The Curious Case of Brian Tallet

Yes, there actually is a Castle Frankenstein

Just as the German peasants stormed Castle Frankenstein to destroy the monster in Mary Shelley’s novel, Cardinals fans and bloggers will soon begin their virtual siege of the Cardinals front office as they call for the immediate release of Brian Tallet.  If they have not done so already.

Why not release the veteran lefty ?   He is signed for just a single season, at a bargain salary of $750,000.   It would seem that losing half of that contract money would be better than continuing to lose game after game or tying up a valuable spot on the 25 man active roster.  It is the exact same financial situation as Miguel Batista, who the Cardinals released nearly two weeks ago, and much less than the Cardinals gave up when they cut Ryan Franklin loose.  In recent weeks, Tallet has been as ineffective as either Batista or Franklin, perhaps more so because he has such a specialized role: getting out left handed hitters.

Associated Press photo

With Tallet, it’s not quite that simple.  And I have to thank our friend William Tasker, author of the excellent The Flagrant Fan blog, for bringing this to our attention. A deeper look into Brian Tallet’s career in Toronto reveals two solid seasons and one excellent year as a reliever.  It was after Cito Gaston, perhaps out of necessity, moved Tallet into the rotation that things turned ugly for the lefty.

William’s assertion that Tallet had been improperly used in Toronto gained a lot of credibility at the start of the season when Tallet was particularly effective out of the bullpen.   Prior to breaking his hand in Arizona, Tallet was good.  Very good, in fact.  He did not allow a base runner in his first three appearances, and only allowed two runs (one earned) in all five, prior to the injury.  That adds up to a 2.08 ERA, and the four hits he allowed gave opponents from both sides of the plate a .235 batting average. Even for the small sample size (5 games, 4 1/3 innings), you can say that Tallet was getting it done.

It has not been the same for the veteran portsider since coming off the disabled list on May 22.  In 8 innings over 12 appearances, batters are hitting him .130 harder – but the key word there is harder because 4 of those 14 hits allowed have left the park.   He has also failed to retire left-handed batters, which neutralizes his usefulness as a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy).  An ERA over 10 runs and opponents hitting like Albert Pujols of old, Brian Tallet has just not been the same since coming off the disabled list.

The Cavalry are all Righties

An important consideration is his replacement.   There are no left handed relievers anywhere in the Cardinals minor league system that are ready to take Tallet’s place on the roster.  The closest would be Samuel Freeman who is dazzling us with a brilliant season in Springfield (AA).  He is certainly one to watch for the future, but not in 2011.

Rich Rundles is a sentimental favorite, and it is nice to see him back with Memphis.  If the Cardinals thought he was part of the future, they would have already bought his contract and he would be into his second or third season.  He still continues to follow his dream, and pitch effectively for the Memphis Redbirds.  And we continue to cheer for him.

With a few more appearances under his belt, perhaps Raul Valdes may be that full inning lefty successor, but at this point we still have to consider him somewhat of a curiosity.  Effective to be sure, but uncomfortably so.   Valdes doesn’t have anywhere near Tallet’s velocity, and his slider is more of the gliding sort than a sharp break that is needed to get out batters on both sides of the plate.  In a month, we might give this more of a consideration, but for now, let’s still hold our breath when Valdes is called out of the bullpen.

There is always the possibility that John Mozeliak will acquire some left-handed help for the bullpen by way of a mid-season trade.  With the every day woes in the middle of the Cardinals defense, a lefty for the bullpen seems a secondary need.   It could still happen, but when the Cardinals passed on JC Romero, that signaled a desire (or acceptance) to stick with what they already have in the system.

Unlike Miguel Batista, who I never thought should have been put on the roster, I am not ready to give up on Brian Tallet, just yet.  If the Cardinals can get comfortable with Raul Valdes, perhaps a short trip to the DL to work on mechanics, or maybe we fans will just have to hold our noses as he works it out on the center stage.  Either way, we need to get the April 2011 version of Brian Tallet back, and the sooner, the better.

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