October 02, 2017

#Cardinals eliminated — early post-mortem for 2017 #StlCards

First, yes, I know, owner Bill DeWitt signs all the paychecks in Busch Stadium but I, and I know many other Birds fans, disagree with his pretty staunch support for Mike Matheny at the helm. I said at the time that I wanted Terry Francona. I suspect that then-GM John Mozeliak didn't ink Tito because he thought he'd be less controllable.

I mean, a couple of years ago, in the Cards' last playoff year, ESPN rated Matheny as worst bullpen manager of the 10 there. And another commenter notes that Sports Illustrated ranked him as DFL among current managers. If you missed it, as I had, here you go. Actually, SI predicted the Birds would miss the playoffs and fire Matheny; Sheehan was on Bernie Miklasz's ESPN St. Louis radio show. Per that "here you go," it's about an 8-minute clip.

Is he the worst? I know he's bottom one-third. Per Bernie's response, I wouldn't object to him being bottom-five at least. What's funny is they talk about how he was allegedly going to be such a good developer of young talent when hired, and in reality, that's been one of his biggest areas of suckitude.

Speaking of these issues, why did they miss the playoffs again this year?

The bullpen was part of the problem, aside from any bad management issues by Matheny. The "aside from any bad management" is on Mo. Too bad Joe Kelly was part of the Allen Craig trade; too bad Mo as well as Matheny weren't eyeing him in the pen rather than the rotation before he was traded. (That said, it took Boston a year-plus to figure that out itself.)

Another issue, per Jose Ortiz, is that the team just didn't play winning-level baseball. This goes back to Matheny not doing enough to coach up young talent, mentally as well as physically. Too many players on this team still make too many boneheaded mistakes too often.

A season-long funk by Matt Carpenter, as lead representative of anemic bats on the team was third. Mo has to determine, in conjunction with Matheny, how much of that was due to an apparent season-long nagging shoulder injury.

Per Ben Frederickson, or at least a commenter on his Post-Dispatch slide show piece, Carpenter could be gone.

Certainly either Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty will be, given the emergence of Tommy Pham and the semi-albatross of Dexter Fowler's contract. (And, speaking of that, how long does Mo get a semi-free pass from St. Louis' paper of record, given the stinkers of both the Fowler and Mike Leake contracts, both of which I blogged about at the time?)

Of those two, even with his strikeouts and all, Grichuk has the higher possible upside, and he can play center and Piscotty can't. (And Fowler shouldn't.) Of course, that makes him possibly worth more in trade.

Other outfielders, like Jose Martinez and Magneuris Sierra could go, too, as could Aledmys Diaz, with the short-term emergence of Paul DeJong. (That said, there's still questions about how sustainable DeJong's burst is, especially given his high strikeouts.)

Semi-untouchables on my list, other than Fowler getting himself made semi-untouchable with the full no-trade clause, would be Carlos Martinez, Pham, Kolton Wong and Yadier Molina. Maybe Jedd Gyorko.

Speaking of Yadi, Miklasz at ESPN radio wonders how often he's been concussed — and what cumulative effect it's had. And why Matheny hasn't been more assertive in watching this.

And, what will happen with Lance Lynn? He seems determined to test free agency, but he really spit the bit a week ago. Is he hurt? Frederickson notes that he's got a history of getting mum when he is. I give 3-1 odds he's gone, though. I will also venture offers outside St. Louis are less than totally overwhelming and that he signs something like a five-year contract with an opt-out option after two years.

If that's the case, a starting rotation of Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver, a theoretically ready Alex Reyes and ... ? Waino? Jack Flaherty? NO, Tyler Lyons is not starter material. Given Martinez's unpredictability, the club still having some concern about Wacha's durability, the lack of assurance at this point about where Reyes will be next March and other things, that's not highly inspiring. Especially if the bullpen behind it is still weak tea. I mean, Lynn is the only starter with an ERA+ of better than 120, and the only besides Carlos (not prorating Leake) to go more than 170 innings.

Complicating all of this is that GM Michael Hirsch has said the team won't make any further move toward resigning Lynn until knowing more about Waino's status, including whether or not he might need surgery. That said, that itself is a "tell" indeed. Sounds like whatever is currently on the table for Lynn is it on the hometown side, if Wainwright does NOT need the knife. On the plus side, per that same link, Reyes has started throwing bullpen sessions.

And, updating that? Waino is getting 'scoped. Matheny says it's not a "reconstruction" and that Wainright will be ready for spring training.

There's one flip side on Lynn. He turned 30 this year. It's arguable, per Derrick Goold (ignoring his laugher that Jason Heyward has been an agent of change in the division, other than making Fowler look better on D in Chicago last year than he really was) that 25-30 is a sweet spot for starting pitching.

(Per Goold's laugher? One could theoretically argue that Heyward was a changer of attitudes, but I think manager Joe Maddon has a lot more to do with that. Other intangibles besides that might merit a minor footnote, but no more, and in any case, Goold doesn't claim he's talking about intangibles.)

And, that bullpen. Seung-hwan Oh will be gone, performance apologies aside. Trevor Rosenthal is TJ-rehabbing for the year. Most of the rest of the pen needs to be gone, even though Brett Cecil will only be gone by waivers or DFA. Juan Nicasio has a good shot at the closer's role.

Meanwhile, and looking to the Cubs' Addison Russell and Nachoes Man, and not mentioning 2006 Birds shortstop hero David Eckstein, Bernie suggests the Cards lack grit, or something like it. He also suggests that to the degree that intangible something is missing, Matheny is at least partially to blame.

And, I think he's right on that part of assessing Matheny as a manager. And, that may be something that doesn't change, even though Mike has shown flashes of getting better as a bullpen manager.

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OK, we Cards fans know we need definite bullpen help, and may need a starter if Lynn isn't re-signed, especially re where Reyes is at in March. Proper decisions in the outfield about who stays and doesn't, and who plays what spots, along with the emergence of DeJong — if it sticks — should address bat power issues.

The Carp issue is probably the other biggest thing on the offseason plate for now. I'll tune in again once free agency has started, as we're already getting hints Mo plans to strike early, whatever he does.

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Update: Trading for the potentially available Giancarlo Stanton would certainly quick-start a team upgrade.

1 comment:

PDiddie said...

It's all those out-of-orgs not playing The Cardinal Way.