When a reliever shoots flames that melt the radar gun and turn a Louisville Slugger into kindling he’s usually described as nasty, filthy or by a similar term you can find in a thesaurus.
I don’t have the perfect word for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal. Maybe I can say Rosenthal is uncouth. Feral. A brute. He’s definitely heavy-handed, with a right palm that launches grenades. When Rosenthal is on, hitters recoil.
I am flinging names at Rosenthal because he deserves praise, and in this instance of name-calling rudeness, I’m actually paying Rosey a high compliment by portraying him as a beast.
When you need three outs to subdue opponents and wrestle a victory for your team, bring on the barbarian pitcher. Rosenthal can be who he really is — a fine gentleman — after he conquers the enemy tribe. Or something like that.
As we witnessed again Wednesday night when he vanquished the Brewers to secure the final four outs of the Cardinals’ 5-4 win, Rosenthal is making the other team’s offense vanish into the mist. I don’t think he’s ever been this ferocious, or dominant over a stretch.
Here’s what I’m yapping about.
In 11 appearances since July 4, Rosenthal has:
— Posted an 0.69 ERA.
— Posted and an 0.22 fielding independent ERA, or FIP.
— Struck out 48 percent of the batters confronted.
— Averaged 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
— Whiff/swing rates of 41.4 percent on his four-seam fastball, 40 percent on his changeup, and 50 percent on his slider. And that data comes from the awesome Brooks Baseball.
— Taken on 46 hitters and allowed only seven to reach base (plus one sac bunt.)
— Has 22 strikeouts, with one walk and a hit batsmen.
— Allowed only five hits, all singles, in 42 opponent at-bats.
— A WHIP of 0.46 (walks and hits per inning.)
— Gave up one run; that came in during the dreadful loss at Citi Field, when Rosenthal failed to cover first base to get an out on a scorching, down-the-line grounder smashed to first baseman Matt Carpenter, who was playing deep. The deservedly criticized blunder gave the Mets a chance to escape with a 3-2 win.
Since taking that costly nap during live action, Rosenthal responded in his four subsequent scoreless appearances by striking out 12, walking or hitting no one, and getting scratched for three singles. He struck out 54.5 percent of batters faced and notched a win and three saves.
In three of the four appearances, manager Mike Matheny asked Rosenthal to get more than three outs, and Rosey ruled by permitting only three of 19 batters to reach base — and striking out nine of the 19.
Kudos to Matheny for deploying Rosenthal in a slightly unconventional way. It’s working. And while we’re talking about a sliver sample here, Rosenthal seems capable of the extra duty of stalking more than three outs to bag a win.
Since July 4 Rosenthal leads all MLB relievers with a 1.28 WPA (win probability added.)
But there’s been more to Rosenthal’s 2017 than one blazing stretch. Except for one ineffective phase in June, Rosenthal is having an assertive season.
In 45 games, Rosenthal has a 1.83 FIP. That would be the lowest of his MLB career, which ignited in 2013.
His strikeout rate is a career-nastiest 39.1 percent.
TR cut last season’s injury-inflated walk rate (14.7%) to 9.5 percent this year. His current K-BB% (29.6) is the best of his career.
His homers-allowed rate (0.46 per 9 innings) is the second-best of his career.
Among qualifying MLB relievers in 2017, Rosenthal ranks fifth in FIP, sixth in strikeout rate, seventh with 1.7 WAR, and ninth in K-BB%. His 25 “shutdowns” are tied for fifth.
Rosenthal’s right arm didn’t fire as expected in 2016; his injury led to a lost season.
Well, you know what they say about wounded animals.
Rosenthal is back. And he’s primeval.
Thanks for reading …