When the Cardinals defeated the Pirates Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, the win gave the Cards a 34-18 record since Mike Shildt became manager on July 15. The victory also clinched another series win for the Cardinals, who have won 12 of their last 14 series under Shildt.
It’s a good time to pause and reflect on the dramatic change we’ve seen with the Cardinals since chairman Bill DeWitt Jr, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak belatedly fired manager Mike Matheny late in the evening on July 14.
All numbers are complete through Tuesday and do not include the result of Wednesday afternoon’s game between the Pirates and Cardinals.
Cardinals’ record when Shildt was hired: 47-46 for a winning percentage of .505 which ranked ninth among the 15 NL teams. This was a continuation of a downward trend, with the 2017 Cardinals failing to make the playoffs by losing 10 of their final 16. If we include that relevant stretch of stinking baseball, the Cardinals’ winning percentage was .486 in their final 109 games with Matheny.
Cardinals’ record since Shildt took over: 34-18 for a winning percentage (.654) that’s No. 1 in the National League. And the record is No. 3 in the majors since July 15, with only Oakland (34-15, .694) and Boston (32-16, .667) above St. Louis.
Team record since July 27: 30-13 (.698) … the best record in the majors. At the end of the All-Star break the Cardinals restarted the season on the road and went 3-4 against the Cubs and Reds. On the July 26 off day, Mozeliak and GM Michael Girsch reordered the bullpen, turning to multiple young pitchers for a new beginning. While upgraded in some aspects, the St. Louis bullpen remains vulnerable and hazardous because a poor strikeout-walk ratio. But this team has won 30 of its 43 games because of a number of other factors including improvements on offense, defense and base running. And the starting rotation is a consistent strength.
Record at Busch Stadium before the managerial change: The Cardinals were 23-25 at home with Matheny this season. Including the final home stand of last season, when the Cardinals got embarrassed by the visiting Cubs and Brewers, the team had a 25-30 record and .454 winning percentage in Matheny’s final 55 games at Busch Stadium.
Record at Busch after Shildt was named manager: 16-6 (.727). Including the current Pittsburgh series — already a win even if the Cardinals lose Wednesday — Shildt is 6-1 in his seven series played at Busch Stadium. This season Matheny won only six of 16 home series (6-8-2.) And Matheny won only six of his last 18 home series at Busch (6-10-2.)
Pitching before the manager switch: A 3.85 overall ERA (6th in NL), 4.48 bullpen ERA (12th in NL), and 3.46 rotation ERA (2nd NL).
Pitching since Shildt became manager: A 3.52 overall ERA (4th NL), 4.07 bullpen ERA (8th NL), and 3.17 rotation ERA (2nd NL.)
Batting line with Matheny and hitting coaches John Mabry and Bill Mueller (excluding pitchers’ plater appearances: .267 average, .323 onbase percentage, .411 slugging.
Batting line with Shildt and hitting coaches Mark Budaska and George Greer (excluding pitchers’ plater appearances: .267 average, .343 onbase percentage, .449 slugging.
Hitters’ strikeout and walk percentage before the manager change: 22.8% strikeout rate (6th worst NL) and 8.3% walk rate (9th best NL.)
Hitters’ strikeout and walk percentage after the manager change: 21.0% strikeout rate (4th best in NL), and 8.7% walk rate (4th best.)
Baserunning: Using the FanGraphs “BsR” metric, the Cardinals were ranked 7th in the NL under Matheny. Under Shildt, the Cardinals are No. 3 in the league in BsR.
Defense: The Cardinals are second in the NL in park-adjusted Defensive Efficiency under Shildt. Under Matheny, the Cardinals were fifth in park-adjusted Defensive Efficiency this season.
Sure, there have been some bumps along the way for Shildt. He was too slow to diagnose the fatigue-related decline of closer Bud Norris. It’s always fair to question bullpen choices. But for the most part, Shildt’s use of double switches have made sense. And he isn’t out of control in implementing sacrifice-bunt attempts.
Sure, the Cardinals have whiffed on a few series with Shildt in charge; they’ve lost their last two series against the Reds (2-4 record), and lost two out of three games at Detroit. But here’s the thing: Losing to bad teams isn’t exclusive to the new-look Cardinals. It’s happened with all NL postseason contenders, and since Shildt became manager the Cardinals have actually stumbled against bad or mediocre teams fewer times than other contenders.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Phillies: They’re 11-22 since Aug 5 because of a horrendous record (8-17) in games against the Padres, Mets, Nationals, Blue Jays and Marlins. The Phils opened September by losing eight of 10.
Dodgers: Through Tuesday, they were 0-6 vs. the Reds, 2-4 against the Marlins, and 7-9 versus the Giants. A recent stretch revealed the enigmatic ways of the Dodgers. After winning three of four from the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers lost two of three games at home to the Mets. After winning two of three at Colorado, the Dodgers went to Cincinnati and dropped the first two games of a three-game set.
Braves: They went 10-13 in July and are a combined 9-11 in games against the Orioles, Reds, Giants and Blue Jays.
Diamondbacks: Went 8-19 in May and are 3-7 in September so far. And the D-backs are a combined 9-15 against the Reds, Mets, Rangers and Nationals.
Brewers: They went 40-30 from the start of June until the end of August. The Brewers are also 4-9 against the Pirates this year.
Rockies: They had an 11-16 June and are 6-9 against the Marlins, Pirates and Rangers.
Cubs: They’re only four games above .500 on the road and got swept in a four-game series at Cincinnati. The Cubs haven’t been very good in games against the Pirates and Reds (17-14.)
Final note: Shildt is 7-1 in series played against opponents that have a winning record.
Thanks for reading …