to bring in Brox to face Davis was dumbfounding due to Siegrist’s ability to get the job done.

Wednesday night, Siegrist recorded more than 4 outs for the 7th time this season, pitching the 7th and 8th innings to hold the Pittsburgh Pirates at bay for a 4-2 victory that pushed the challenging Bucs team 7 games out of first place. Just the latest example of the man doing his job in a big spot against a great team. The latest appearance in a season that rivals, if not shines brighter, than Rosenthal’s work.

How good is Kevin Siegrist? He has 65 strikeouts in just 53.2 innings, an average of 10.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. You may point to his 11.0 strikeouts per 9 last year, but unlike in 2014, Siegrist isn’t getting clubbed along with the whiffs. His fielding independent ERA(take away his defense) is 2.58. It isn’t the greatest statistic for a reliever, but shows how dominant he has been.

Siegrist isn’t arbitration eligible until 2017 and isn’t a free agent until 2020. He’ll keep doing his thing, deadly style, for another season on the cheap. While he isn’t exactly an unsung hero of this pitching staff, Kevin Siegrist doesn’t get enough credit for the transformation he’s shown this season.

-DLB

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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