Making the Case for Jason Motte as St. Louis Cardinals Closer

By now, we’ve all heard about St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin’s historical meltdown on the mound. Only charged with allowing six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, he gave up eight runs while he was attempting to close out the game.

I was so angry last night that I couldn’t gather my thoughts. Something attuned to puking in my mouth might have happened because the implosion was so damn gross.

The comeback in the final inning was the biggest in Colorado Rockies history. No surprise there when you enter the final inning trailing 9-3 and win 12-9.

With the Cardinals leading 9-4, Franklin came in to relieve Dennys Reyes, who had already allowed a run. Well, it just started from there and never really stopped. The snowball effect was helped along by a fielding error from Randy Winn to allow Carlos Gonzalez to tie the game.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is only the third time in major league history that a team scored nine or more runs in the last inning of a walk-off win. The last time that happened was over a century ago in 1901.

I’m not one of those crazy, irrational fans who call for a player or a coach’s head after a major blunder. However, the case must be made for Jason Motte to take over the closer’s role.

I’ve tolerated Franklin this year because he hasn’t been prone to blown saves or major letdowns like past years. Before this game, he had recorded 15 saves with a 2.16 ERA. I wish I had the previous WHIP numbers but I don’t. His current WHIP of 1.16 clearly signifies that before this game, he was an effective pitcher. His only blown save was on May 7, two months ago.

However, I have said all along that the Cardinals need to push Motte into the closer’s role. Although Motte had his own struggles last season where he was given the closer’s role and then lost it, he has been stellar this season.

He threw a quick six pitches for three outs last night. Through 33.0 innings pitched, he has a 2.18 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with a K/9 of 9.82 while Franklin only has a K/9 of 5.08.

Forgive me if I would rather take a strikeout pitcher over someone who constantly puts the ball in play (see: July 6, 2010, Cardinals vs. Rockies).

Motte is primarily a fastball pitcher who has been clocked in the upper 90s. He is also 28. Franklin is 37, which means he’s the opposite of young. He’s also a former steroid user (had to throw that in there).

Motte has only allowed two runs over his last 20 appearances while Franklin has allowed four, not including last night.

Also, not including last night, Franklin has given up 17 hits in 20 games while Motte has given up eight. That’s less than half of Franklin’s total. I think it’s safe to say that a trend was forming even before Franklin blew the gasket off.

In April, the Cardinals had the best pitching staff in all of baseball. Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, rookie sensation Jaime Garcia, Brad Penny, and Kyle Lohse made up the best top-to-bottom starters. And then Lohse was lost for the season and Penny was put on DL. All of a sudden, Adam Ottavino, Blake Hawksworth, and Jeff Suppan were giving up runs like free change.

With Penny suffering another setback in rehab, the Cardinals now rely on solid pitching more than ever. Already two games back of the Cincinnati Reds after last night’s debacle (thank goodness for the New York Mets and Johan Santana), the Cards need to make a change and make it now.

St. Louis has the worst record of any first- or second-place team in the National League. If Tony La Russa waits, the Cards could find themselves out of the playoffs with a team that includes two pitching aces, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Colby Rasmus.

Stunning for a team that was considered untouchable in April.

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