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Matheny on the Grind of One-Run Cardinals Games

One thing that has not changed during the course of the 2014 season for the St. Louis Cardinals is the close nature of their games. Through Wednesday, game 132, the Cardinals have experienced 44 one-run games, or exactly one of every three.

Those 44 of the tightest contests possible this year to date are more than the team’s total in three of the last seven entire seasons. Continuing on the current pace, the 2014 Cardinals would finish the regular season with 54 one-run games. That total would exceed any single season for St. Louis back to at least 2006.

Cardinals One-run games Record Pct. Extras
2014 pace for 162 games 54 29-25 0.537 6-5
2014 thru 132 games 44 24-20 0.545 5-4
2013 36 20-16 0.555 6-6
2012 47 21-26 0.447 6-12
2011 49 26-23 0.531 8-13
2010 42 20-22 0.476 6-8
2009 45 24-21 0.533 5-6
2008 52 24-28 0.462 6-12
2007 36 16-20 0.444 7-4

(The team’s extra-innings record is included in the above table for another point of reference. It does not directly correlate to one-run games, but was mentioned below.)

The frequency of these close contests has increased in recent days for St. Louis. In the last two weeks, over half of the 13 Cardinals games played, seven, have been decided by a lone run.

Overall, the Cardinals winning percentage in one-run games this season is .545. That compares positively to their .534 (47-41) mark in contests decided by two or more scores.

With all the nail-biters, I have been waiting to ask Cardinals manager Mike Matheny his view. I had that opportunity this past weekend.

Matheny opened with an acknowledgment of the situation, but as one would expect, he views it through a positive aperture.

“We’ve had more than our share of close games this season,” the manager agreed. “The year has been a character builder.”

Realizing that it is a spectrum, not an on-off matter, I still quizzed Matheny on whether he sees a point in a long season when the learning is lessened and the close games become more and more of a grind.

“There is no point where one ends and the other begins,” he replied. “Every close game is a grind, but you develop toughness at the same time.

“You can’t get to where one-run games are all of the sudden no longer a grind, because they are. If you are not grinding in those one-run games, in those close games, those extra-inning games, then you are probably going to end up on the back side,” Matheny asserted.

I suggested an ideal would be to score more often and build larger leads.

“That is the nature of it,” the skipper concluded. “It is what we are in the middle of.”

As an important point of reference, at the time of the discussion, the Cards were 8-2 in their prior ten games, having increased their scoring by 1.5 runs per game over their prior league-lowest rate. (Details here.)

In the four contests since, the offensive futility has returned. St. Louis scored just seven runs in total while dropping three of the final four games to conclude their 2-4 road trip through Pennsylvania.

Still unanswered for me is whether all these close games will eventually help the 2014 Cardinals win in the pressure of October or will have helped to wear them down. To be honest, no matter what happens, we will never know.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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21 Responses to “Matheny on the Grind of One-Run Cardinals Games”

  1. crdswmn says:

    Matheny talks like a Tony Robbins wannabe. Uses lots of motivational speaker babble words like “grinding” and “toughness” and “character building”. He talks a lot and says very little of substance. It’s annoying as hell.

    I stopped listening to him a long time ago. He hurts my ears.

    • blingboy says:

      I have previously mentioned that it seems like the team has taken on Matheny’s persona. That is not good.

      I have also suggested the possibility his job could be in jeopardy. Not if we win the pennant or WS, of course. There are just too many guys with a track record who are under-performing by a huge margin. MCarp and Holliday down around 40pts in BA and 100 in OPS. Yadi way down. Craig flamed out. Bourjos failed. Taveras has been a huge diappointment, and has not exactly been supported by his manager. The offense has done a total 180 from last year. Somebody is going to pay the price.

  2. Bw52 says:

    Matheny probably gets a mulligan this year from the FO because of the amount of injuries and underperformance by many players.My question is what can Mo do to fix the stagnant offense?
    Who can MO trade? Yadi isn`t going anywhere.Matt Adams could be trade bait but who plays 1B? Wong is prize rookie with speed who will get a year to settle it.MCarpenter solid 3B.Peralta not going anywhere.Hollday probably untradeable.too much money,not enough production.Jay or Oscar Taveras top 2 trade baitguys IMHO.Oscar probably gets another season to show his skills so Jay is main trade bait.Cards are in a position where they might have to go into 2015 with nearly the same offense as this year and hope for better results.

    • crdswmn says:

      Well, Jay is certainly at his peak value. He will be 30 at the beginning of next season and will get expensive in his 2nd year of arb compared to his expected future value. Since there is depth in the OF, he is expendable. Whether Mo takes that step is anyone’s guess. Matheny would certainly be made very unhappy by such a move.

      I haven’t looked at the crop of FAs for next season, so I don’t know who is available to pick up.

    • blingboy says:

      I think the approach will be to add to the core rather than change out the parts. Yadi, Adams, Wong, Peralta, Carp, Holliday and Taveras likely will all be starters next year. I expect changes everywhere else among position players on the roster. A legit 4th OF with a big league bat is a must. I don’t think there will any any Robinsons, Ellises or Descalsos hitting .200 taking up roster spots.

      I think Piscotty/Pham and whoever else will have to outplay somebody a lot better than Robinson to get an opening day roster spot. What we have to trade is pitching. I’d think Miller or Martinez, or both, will be trade bait, along with lesser names. I also think Mo will look to bring in a proven arm for the pen. It might be that we will see more activity in the FA market than in the past. Oh yah, and the hitting coaches. I don’t care what kind of contracts they have.

      As to Jay, there is nothing so wrong with him, per se. But two things. First, Bourjos shows that the org is open to replacing Jay, but obviously it will take something better. Second, he will be 2nd year arb eligible and due a raise from $3.25M, so he’s not going to be cheap anymore.

  3. Bw52 says:

    A 4 Homerun beatdown by the Cubs.Now that is sad.The punch and Judy`s (AKA Cardinals) stunk tonite.Someone tell the hitters that its okay to score runs in more than qne inning.

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