Hello. Here’s my latest report on individual Cardinal players and how they performed in 2022. And I try to see if what they did in 2022 can tell us anything about what to expect in 2023. As part of that, I take a look at flaws that must be addressed and corrected.

NEXT UP: Lefty reliever Genesis Cabrera, who has pitched out of the St. Louis bullpen over the last four seasons. He recently turned 26 and is seeking a turnaround year in 2023.

OVERVIEW: In a significant and disturbing decline from his 2021 season, Cabrera went off the rails in 2022. Maybe Cabrera’s troubles had to do with his being overused by manager Mike Shildt in 2021 and the lingering effects of burnout. Maybe it had to do with Cabrera’s illness (Covid) that sidelined him from June 25 through July 8 and left him fatigued. But after posting 1.2 WAR in 2021 – tied for 31st among 144 qualifying relievers – Cabrera was below the replacement level with minus 0.8 WAR in 2022. That ranked No. 202 among 203 relievers that worked a minimum of 44 innings. That’s based on the FanGraphs version of Wins Above Replacement.

HOW BAD WAS CABBY’S 2022? The numbers show us all that we need to know. Here’s a recap of Cabrera’s miseries. And the rankings you’ll see here pinpoint Cabrera’s standing among MLB relievers that pitched a minimum 44 innings last season. That’s because “Cabby” pitched 44.2 innings in 2022. Keep in mind that 203 relievers worked at least 44 innings last season.

1) Cabrera’s 4.63 ERA was his worst since his 2019 rookie season (4.87) when he worked only 20 innings and faced big-league hitters for the first time. His ERA for 2020-2021 combined was 3.41. Last season’s ERA ranked 171st among bullpen guys.

2) Cabrera’s 5.62 fielding-independent ERA (FIP) was not only the poorest of his career, but he reached bottom with the worst FIP by a reliever in MLB last season.

3) After churning a 26.5 percent strikeout rate in 2021, Cabrera’s punch-out rate declined to an alarmingly poor 16.5% last season. That ranked 193rd among 203 relievers.

4) Cabrera has always walked too many hitters; he has a bloated 12% walk rate over his four seasons. That’s terrible. He was on the wild side in 2022 with a 10.3% walk rate that ranked 141st among relievers that pitched a minimum 44 innings.

5) With the plummeting strikeout rate and elevated walk rate, Cabrera had a 1.6 strikeout-walk ratio in 2022. That ranked 195th among the 203 relievers.

6) Cabrera was damaged by an increased home-run rate. In 2021 he allowed only 0.39 home runs per nine innings – the 11th-lowest HR rate among MLB relievers. But in 2022 Cabrera was blasted for 1.6 homers per nine innings; that ranked 190th among the 203 relievers.

7) Struggles against LH batters: Hitters who swing from the left side had a .682 OPS vs. Cabrera in 2021 but got to him for a .757 OPS in 2022. And after striking out 25.7 percent of LH batters in 2021, Cabrera fanned only 16.4% of them last season.

8) Cabrera’s combined walks-hits per inning (WHIP) was 1.321 last season, his worst since his rookie season.

9) Cabrera had the equivalent of a 5.59 ERA against RH batters last season. And his strikeout rate against them fell 10 percent from 2021.

10) Cabrera wasn’t very good when pitching with runners in scoring position in 2021. But in 2022 he was even more vulnerable with RISP, getting slapped for a .308 average, .393 OBP and .462 slugging percentage. Last season Cabrera was responsible for allowing 50 percent of his inherited runners to score. Ugh.

BEFORE COVID IN 2022: 26 appearances, 32.1 innings, 2.78 ERA, 5.19 FIP, 19.5% strikeout rate, 11.2% walk rate. Opponents batted .183 against him with a .658 OPS.

AFTER COVID IN 2022: 14 appearances, 13 innings, 10.38 ERA, 7.27 FIP, 9.2% strikeout rate, 12.3% walk rate. Opponents rocked him for a .327 average and .943 OPS.

Observations: Cabrera wasn’t the same pitcher after his Covid experience. All of the stats cited above were weak and indicative of a serious decline. That said, if you look at how Cabrera pitched before getting the virus, you could spot some warning signs in his profile – as indicated by a lower than usual strikeout rate, his 5.19 FIP, and his average of allowing 1.4 homers per nine innings. But those problems definitely became more severe after Covid.

Cabrera struggled to control his emotions, and the frustration wasn’t good for his state of mind. You’ll remember the night (July 15) when Cabrera showed up Marmol on the mound, spiking the baseball and trying to storm off the mound as the manager arrived to replace him. Marmol pulled him back, and Cabrera received a stern lecture from Albert Pujols in the dugout. It was a bad look for Cabrera. The Cardinals gave up on Cabrera in late August, sending him to Triple A Memphis on Aug. 30. He didn’t pitch for the big club after that.

INEFFECTIVE FOUR-SEAM FASTBALL: Until last season the four-seamer had been a valuable armament for Cabrera. In 2021 he had a 33.3 percent strikeout rate with the pitch and limited hitters to a .364 slug. But in 2022, he had a 11% strikeout rate with the four-seamer and was walloped for a .550 slug.

What happened? Two things. (A) A drop in velocity. His four-seamer averaged 97.6 mph in 2021, then 96.1 mph before he was stricken with Covid last season, and then 95.6 mph after returning from Covid. And (B) until last season, Cabrera was outstanding when using the four-seam to pitch up in the zone and overpower hitters. His elevated four-seam was complemented perfectly by a nasty curveball that he’d drop into the lower part of the zone. But in 2022, Cabrera’s four-seam fastball landed lower in the zone and wasn’t nearly as imposing before. I can’t believe that he’d intentionally drop the four-seam fastball to a lower plane; it makes no sense.

The drag on his go-to pitch raised the possibility that Cabrera was pitching hurt. Manager Oli Marmol tried to alleviate the heavy workload put on Cabrera by Shildt in 2021. (A tired Cabrera had a 7.45 ERA in July-August of that season, but did rebound over the final month.)

USAGE PATTERNS: In 2021, Cabrera pitched with no days of rest on 18 different occasions; Marmol had him pitch without rest only five times in 2022. Cabrera has awful numbers when used on consecutive days without rest: an .845 OPS against him in 2021, and a 1.153 OPS against him in 2022.

CONCLUSION: 2022 was discouraging for Cabrera in virtually every way and raised legitimate questions about his future. Can he recover, raise his fastball velocity, and return to form as a bullpen asset? Will he shake off the effects of Covid, and get his mind and body together? If Cabrera can rebound in 2023, his return as a power pitcher would be a pretty big deal for the Cardinals. If Cabrera fails, the Cardinals would have a shortage of proven lefties in the bullpen. As of now, their potential lefty relievers (currently in the system) include Packy Naughton, Zack Thompson, JoJo Romero, and rookie prospect Connor Thomas. There’s always a chance of a surprise – as was the case with right-handed rookie Andre Pallante last season – so we can never be sure of potential developments.

CABRERA’S GRADE FOR 2022: Unfortunately it’s an “F.”

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link. We’ll have a new podcast ready for you on Monday, Jan. 16.

All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.

Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.