With everybody and their cousin (including me) calling for Jason Isringhausen’s beheading, the Cardinals closer stepped down from the role on his own, if only for the time being.
But wait. In case you forgot, there isn’t really a top-notch replacement.
However, don’t fret yet, guys. Chris Perez is waiting in the wings.
First, I want to take a minute to defend the big guy. Cards fans have complained about Izzy for years, but the fact of the matter is he has provided stability to perhaps the most important role on the team.
In his six years on the team prior to this season, he’s had 205 saves and only one year with an ERA over three. Although he’s had his ups and downs, he’s been great for the most part.
As I commented on in earlier weeks, Izzy had been suffering from a lack of confidence as well as effectiveness. When he and La Russa met after the former closer blew his major league-leading fifth save, they both agreed on what was best for the team.
It’s obvious that Ryan Frankin and Ryan Springer are not going to become top-flight closers in the MLB at this point in their careers. It's clear that Izzy doesn't have enough left in the tank.
So will St. Louis dip into the fountain of youth for once and give Perez, who is probably the top pitching prospect in the system, a shot at the big time?
I HOPE SO.
I don’t necessarily think he can step in and pull a K-Rod, being lights out immediately on arrival and become one of the best closers in the league — but MAN, this kid has the assets. My baseball instinct salivates at his skills and confidence.
The talent is there. Perez has a fastball in the low- to mid-90s topping out at 98. He also has a nasty slider that some compare to Brad Lidge’s. He also has a strong curveball and changeup.
His numbers this season at Memphis also indicate he is ready for the bigs. He has over 11 strikeouts per nine innings, a 2.65 K/BB and an ERA of 2.16. He has the ability to be effectively wild, but his control is still his biggest enemy.
There are obviously pros and cons to bringing Perez up right now. Some time and experience under Dave Duncan and Co. could mold him into a lights-out player. However, if he ever gets rocked a little too hard and his confidence becomes shaky, he could be lost for good as a future closer.
I trust in La Russa and Duncan to make the right decision. I just hope it involves landing the first-place Redbirds a reliable finisher.