Exit Interview: Mike Matheny

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s (or, in this case, John Mozeliak’s) office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Manager: Mike Matheny

Overall grade: B

Positives: Seemed to rely on the bunt less and less, especially with runners on second and nobody out….was able to get Trevor Rosenthal more rest, which helped him be more effective….made up some solid lineups in the postseason….didn’t necessarily have “his guys” as much as in past years, though that was still somewhat of a concern….was a little more flexible with his bullpen, though there were some arms that got favored….was willing to tinker with the lineup, at least in part….seemed to appreciate the Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons.

Negatives: Still held to some core beliefs more stubbornly than necessary….was incapable of writing Matt Holliday‘s name anywhere but third in the lineup….also had Yadier Molina batting in the middle of the order when his production seemed more like the bottom third….Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness were used so much that Mozeliak traded for Jonathan Broxton and Steve Cishek to see if they could get a break….plenty of Jon Jay love and playing time while Peter Bourjos went missing….an inexplicable urge to not use Miguel Socolovich more….rushed John Lackey to pitch on three days’ rest in the playoffs.

Overview: Matheny came into this season with a cloud over his head with the passing of Oscar Taveras.  If he is given credit for nothing else, he kept his team focused on the game and not on their grief.  He also endured injury after injury, most notably Holliday, Matt Adams, and Adam Wainwright, and yet the team continued to win for him.  How much of that is due his leadership and how much is due the players, that could be debatable, but there’s got to be something about being comfortable at work bringing out the best in a player.

When Matheny was hired four years ago, the idea was that he could manage the clubhouse and then learn the tactics.  Four trips to the playoffs later, it seems like that plan is still in play, though perhaps not as quickly as some in the fanbase would like to see it implemented.  There are still many places where the fans don’t agree with the manager and his though process.  Was the tight pennant race really the time to see what Jay had left in the tank?  Why would you ever start Randal Grichuk in center when he couldn’t physically throw?  While there are always going to be questions like that, I felt like even the iffy ones at least had some sort of rationale behind them, which we couldn’t always say in the past.

Outlook: Matheny is one of the three finalists for manager of the year.  He’s not going to win it, not with Terry Collins and Joe Maddon also nominated, but given the injuries, you can make a strong case that he deserves it and it’s a bit of prediction bias since the Cards were supposed to be good working against him.  No matter, he’ll be back on the field next year with his seat comfortably cool.

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