June 09, 2016

#Cardinals and Matheny may hit new level of cluelessness (updated)

Mike Matheny, Cards'
managerial genius - NOT
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's plugged-in Derrick Gould, here's manager Mike Matheny's plan for the Cardinals' roster once Jhonny Peralta comes back off the IR.

Peralta to third.

Matt Carpenter to second.

And Aledmys Diaz the primary guy at short.

Erm, wrong!

Carpenter's the most steady player; he's tied for first with Matt Adams as highest OPS among starters. Why mess with his mind by having him switch positions? Especially since this may also hurt team D. (Given that Matheny was late to the table on things like defensive shifts, that probably hasn't crossed his mind anyway. Still ...)

Diaz, after a hot start, is slumping. He may need time off; the team may need to have that time to figure out how pitchers are catching up to him and how to help him adjust.

That leaves wobbling incumbent Kolten Wong, offseason acquisition Jedd Gyorko and call-up utilityman Greg Garcia to fight for time at second, with the latter two also looking to back up SS and third as needed.

None of this addresses other problems, which include:

1. A slow team, next to last in the league in stolen bases, with with a negative effective success rate of just 62.5 percent so far — with the most caught stealings in the league.

Update: I got B-Ref's No. 15 in caught stealing wrong. It actually means they're the best. But, per commenter Salvo, that's because they don't steal.

However, the success issue is still problematic, even if we paper over low attempts.

Per ESPN, the Cards rank No. 25 among all 30 MLB teams in success rate. And, as regular watchers of the team know, beyond steals, it has a history of stupidity as well as slowness in general baserunning, one that Matheny AND his staff have never addressed well, probably because they've never focused on it. Maybe that's because Matheny and Jose Oquendo are top coaching honchos.

So, the gist of my comments still stand; I've occasionally blogged for 2-3 years about general baserunning issues.

2. The struggles — almost as bad as Wong's — of Randal Grichuk. I was one of the naysayers in the offseason about GM John Mozeliak standing pat in the free agent market other than making a pitching overpay for Mike Leake (even if he may be one of the team's best starters this year).

It's small comfort to note that the similarly overpaid, in my book, Jason Wayward is performing just as poorly in Chicago, arguably more so, both offensively and defensively, although he does have half as many swipes, and at a better rate, than the entire Cards roster. (And, he probably would have been worse yet if the team's regular CF.)

I had argued to take a flier on Denard Span. He's not setting the world on fire, but he's doing reasonably OK out in the Bay. And, on the contract terms the Giants gave him, he could have prepared the Cards for some transition to a post-Matt Holliday world.


To summarize my thoughts from comments below:
1. Diaz, while not having been slumping enough to deserve benching, might well need more situational starts.
2. It's been a while since Carpenter played 2B, and that was before he was an All-Star. I don't like messing with established players.
3. Related to that, the fewer pieces you move at one time, generally the better.
4. Beyond comments below, Peralta's not played a single game at third since 2010.
5. This all reinforces my observations above about Matheny and semi-cluelessness about infield defense.


David Nitsch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gadfly said...

Given that neither Cruz nor Kozma is with this year's team in any way, shape or form, and given that, even if Cruz were with the team, the only spot he plays is catcher and therefore would be irrelevant to 3B/SS/2B defensive arrangements, David, I'm not sure where your comment is coming from.

Otherwise, unless Mo directly said: "Play Peralta at third," oh, yes, I can blame Matheny.

Now, nobody is to "blame" for the slow start of Grichuk, or Peralta's injury, that I'll give you.

Who's to "blame" for Martinez and Wacha, I'm not sure.

David Nitsch said...

Not saying Kozma or Cruz relate to this year's team just that the structure of this year's bench is far better than what we've had, giving Matheny more options.

I'm not saying you can't blame Matheny, only that you need to propose a plan of your own.

If you look beyond Grichuk's average there's reason to value his performance so far and be optimistic for improvement. The extra-base hits are still there and his defense has been above-average. His strikeout percentage is way down and while his BABIP is low it should level out leading to a rise average.

I believe Wacha and Martinez will turn it around, Martinez has already begun to. They both have too much talent to struggle all year.

Gadfly said...

Erm, I did propose a plan. Read the piece.

It's a better defensive plan than what Matheny's proposing.

David Nitsch said...

Ok. From what I gather you're plan is leave Carpenter at 3B, put Peralta back at SS and split 2B between Wong/Gyorko/Garcia. Then cutback Diaz's playing time significantly with the rationale that it will help him adjust to the new way pitcher's are approaching him?

Diaz is slumping in the regard that he isn't hitting .400 anymore, but that was always going to go down. Unless his average starts dipping into the .270s I wouldn't consider him slumping. A young player isn't going to make adjustments sitting on the bench, that's the reason they kept guys like Grichuk and Piscotty in the minors when they could've been upgrades on the MLB bench.

My short term alternative would be to move Diaz to 2B and leave Peralta at short. However, they want Diaz to continue developing as a MLB shortstop, which makes enough sense. If you ignore the errors and look at his dWAR he has actually been an above average defensive shortstop and once he stops goofing up the easy plays he could be a very good shortstop.

Gadfly said...

Diaz's OPS for both last 14 and last 30 is below .750. Enough of a slump to "spot" him a lot more. If you want to go by BA, he's at your slump level.

That's why I proposed this. (He's on the bench right now in my primary fantasy league; that's the first reason I knew Matheny was wrong.)

Agreed on his overall D.

My theory is that he's played enough, pitchers have started getting a "book" on him and he hasn't adjusted yet. Until he does, spot his time. He'd still be the first bench option.

The biggest deal is moving Carpenter is dumb. Period and end of story. If you're not going to do that, and you realize Diaz has hit a hiccup of sorts, that means Peralta starts at short, Diaz and Gyorko split time at 2B.

David Nitsch said...

I'll definitely agree that Diaz has been slumping and I've often been tempted to say Matheny needs to give him time. However, he usually bounces back, as he has with 9 hits in his last 6 games, 4 in has last 2. I think we're just now getting to the point where we can buy in to the fact that Diaz is going to be a solid player and very possibly the shortstop for the next 6-7 years. Under that logic he needs to be in the lineup everyday. Where that leaves Peralta for the next two years is debatable (trade bait?).

Carpenter has said he has no issue moving across the diamond, it didn't bother him moving there in 2013 or moving back in 2014. He's possibly the hardest working guy in baseball so I have no worries about his offense falling off. He's also shown to be a great team player, which gives me no qualms about moving him. I guess that ends up being the sticking point but in my opinion moving him keeps the best bats in the lineup.

Gadfly said...

Well, Carpenter wasn't an everyday player until 2013, so had less say-so, and the team had less worry about disrupting him, either defensively or offensively.

In general, IMO, the fewer puzzle pieces you move at once the better.

salvo said...

Regarding the baserunning: yes, it's frustrating when the lack of team speed results in failure to go first to third or score from second on a single. But this team has 80 homers, second to the Nationals (81), and has nine players on pace to hit 16+ homers. The Cardinals lead the NL---ahead of the Rockies---in slugging and extra-base hits.

Despite your assertion to the contrary, the Cardinals not only don't lead the NL in caught stealings, but, because of their reluctance to run, actually have the FEWEST caught stealings in the league, with just 10. This is all good---a team that hits like the Cardinals do SHOULDN'T be risking outs/baserunners.

The most important thing to focus on, regarding the offense, is runs: Right now the Cardinals lead the NL in scoring.

Gadfly said...

Did I misinterpret B-Ref's No. 15 in caught stealings? I thought it meant the worst, given a success rate under 65 percent.

(I'll have to Google CS percentages. And, ESPN says, combined, they're 25th in all of MLB in percentage of success.

So, even if I misinterpreted the CS number, I was still right about the larger idea:

And, leading the league in runs is still problematic if a bullpen runs out of gas by the ASG! Or if a screwed-up defense is a sieve. I mean, nobody's great at 1B, let's not mess with the rest of the IF, we know what Holliday is in left, and Piscotty is OK or so in right.