As I type this late Thursday morning, the Cardinals (66-55) are flourishing.
You should be happy to have Mike Shildt as manager of your baseball team.
Let us count the reasons why:
1. Shildt is genuine, honest, humble, extremely smart, secure in his ability to lead, confident in his baseball knowledge, invites dissenting opinions, listens to advice from his coaches, treats everyone with respect, and paid his dues for 15 years as a successful coach and manager in the minors before getting his first shot to manage in the majors.
2. Shildt isn’t Mike Matheny.
3. The Cardinals have won eight consecutive games.
4. They’ve won six straight series.
5. They are 11 games above .500 for the first time since the 2015 season.
6. Shildt has led St. Louis to the best record in the majors (19-9) since his first game as manager on July 15.
7. Matheny won six series during his final 72 days as manager. Shildt has won six series in his first 32 days as the manager.
8. No manager in Cardinals franchise history has a better record than Shildt’s 19-9 after the first 28 games on the job.
9. The Cardinals are 12-2 in August, the best in ball.
10. The Cardinals, who trailed the first-place Cubs by 8.5 games on July 25, have cut the lead to 4.
11. The Cardinals are just one game behind the second-place Brewers in the NL Central. On July 10, four days before Matheny’s sacking, the Brewers led the Cardinals by 7 games.
12. On July 14, here were the top three winning percentages in the National League Central:
Cubs .587 … Brewers .567 … Cardinals, .505
Since “Shildt Day:” Cardinals .679 … Cubs .556 … Brewers .500
13. The Cardinals are 1 game out of both NL wild card spots, currently held by the Brewers and Phillies. The Cardinals had trailed by as many as 5 games.
14. The Cardinals no longer run the bases like inebriated, concussed, meth-head humanoids. The Cardinals were 11th in the majors before the All-Star break in the Fangraphs’ version of the base running runs metric. Under Schildt, the Cardinals are 5th in the majors and 3rd in the NL in the same metric. And in only 29 games with Shildt in charge, the Cardinals have only 0.7 BsR runs fewer than the Matheny Cardinals had in 93 games.
15. Stolen base percentage since Shildt Day: 14 steals, 18 attempts, 77.7%. Stolen-base success rate under previous regime, 60%.
16. The players love Shildt because of his open communication style, straight but constructive talk, and positive demeanor. Before Shildt makes any changes to the lineup or pitcher deployment or playing time, he speaks to the player first, explains the decision, and wants to know what the player has to say about it. This thoughtful communication hasn’t taken place within this clubhouse and manager’s office for a very long time.
17. Shildt’s innovative idea to have a daily team meeting — all players — is brilliant. It’s fast-paced. He discusses something from the previous game that they could have done better, and explains how. He pulls out video of something the team did very well, even if it didn’t receive much if any media attention, and offers praise. And then he turns it over to the players who speak freely and candidly to the manager, the coaches and each other in an open setting. Matt Carpenter calls this daily meeting “our group therapy session” and says it has brought the team closer together.
18. Playing good defense is no longer optional. It is expected. After spending most of the first half of the season outside the top 10 in park-adjusted defensive efficiency, the Cardinals have jumped to 5th in MLB in PADE since Shildt and his staff got the freedom to get to work on making this team better.
19. The Cardinals have the NL’s best ERA (3.51) since July 15. (Though using FIP, they’re 7th at 4.02.)
20. Under Shildt the Cardinals are 4th in the league with a bullpen ERA of 3.62. Since July 27, the bullpen ERA (2.09) is the best in the majors. (But not nearly as good using FIP.)
21. Jose Oquendo loves Shildt. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just check out these Oquendo quotes in a superb column written by Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
⇒ “He’s doing great,” Oquendo said of Shildt. “He’s doing everything he’s supposed to be doing, everything a good manager would do. ”
⇒ “I think the Cardinals have the right guy in Mike,” Oquendo said. “I think, to me, in my opinion, they should decide now and make him the manager. He’s a real good one. I don’t think they should miss him.”
⇒ “He’s legit,” Oquendo said. “The staff and everybody are pulling together, on the same page. We are giving our opinions. He’s listening.”
⇒ “It improved a lot. Tremendously,” Oquendo said of communication among players and coaches since Shildt became the true leader that this team needed. “The preparation before and during the game is unbelievable. ”
⇒ Oquendo probably needs to have more knee surgery after the season. He hasn’t decided if he’ll be back with the Cardinals in 2018. BenFred asked Oquendo a smart question: Would he be more likely to return if Shildt is the manager?
“Yeah,” Oquendo said. “Probably.”
21a. Yadier Molina loves Shildt.
21b. The coaching staff’s morale is way up; Shildt seeks guidance, respects their views, expresses gratitude for their good ideas, and makes sure they realize they are free to disagree with him. Shildt believes respectful disagreement often leads to more enlightened discussion and expanded knowledge. You gotta be especially happy for pitching coach Mike Maddux.
22. Since batting coaches Mark Budaska and George Greer were added to Shildt’s staff on July 15, the Cardinals lead the National League in batting average (.278), onbase percentage (.353), OPS (.806), homers (38), wOBA (.345), and park-adjusted runs created at 18% above league average offensively.
23. Since July 15 — aka “Shildt Day” — the Cardinals lead the NL in virtually all categories for two-strike hitting: RBIs (62), batting average (.233), onbase percentage (.298), slugging percentage (.382), OPS (.681), and park-adjusted runs created. And they are second in two-strike doubles (24) and homers (21.) The Cardinals had a .176 two-strike average and .504 two-strike OPS under the previous regime. With Buddha and Greer, Cardinals hitters have swung and missed just 17.9% with two strikes; tied for best in MLB.
24. Over the same stretch of 28 games, the Cardinals have the lowest strikeout rate in the league at only 17.4%, and are tied for the best walk-strikeout ratio.
25. And they are second in the NL with an average of 5.14 runs per game, second in slugging percentage (.454), second in doubles (53) and third in two-out RBI.
26. Harrison Bader is playing center field. And the defense is out-of–this world.
27. Jose Martinez often plays right field because Bader plays center field and can cover an immense amount of ground, thus compensating for J-Mart’s limited range.
28. For the first time, the Cardinals’ analytics department has an ally in the manager’s office who shows them respect, takes their work seriously, and expresses gratitude for their contributions.
29. For the first time in a long, long time — going back to the Tony La Russa years — this organization is synchronized. And unified. The manager and front office and the analytics people have a shared vision and common goal. The manager and the coaches work as one. The players and the manager understand each other, and trust each other, and there is no special treatment for preferred veterans. The veterans and the rookies and the young guys are treated as equals, and they’re made to feel as if their voice matters. This is how you shape a collective mindset. This is a big part of why the Cardinals were successful before weak leadership caused dysfunction to set in.
30. The Cardinals are becoming the Cardinals again. Just what you would expect from a George Kissell baseball favorite son who understands the extraordinary heritage, high standards, and honor that come with this manager’s job.
BONUS! STATISTICAL CLEARANCE, FREE NUMBERS!
I have pulled too many little pearls here from my Inside Edge account about the last month of STL baseball under Shildt and don’t want to discard them. So for those of you who enjoy these things, here are some hitting statistics for your perusal.
The reason why I focused on batting stats?
Because I’m really impressed by the substantial differences that we’ve seen in this team offensively over the last month. And I’ve broken the numbers down into separate categories so you can get a better sense of how much has changed offensively, across-the-board.
And thank you.
Stats are from the last 30 days — and 27 games:
TWO-STRIKE HITTING, LAST 30 DAYS
HITTING AGAINST THE HEAT, LAST 30 DAYS
HITTING VS. STARTING PITCHERS, LAST 30 DAYS
HITTING VS. RELIEF PITCHERS, LAST 30 DAYS
CRUSHING CHANGEUPS … OR BREAKING PITCHES, LAST 30 DAYS
WHEN LEADING OFF AN INNING — OR HITTING WITH BASES EMPTY, LAST 30 DAYS
HITTING AGAINST LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS, LAST 30 DAYS
HITTING AGAINST RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS, LAST 30 DAYS
HITTING IN CLOSE AND LATE SITUATIONS, LAST 30 DAYS
GENERAL HITTING STATS, LAST 30 DAYS
Thanks for reading …