Over the past three plus seasons, I have seen the Cardinals organization, especially at the major league level, completely drop the ball (pun fully intended) on a number of levels. I felt like I saw a coach that was over-matched in nearly every aspect of the game. I felt like I was watching a coach who didn't know why he did things on the field except that he'd maybe done it before (even if it didn't work the first time it was tried over and over again). I felt like I was watching players giving up on said coach on multiple occasions in multiples seasons. I know that I was watching a coach who had gone 47-46 (.505) in 2018 up to the game before the All-Star break and had gone 231-222 (.519) in his final 445 games as the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. That was in the last 40.2% of his games managed with the Cardinals - no small sample size.
Without further denigration of the prior manager, however, let's get to the positive portions of this Positive October post. On the evening of July 14th, 2018, the Cardinals promoted Mike Shildt to interim manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and have since hired him as their full-time manager. In the 69 games in which he was the manager, the club went 41-28 (.594). That's a very small sample size and I'm not anywhere close to implying or predicting that Mike Shildt will continue at a 96 win pace over the next 7 seasons or some ridiculousness as such. However, while I haven't agreed with every move he's made over the course of 2.5 months, I have liked much of what I've seen so far.
Let's get to appreciating some Mike Shildt.
1) Mike Shildt is a very "heady" manager that seems to very much have a method to his madness at all times. Much like one of his mentors, Tony La Russa, Shildt uses the post-game media sessions to lay out the reasoning for what he attempted on the diamond whether it worked or not. He has even mentioned several times things that he could/should of done better. You can almost see how he's internalizing it and creating a tool for next time he's in that situation.
2) Mike Shildt promotes effective aggressiveness both at the plate and on the base paths that his predecessor only talked about (outside of Spring Training). Under Matheny in 2018, the Cardinals had 33 steals in 55 attempts (60% success rate) and one steal every 2.82 games. Under Shildt in 2018, the Cardinals had 30 steals in 40 attempts (75% success rate) and one steal every 2.3 games. Without the data to prove it, I will also say that the Cardinals executed more hit and runs in the 69 games under Shildt than the previous 93 games under Matheny. At the plate, the Cardinals were able to walk at basically the same rate (0.2% higher rate) while striking out at a 0.8% lower rate. Under Shildt, they raised their OPS 38 points while raising their ISO by 14 points and their BABIP only 9 points. Interestingly enough, their hard hit percentage only jumped 3 points, but their percentage of balls pulled (anticipating swinging more often perhaps?) went up about 2% and their fly ball rate went up by 3%. Under Matheny they hit an extra base hit 2.7 times per game and under Shildt that number went up to 3.1 times per game. That's a 14% increase. They simply seemed as if they went to the plate eager to do more damage it seemed to me. Those numbers suggest (but don't prove, I know) that my eye test was noticing something well at least.
and 3) Based on comments I've read in print or heard in video, the team - players, coaches, and execs alike - all seem to have nothing but praise to heap on Shildt. The players talk about how they love to play for a manager like Shildt who can explain things to them in a certain way. His fellow coaches talk about his preparedness and his day by day planning as well as him understanding strategy over the long term. The executives seem to regal him with the highest of praises as well. To a man, there's nothing but positives there, which leads me to this:
Positive October Day 30, in the books! One more to go.
To anyone still following along, thank you for reading.
In case you missed them: