After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season. They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post. Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt–or, in this case John Mozeliak–before they head off for the winter. This year, of course, was anything but typical. So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative. There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable. As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!
Manager: Mike Shildt
Overview: How do you evaluate a manager in a season like this? It’s hard enough to do it with the players, but at least you have some statistics or other measurements to go by. The Cardinals made it to the playoffs, so that’s a good thing, but they were expanded, so in a normal season they might (or might not, since they’d have to have made up some games) have just squeaked in as a wild card. They were the only NL Central team to win a game in the playoffs and they did score more in one inning than the other three teams did in their entire series combined, but they still flamed out after leading in Game 2. For everything that points one way, there seems to be another that goes the opposite.
It’s difficult to criticize bullpen management or lineup construction when the roster was always in flux and there were times when people weren’t available because they were quarantined or recovering. Mix in all the doubleheaders, even though they were shortened, and pitching decisions became exponentially more difficult. It’s fair to say that there were some head-scratching decisions at times–I can think of Ryan Helsley coming into a game with a slim lead when there were apparently other options–but overall Shildt pulled enough right levers to keep them afloat.
Which is fairly remarkable given how much water the team took on with a two week shutdown less than a week into the season. It feels like a lot of teams might have buckled under the strain (though it should be noted that the other team that went through something similar, the Miami Marlins, also made the playoffs) but the Cardinals kept winning. Part of that focus and determination has to be credited to Shildt and how he managed the clubhouse, doesn’t it? The team always knew that he was behind them and doing what he could, which can go far in a normal season but especially so when the team had to lean on each other so much.
Outlook: It will be nice to get back to a season where we can complain about someone hitting way too high in the lineup or Harrison Bader getting too much playing time or whether Shildt stayed with his starter a little too long. Shildt’s tactics aren’t always above reproach (and I think he does better when he allows himself to be aggressive) but his management of players (save perhaps Yadier Molina, who again feels like he outranks everyone) is going to keep him in this job for quite some time.