Coming into the 2022 season, one major question for the St. Louis Cardinals was the bullpen. This was a 'pen that was shaky, to say the least, as they worked through burnt out arms and a walk issues. More specifically, pitchers like Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley, and Jordan Hicks weren’t exactly good all season as they dealt with these issues last season. Coming into the year Reyes was injured and Hicks is seeing time in the rotation. However, Helsley was moved back to the bullpen and is now succeeding more than ever and with that, no one expected it.
Ryan Helsley is a 6 foot 2, 230 pound right handed reliever who was drafted by the Cardinals in the 5th round of the 2015 draft. He did not make his debut until 2019 where he pitched to a 2.95 ERA in 24 games striking out 32 batters and walking 12. During the 2020 season, he fell apart with a 5.25 ERA in just 12 games. Helsley was injured, which played a significant role in his poor performance as it seems like it does with any ball player. But during that year, many players experienced the added adversary of COVID. What was alarming in Cardinal fandom was his 10 strikes to 8 walks ratio when he was on the bump.
2021 was a bit friendlier to him this time pitching to a 4.56 ERA with 47 strikeouts to 27 walks in 47 1/3 innings before hitting the injured list in August with a stress fracture in his elbow. His strikeout numbers have stayed consistent but the 27 walks in only 47 innings was a big red flag which I hold accountable to the injured elbow.
Coming into 2022 no one expected Helsley to do what he has done though. Ryan started the season as a mid relief pitcher. Cardinal's Manager, Oliver Marmol, named Helsley the closer after Giovanni Gallegos started to struggle in the 9th inning. So far through the 1st half of 2022, "Hellz Bellz" Helsley has pitched to a 5-1 record with a 0.69 (nice) ERA with 57 strikeouts in 39 innings compared to his only 12 walks and 1 home run given up. This season has been by far his breakout year. Compared to 2019, which was his previous best year, he has let up 20 less hits, 15 more strikeouts and the same amount of walks in roughly the same innings pitched. Oh... wait... I almost forgot to mention... he was named an All star this year and put up 103 MPH on the radar gun which was only done one other time by Aroldis Chapman back in 2017. The kid is really good and is untouchable with his fastball and has a wipeout slider which he uses as his strikeout pitch. He does have the occasional 12-6 curveball or circle change in his bag if he needs to go to them as well.
The Cardinals have someone really good on their hands with Helsley, who, if he keeps this up will be the anchor for this St. Louis Cardinals bullpen for years to come.