I’m very confused by the reaction of the fanbase to the most recent run of games under Mike Shildt. I’m not entirely sure what people expected. Was I hopeful that the Cards would suddenly go on a winning streak and assert themselves as a playoff team? Of course. Unfortunately it didn’t happen and the playoffs look increasingly less likely, barring a miracle run. But I’ve seen calls for Shildt’s head and the front office because nothing has changed. In 9 games. In the middle of the season.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. The Cardinals aren’t suddenly going to be a different team than we’ve seen all season. Mike Matheny was a problem, but he wasn’t THE reason the Cards have had a mediocre year. It’s not the front office’s fault either. Things have just gone poorly. All of their moves - well most of them anyway - were good “process” moves. Pretending they are bad moves now - such as the Marcell Ozuna trade - is pure hindsight and is not how baseball analysis should work.
Let me guess as to what is happening. Shildt is trying to create some form of a stable lineup for the present before the trading deadline shakes everything up - if it shakes everything up. I’ve written before how hard it will be to sell given the roster this team has. The lineup has remained mostly the same and the only real quibble you could have is that Harrison Bader and Jedd Gyorko should play more. I have a theory for why they hasn’t.
When Shildt took over, he agreed to give Dexter Fowler starts for, I don’t know, two straight weeks or something. Maybe put up or shut up. Or maybe just pretend that he’s still old Fowler and say if the Cards are out of it, we are going to have to start playing the young guns. I don’t know what he told Fowler, but he clearly has committed to starting him for the present. For what it’s worth, Fowler is batting .233/.333/.500 for a 122 wRC+ since Shildt became manager. Jedd Gyorko is going through some weird form of dizziness and I can’t explain him, but there seem to be external factors preventing him from playing.
Also, the Cardinals are waiting to decide on the bullpen. Whether this is a good idea or not, I do not know. I know that bullpens are extremely fickle year to year and that DFA’ing anybody having a bad year who is under contract past 2018 is probably not a good idea. Greg Holland can go. I think we should shut Brett Cecil down, hope his struggles are injury-related, and give him a chance next year. I definitely don’t think we should give up on Tyler Lyons after 16.2 bad innings, and where a .412 BABIP is hard to ignore. Bullpens are far too random, mostly because of sample size issues, to simply DFA anybody who has a bad 20 innings. That’s like four bad starts for a starter, which is but a fraction of their season.
Very basic stuff that happens every year is infuriating the fanbase, such as Daniel Poncedeleon coming up for a spot start and then getting sent down, because he had one good start. Look, the idea of “earning” starts is great and all, but is not really how it works sometimes. Poncedeleon knew the deal. There’s not a current spot on this rotation for him and he got a start because of weird scheduling immediately after the All-Star break plus an injury to one of the starting five. He was never going to stay in the majors and hold his rotation spot down. He’ll be back up in the bullpen soon, probably before the September callups.
I won’t go into a huge defense of John Mozeliak and the front office, because that’s not really what this post is about. It’s just about waiting until the trading deadline until things become more clear. The games immediately following the All-Star break were going to decide the season and it’s looking very clear that it mostly has. A sweep of the Cubs could change something, I guess, but they’re in a worse position now than they were at the All-Star break and that’s not good.
I think the front office and Shildt sat down together over the All-Star break after he got the job and told him “For the next two weeks after the All-Star break, here’s what we should do. No matter what goes right or wrong, don’t change that until then. After those two weeks, we will know what team we are or aren’t.” That’s just my guess. Shildt is such a Mozeliak guy that there’s no way everything he’s doing isn’t rubber stamped by the front office. I expect changes soon, but I would be patient and not expect them right away.
For now, I’m going to trust the front office knows what they’re doing - at least until the deadline where it becomes more clear what the plan is. The trading deadline will signify something. I don’t know what that something is. But something will happen that will make it clearer what the plan is now going to be. For example, trading Matt Carpenter would send a pretty clear message. I do not expect that to happen, but whoever gets traded or dropped or whatever should give me a better idea what the team’s plan is for 2019. So I will wait until I can see that message before panicking and wanting to fire everyone. I ask everyone else to do the same. Get out your pitchforks if you’re dissatisfied with the trading deadline moves though. At least then, I’ll know your unhappy with the plan the front office chose.