Time to Assess and Move Forward

What a disappointing way to end the season? Not only did the Cubs outplay the Cardinals, we saw many of the flaws of this team on the national stage.

First off, the offense, while trying hard to stay in the game, did not live up to pre-season expectations. Matt Carpenter has appeared to change his approach this regular and post-season; his .235 average and .690 OPS were both below his post-season career numbers. Even more disturbing was his 5 strikeouts in 17 at bats (29% K rate), unacceptable from your lead off hitter. There were many at bats where Carp quickly fell behind 0-2 (a larger Carp article is coming this off-season).

To go with Carp, Jhonny Peralta, Kotlen Wong, and Matt Holliday hit below the mendoza line this October.

Secondly, when the post-season starts, the Cardinals offense changes. The team gets through the season going station to station and manufacturing runs. Once they post-season starts, the hitters start swinging for the fences. Here is the breakdown of their hits during the regular season:
Regular Season percentages

Here is the post-season:
Walk and K

If they hit homers in 6% of their at bats during the regular season, they’d have had 330. Of course, that would mean less singles. That wouldn’t have impacted much as far as runs scored; the regular season team scored a run in 12% of their at bats while bumping it to 13% in the post-season.

Another issue was their walks per plate appearance dropped:
Walk and K

Yes, small sample size for both areas. When you factor in their 4% decrease in hits and 3% drop in walks, you are looking at 10.6 less base runners over their 151 plate post-season appearances if they got on base at the same clip as the regular season.

I also threw their strikeout percentage there and it just shows that they lose all discipline in October. Striking out in a third of your at bats is unacceptable on a player level, let alone a team one.

Finally, Mike Matheny showed again that he has work to do as an in-game manager. There is no doubt that Matheny is a great leader of men, which he showed last November with the passing of Oscar Taveras; he pulled the guys together and didn’t let it be a distraction during the season.

But how many times could someone double guess the manager during the post-season? Throwing Jaime Garcia while he’s sick (granted, part of that is on Garcia too)? Leaving Michael Wacha in for a third time through the line up after already being shakey? Not using Tyler Lyons against lefties?

One media outlet talked about the pitching faultering; again, I’d put part of that on Matheny. He rides his bullpen hard; Siegrist and Rosenthal were used alot this year. Jonathan Broxton seemed to be a favorite after his acquisitions, even though this results were not always favorable. What about the issues with Michael Wacha? He started to show signs of wear and tear in September; to me, that was a simple solution – limit his innings. He reached a career high in 2015, and that was after an injury shortened 2014 (an injury that has reoccurred to the only other player that’s had it). The team should have been a lot more cautious with Wacha (and this is just as much on John Mozeliak as it is Matheny).

All that said, we’ve been part of a remarkible run with the team; this will be the first year since 2010 they haven’t made the NLCS. They had the best record in baseball while sufferring a obsurd amount of injuries.

If we want it to continue, the organization will have to continue to adjust; the Cubs aren’t going anywhere, and they were 3rd in the division. The top 3 things the team needs for 2016 is re-signing Jason Heyward, adding a pitcher (be it re-signing Lackey, picking up Garcia’s option, or going outside the organization), and rehauling the bullpen. Maybe spending a little more on the international market wouldn’t hurt either.

My Allegiance For Now
With the beloved ‘Birds out of the race, who should I route for?

The Cubs are out. As a baseball fan, I want to see them win a championship during my life time. After this series, I’m not ready yet though.

After the last couple of years, I can’t route for the Dodgers; I’d rather see the Cubs win.

That leaves the Mets from the NL, which doesn’t bother me either way.

For the AL side, I’m indifferent on the Rangers and the Blue Jays.

It’s instantly down to the Royals and the Astros. The Royals are the in-state team and that gets them a little loyalty.

The Astros’ GM came from the Cardinals and had a large hand in the current team. That alone is reason to like him.

At this point, I’m leaning towards the winner of the Royals/Astros as my team for the rest of October.

Leave a comment below if you are picking a new team or if your season is done with the Redbirds.

Eugene is also a writer and podcaster for Nyrdcast, where he talks pop culture; you can also find him on Twitter or email him here.

  • Cardinal70

    I really look forward to the Carpenter article. It’s obvious that he had a change in approach this season and, to my mind, it wasn’t a good one. Perhaps the extended stats say differently.

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