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Mad Em-Dashes is a St. Louis Cardinals blog by Dan Moore that does not want to waste your time. 

Why treating Trevor Rosenthal like he's Ryan Franklin could be a bad idea

Tony La Russa overused his fair share of relievers. It's weird to say so, since his most lasting fame will come from carving every pitching role into tiny slices, but if you look at the Cardinals who've made the most relief appearances since 1996 you'll find a lot of weird seasons to half-remember from his tenure.

Early on you'll find a ton of long relievers, a role modern bullpens have largely La Russa'd out of existence—Manny Aybar threw 97 innings in 65 games, Mark Petkovsek 96 in 55, John Frascatore 95 in 69, all before 2000. In the middle years you'll see Steve Kline and Ray King.

All the way through you'll see guys getting leaned on like the Cardinals are leaning on Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez now. Here's every righty between 2000 and 2011 who threw at least 65 games for the Cardinals, organized by batters faced. I apologize for jarring all your Gene Stechschulte memories loose.

Player G Year Age G SV IP H R ER BB SO ERA BF
1 Ryan Franklin 74 2008 35 74 17 78.2 86 34 31 30 51 3.55 346
2 Dave Veres 71 2002 35 71 4 82.2 67 34 32 39 68 3.48 346
3 Kyle McClellan 68 2008 24 68 1 75.2 79 37 34 26 59 4.04 327
4 Ryan Franklin 69 2007 34 69 1 80 70 28 27 11 44 3.04 317
5 Dave Veres 71 2000 33 71 29 75.2 65 26 24 25 67 2.85 310
6 Izzy 74 2004 31 74 47 75.1 55 27 24 23 71 2.87 308
7 B. Looper 69 2006 31 69 0 73.1 76 30 29 20 41 3.56 308
8 Kyle McClellan 68 2010 26 68 2 75.1 58 20 19 23 60 2.27 307
9 Mike Timlin 67 2001 35 67 3 72.2 78 35 33 19 47 4.09 307
10 Stechschulte 67 2001 27 67 6 70 71 35 30 30 51 3.86 301
11 F. Salas 68 2011 26 68 24 75 50 20 19 21 75 2.28 295
12 Kyle McClellan 66 2009 25 66 3 66.2 56 27 25 34 51 3.38 288
13 Dave Veres 71 2001 34 71 15 65.2 57 29 27 28 61 3.7 279
14 Julian Tavarez 74 2005 32 74 4 65.2 68 28 25 19 47 3.43 278
15 Jason Motte 78 2011 29 78 9 68 49 22 17 16 63 2.25 268
16 Julian Tavarez 77 2004 31 77 4 64.1 57 21 17 19 48 2.38 268
17 Russ Springer 76 2007 38 76 0 66 41 18 16 19 66 2.18 257
18 Jason Motte 69 2009 27 69 0 56.2 57 32 30 23 54 4.76 244
19 Al Reyes 65 2005 34 65 3 62.2 38 15 15 20 67 2.15 244
20 Russ Springer 70 2008 39 70 0 50.1 39 14 13 18 45 2.32 205

Now here's the Mike Matheny list, organized by batters faced.

Player GR Year Age G SV IP H R ER BB SO ERA BF
1 T. Rosenthal 74 2013 23 74 3 75.1 63 25 22 20 108 2.63 311
2 Mitchell Boggs 78 2012 28 78 0 73.1 56 20 18 21 58 2.21 296
3 Jason Motte 67 2012 30 67 42 72 49 23 22 17 86 2.75 279
4 F. Salas 65 2012 27 65 0 58.2 56 28 28 27 60 4.3 256
5 Edward Mujica 65 2013 29 65 37 64.2 60 20 20 5 46 2.78 255
6 Seth Maness 66 2013 24 66 1 62 65 17 16 13 35 2.32 249

Now here's the difference:

Mike Matheny plays favorites. In two full years as manager Matheny has qualified six players for this chart; La Russa had 20 in 12. This year Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, and Pat Neshek (and Kevin Siegrist, from the left side) are on pace to qualify. #Mubogmot isn't just a great piece of Photoshop work, it's a usage pattern.

Tony La Russa loved old guys. It verges a little too much on the Gladwellian to laud Tony La Russa for his unwavering loyalty to baby boomers after 15 years of rolling our eyes at it, but look at that Tony La Russa list—Kyle McClellan, may he rest in peace, is the only guy on it under 25.

Ryan Franklin, Dave Veres, Braden Looper, Jason Isringhausen—in exchange for a steady job a year or two after they deserved to have one, Tony La Russa worked his aging relief pitchers like Boxer the Horse.

Trevor Rosenthal is on pace to throw 77 innings this year, and if he doesn't bring his walk rate down he's on pace to face 337 batters while doing it. For Carlos Martinez, who is 22 years old, those numbers are 85 and 348.

This isn't about portraying Tony La Russa as an enlightened young-arm conservationist; whether by luck or design he rarely had the chance to ruin a young arm, so it's hard to say what would have happened if Jimmy Journell or Blake Hawksworth had reached the major leagues with his faculties intact. Things hardly turned out well for Kyle McClellan.

This is what it's about: Mike Matheny has found himself in a terrible situation, one where his third most-dependable right-handed reliever is Pat Neshek and his fourth is nobody knows. And he's dealt with it by using Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez like they're Ryan Franklin.

Tony La Russa was a major league manager for 19 years before he showed up in St. Louis, and I'm sure he had learned a lot of hard lessons by then. I hope Mike Matheny learns fast.