The deep question of the week … What philosophical differences might have existed that got Mike Schildt fired in a very unceremonious fashion? Philosophical differences that not only existed, but were enough that Cardinals management determined they’d be better off without Mike Schildt than they would be with him.
I’m gathering that some of the differences have been known for a while and it seems that the ex-manager perhaps expressed his view more forcefully recently, in ways the caused irreparable harm to relationship(s) and trust between manager and front-office types.
I think we’ve seen hints of these philosophical differences. In no particular order, they look like…
1. Manager Schildt was less apt to deploy pitchers in more modern ways … using openers, making pitching changes based on favorable matchups, piggy-backing pitchers. These are the sorts of things you see the Brewers and the Dodgers and Giants doing, but not so much in St. Louis. Probably most glaring was his tendency to select relievers based on the inning number, instead of the match-ups presented. For 100 games, it was Cabrera in 7th, Gallegos in 8th and Reyes in 9th. No evaluation of handedness, no splits, nothing remotely approaching an analytics approach. 17-game win streaks aside, the overall outcome was … not great. I’m not a big believer in the save/blown-save stat, but a quick look at win-probability added in 7th, 8th and 9th inning pitching changes doesn’t jump off the page screaming success with the chosen strategy.
2. Manager Schildt was also less apt to deploy his young players in ways that maximized their playing time. In years past, Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia stood out as players that didn’t get enough MLB playing time to even begin to evaluate them, much less allow them the chance to acclimate and adjust. This year, Sosa was on the roster for weeks before Manager Schildt used him, and then only after DeJong got hurt and Edman-Carpenter at the keystone was, well, unworkable. He didn’t exactly over-utilize Lars Nootbar, even as we all stared at the crying need for a left-handed bat in the line-up (hint: check out Carlson and Edman splits between LH and RH pitchers).
3. A more subtle difference is Manager Schildt’s preference of defense over offense. Run prevention is a thing, but it isn’t the only way to town. If it was, Max Muncy would be a pinch hitter deluxe. Hint: He’s not. More on this later.
4. We also have the more public spat and resolution to the batting approach issue that arose mid-summer and seemed to get resolved. But did it? Or did Schildt return to that and seek more lasting changes?
If we can take management’s expression that this firing was a forward looking view, not a rearward performance evaluation, then the question becomes … would these philosophical difference continue and would they hamper where the Cardinal’s expect to operate in the near future? Let’s look.
First, their prospect strength in the upper minor leagues, such as it is, appears heavily tilted toward bat-first positional players. Nolan Gorman, the aforementioned Lars Nootbar, Nick Plummer, Alec Burleson, Brendan Donovan all appear to be players who may get a look in 2022. It goes without saying that not all will stick, and not all will fit even if they do well. But if the manager is reluctant to play younger players, and even more reluctant to find the right matchups to play a younger player who is NOT elite defensively, then how will the Cardinals 1) resolve who to keep and develop and 2) determine which veterans should be displaced? Dave Roberts finds ways to get Max Muncy in the lineup. Mike Schildt was better at finding ways NOT to get those guys in. For him, it was the same 8 positional players, unless injury prevented. Let’s face it … if you are Mo, aren’t you a least a little bit piqued that Arozarena never really saw the field in St. Louis, even when you put him on the 25 man roster? And on the forward look, do you really want a repeat of that?
Second, their pitching quality is depleted a bit compared to prior generations. The cupboard is not bare, but there are a few too many question marks hanging around the guys they have returning. Innings management is going to be a big issue next year, with Flaherty, Reyes, Mikolas and Hudson having very low innings pitched in 2020 and 2021, leading to at least soft limits in 2022. A Schildt solution might be spelled S-C-H-E-R-Z-E-R. The Cardinals tend to be reluctant to fish in the deep end of the free-agency pool. (Now there is a philosophical difference!) Not to hard to imagine that management would prefer a more match-up based approach to pitching usage that allowed for a more fluid starting rotation that includes spot starts, openers, and overall less set routines. Things like using relievers based on splits and leverage, not so much the traditional you-have-this-inning role based approach. This more analytical approach would, in theory, offset some of the weakness of the Cardinal’s pitching staff, without requiring major investment and leveraging one thing they do have … numbers.
So, taken in total, one could theorize that they looked at their future pipeline of players and the pitching situation and decided that a different manager with a different "philosophy" of player usage might be a better fit for what is coming down the road. Thoughts?