Fox Sports commentator Ken Rosenthal says that, in the opinion of one rival executive at least, Cardinals reliever Edward Mujica has wilted under the pressure of being a closer for a contending team.
I don't buy it. Mujica didn't seem to be phased up to the last few weeks. And the Redbirds have been neck and neck in the race for the division title all season. Why would the pressure suddenly bother him after he had five months to get used to it?
I believe Mujica, who has been effective but not dominant with his stuff in his MLB career, has a sore shoulder and that is the reason for his struggles. Mujica's velocity is OK. But he's never had swing and miss stuff. And suddenly, with his mechanics off a touch, he's not seeing the same movement he had before. Ground balls are getting squared up just a little bit better and are turning into line drives.
I do think being the closer has affected Mujica, however. I believe that it's not because he doesn't want to be a closer but because he's had a perfectly-timed opportunity to up his stock just in time to hit free agency.
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Mujica went from being just another fish in a huge pond of middle relievers to being one of the few guys on the market who saved 35-plus games in 2013. So, even though his shoulder started to get stiff a few weeks ago, he wasn't about to taint his value by getting shut down due to arm troubles.
So he's gone out there with diminished stuff and tried to get by with smoke and mirrors. And his luck has simply run out.