The St. Louis Cardinals 2017 season is over and unfortunately, we aren’t writing this coming off of a playoff loss or a World Series win. Now that we are a week into the offseason, I want to sift through what really went wrong with this team.
As a St. Louis Cardinals’ fan, Playoff Baseball is almost a rite of passage and something that we have come to expect recently. However, another year has come by where our beloved St. Louis Cardinals have failed to make the postseason. Many will point at this player and that player or maybe even the manager.
To me, it is a collective effort. However, without a doubt, a lot of criticism rests squarely on the shoulders of Mike Matheny. The manager who prides himself on being a “leader of men” has struggled to create a clubhouse of comradery with a strong team chemistry.
There were a couple issues throughout the season that was brought up to the media that simply don’t reflect well on the manager. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch brought up another team chemistry issue this morning.
Those might have been issues that lead to their play on the field and caused them to drop many key games. However, the issues were things we are all too familiar with. Those issues were the lack of a middle of the order bat, the lack of a competent bullpen, horrible baserunning, and the lack of solid defensive play.
With all of these problems, there really is one thing that you can point to as the smoking gun for this 2017 St. Louis Cardinals. That is the lack of aggressiveness in all facets of the front office and coaching staff.
The St. Louis Cardinals failed to see the fact that Jhonny Peralta was a failing player who’s best days had passed him by. In fact, they let him complete over two months of the regular season with the club and let him appear in 21 games and take 58 plate appearances. In those
The St. Louis Cardinals failed to see the fact that Jhonny Peralta was a failing player who’s best days had passed him by. In fact, they let him complete over two months of the regular season with the club and let him appear in 21 games and take 58 plate appearances. In those 58 plate appearances, Peralta had a 27 wRC+ and was worth -0.5 fWAR.
During that time they could have had an extra two months of rookie sensation Paul Dejong. Dejong could have also been up to help out the struggling Aledmys Diaz, a player it took the manager an entire month to move down in the order. This shows the manager’s inability to show aggressiveness to helping his players get going. The front office also showed a lack of aggression to get another player (Paul Dejong) up to help the team out at shortstop.
These were hardly the only issues this team had. In April, the manager decided to not properly treat games against the team’s number one rival and the team it would be chasing all season long with enough aggressiveness. This was evident by him leaving a player in left field who had never played any professional games at a position other than first base, looking at you Matt Adams.
The Closer Role
Not only that but the team failed miserably at the closer role in 2017. Their lack of aggression reared it’s ugly head here during at least two different instances in the 2017 season. While Seung-hwan Oh righted his early struggles in the 2017 season, the writing was on the wall with his 5.31 xFIP for the first two months of the season.
That xFIP reared it’s ugly truthful head in the month of June as he finished the month with a 5.73 ERA. It then took another half of a month to get Oh out of the closer role. This lack of aggressiveness with the closer role cost this team multiple games. While the team wasted their time, they wasted the time they could have had to find someone to step into Rosenthal’s eighth-inning role while they moved Rosie to the ninth. They also wasted Rosie’s best month in July.
On the Rosenthal part, they also showed a lack of aggressiveness to shut him down when the elbow issue arrived. With all of these bullpen issues, the team waited until September to make a move to acquire someone to help out. While Juan Nicasio helped solidify the closer role in the month of September, it simply was too little too late.
The Starting Rotation
While there are many ways to go with this I am not going to dissect every single issue of aggressiveness in this area. I simply am going to focus on the issues that I believe held this team back the most. Most of these issues have to do with the Manager but the front office is not without blame here.
The issue here stems from Mike Matheny’s tendency to give his veterans the benefit of the doubt more times than not. On August 11th, Adam Wainwright admitted that he felt an issue in the elbow before the game started and that it was causing him to not have the velocity on his pitches that he is used to having.
Adam Wainwright then admitted that he actually felt the issue bother him the start before which was his first start since returning from the DL with his back issue. The Cardinals then let him start another game after that and put the team at risk of losing that game as he gave up five against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Whether or not Wainwright told the manager or front office about the injury is not known, but it is said that at least Yadier Molina knew about the injury. This is not acceptable for a team trying to make the playoffs. I know Wainwright’s history and that he was once one of the best pitchers in the game, but a decision should have been made when it was apparent that he had something wrong.
The team did the same thing with Mike Leake and Michael Wacha at times during the season. They continually sent them out there to get hammered start after start. During this time, they had Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty blowing through AAA as options to fill the void in the starting lineup.
The lack of aggressiveness this team showed did them in this season. Moving forward, if this team wants to even have a sniff at winning the division or another shot at making the Wild Card, they have got to be more aggressive to make the necessary adjustments to this team. They have to be more aggressive with the lineups, bullpen management, and even the roster management.
This team has the potential to be way better than they were this season. Acquiring a bat or two and simply becoming aware that every single pitch and inning of every game matters. They cannot take games off and they cannot act as if games in April aren’t as important as games in July-September. This team has to be better next season and it starts with the men who make the money to run it.
As always, thanks for reading this long piece. I appreciate you being a loyal reader to our little corner of the internet. My apologies for not being as active as I would like to be here, I will work on changing things moving forward.