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Cardinal Talk: KXnO FOX Sports Radio: Pivotal NLCS Game 4

Weekly St. Louis Cardinals-focused chat on KXnO FOX Sports Radio 1460 in Des Moines.

As is the case each week, I joined Ken Miller on KXnO FOX Sports Radio 1460 in Des Moines in our weekly series to discuss the St. Louis Cardinals. This time only, we moved the segment up to Wednesday.

This week, we reviewed Games 1, 2 and 3 of the Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants and looked forward to Games 4 and 5. We agreed on the importance of winning Wednesday night’s game to the Cardinals chances of reaching the World Series.

Once again in 2014, Cardinals followers in central Iowa are able to catch St. Louis Cardinals radio broadcasts on KXnO as well as my regular segment each week throughout the season, either over the air or via streaming. Or, if you miss it live, you can always catch the replay right here at The Cardinal Nation blog.

Click here for audio: Brian Walton with Ken Miller (7:23)

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Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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62 Responses to “Cardinal Talk: KXnO FOX Sports Radio: Pivotal NLCS Game 4”

  1. Bw52 says:

    12 pitchers on the damn roster and none can find the freakimg strike zone.Somebody tell Peralta its okay to drive in a run.Miller bellied up as I expected.What`s Wacha doing?Cards are deab in the water right now.Every Cards mistake the Giants seem to capitalize on.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Grichuk has whiffed twice, but no surprise there.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Grichuk’s post-season strikeout rate is now 39 percent to go with a .161 batting average.

        • crdswmn says:

          It’s about defense doncha know.

        • Bw52 says:

          How about Peralta puny 5-27 or 2-13 LCS 1 RBI POSTSEASON 5-27 1 RBI
          Adams 3-15 1HR 2 RBI 3 K LCS POSTSEASON 6-27 2 HR 6 RBI
          Holliday 4-18 ZERO RBI LCS POSTSEASON 8-33 1 HR 3 RBI 7 K

          M Carpenter 4-17 1 HR 1 RBI 7 K LCS

          So there are several hitters failing to deliver,several big money guys who are supposed to deliver.I know that doesn`t fit your agenda .

          • Brian Walton says:

            You miss the point. All of those players you cite – Peralta, Adams, Holliday and Carpenter – have proven track records as major league hitters. Taveras, Bourjos and Grichuk do not. Further, the Cardinals do not have viable alternatives to Peralta, Adams, Holliday and Carpenter on their roster. The four are – and should be – playing every game. On the other hand, the Cardinals have several outfield choices of comparable experience that could be utilized better based on situations. Instead one player gets all the starts and is not doing well. Yet it continues.

            I cannot believe I had to explain that.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Grichuk 0 for 4, Taveras 1 for 1. Why didn’t we bench Wong as well?

  3. crdswmn says:

    So Matheny’s game map took him down the rat hole.

    He will clean it up and use it again tomorrow.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Earl Weaver was a manager who liked platoons and righty/lefty matchups. TLR liked to involve everybody on the active roster and put guys in a position to succeed. In contrast, Mike thinks about showing confidence in select people, which means relying on them alone for a given situation. He also likes designated regulars, rather than platoons. He believes that guys go on streaks and likes riding the player he thinks will continue to be hot. Its more of an emotional, belief-based, and manager-centric motivational approach, less about playing percentages and dispassionate reason. In contrast, the Giants are more about playing percentages. Given injuries to Morse and Pagan, they are relying on left swingers Blanco and Ishikawa. These two are below average talent, but matched up against a right handed hurler, can do damage, as Ishikawa has illustrated, with help from the rook Grichuk.

    A case can be made for relying solely on Grichuk for RF. The Cards think Taveras is not as nifty in the field and that defense is important. If Grichuk makes a couple of nifty plays per game, then this could be more important than an added hit from Taveras.

    An alternative outlook is don’t overthink and don’t rely on just one non-established rookie, putting all your chips on one bet. Alternate both rookies, to lower the pressure on each and give each the most favorable matchup. This is what TLR called putting guys in a position to succeed. Right field in San Francisco is very hard to play, so its hard to rely on defense out there; the winds have baffled Grichuk and negated some of supposed defensive advantage, whereas another left swinger like Taveras can pull the ball out to right, giving Pence more chances to bungle reads.

    Jon Jay has had a good season, hanging in well against LHPs and collecting hit by pitches. Nonetheless, we see the same emotional craving on Matheny’s part to favor one guy and shun another. Bourjos should have gotten more play this year, because the better base-runner and defender. And while Jay gets on base well, he does not drive the ball much.

    • crdswmn says:

      It isn’t hard. If I can figure it out there is no reason Matheny can’t.

      You have a large center to left outfield and a unique right field in AT&T Park. You have two starting pitchers who induce a lot of fly balls (Miller and Lackey). Therefore, outfield defense is going to be an issue. You must balance the need for defense with a need for offense as well. L/R Splits against the handedness of the opposing pitcher. Taveras against RHP, Grichuk against LHP. Jay and Bourjos both have moderate reverse splits in 2014.

      Lackey against RH Hudson: Holliday/Bourjos/Jay or Taveras
      Miller against RH Vogelsong : Holliday/Bourjos/Jay or Taveras
      Waino against LH Bumgarner: Holliday/Jay/Grichuk

      In Busch Stadium, the outfield defense should be Bourjos in center when Miller is pitching for sure. You can use Jay for Waino and Lynn, Lackey either Bourjos or Jay. Grichuk in RF against Bumgarner, Taveras against Hudson, Vogelsong and Peavy.

      That’s how I would do it. There is some wiggle room. Jay or Taveras in RF against RHP are interchangeable. Bourjos/Jay interchangeable in CF except when Miller pitches in either park.

      You could also give Holliday a day and play Jay or Grichuk in LF field depending on opposing pitcher.

    • Bw52 says:

      You fail to menton SF winds and how it would sffect the lesser defensive player Taveras.If Pence has trouble in his home park why would a rational person think Oscar would do well.2 sides to the coin.Oscar might knock in a run and he might let in several more in RF.

      • crdswmn says:

        Grichuk hasn’t done any better with the winds and Taveras is a better bet for offense than Grichuk against RHP. It is a balancing act between defense and offense. Furthermore, Taveras has played that RF field before and Grichuk never had.

  5. Bw52 says:

    Damned if you do and damned if you don`t.All I know is that Cards need Waino to be the old Waino tonite.Holliday,Peralta and others need to wake up .The damn GIDPs killed rally after rally last nite.Mental errors and regular errors doomed Cards and a poor start by Shelby Miller.Holliday needs a big game.He has only had RBI in ONE of the 8 postseason games so far.Peralta one rbi IN 8 games and that was on a GIDP LAST NITE.

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    Baseball is a big enough business, it is probable teams are using number crunchers to help lineup decisions.
    If one did Monte Carlo type simulations of possible outcomes that the results could favor starting Grichuk in RF. You could simulate 100 or 1,000 games between the Giants and Cards and from these model runs establish the most favorable predicted lineup for the Cards. I would be surprised if the Cards have not done this, to figure out the best odds in their favor. The assistant GM Girsch is a numbers guy who could commission such an analysis.
    However, this is only simulation of course, whereas in inconvenient reality there are far fewer games. They are played by humans, who sometimes make mistakes and balls can take funny hops, so all sorts of small n outcomes could come about that make a mockery of the best simulated lineup. In baseball, the actual outcomes can be much different from the best forecast. Nonetheless, it would still behoove any ML team to have data analysts study their most effective lineups. I like the analysts being used by the Giants, because they must respect right/left matchups more than do Mo and Mad Mike.

    • crdswmn says:

      How do you know they don’t do that, and it is just being ignored by Matheny?

      • JumboShrimp says:

        1. I assume the Cards do simulation analyses of different lineups against various pitchers.
        2. Since the Cards are starting Grichuk, it is not impossible the simulations favor starting Grichuk, predicated on an estimated (and hard to measure) defensive advantage versus Taveras. Mo and Mike are on the same page about Grichuk and they seem to think they have sound reasons to favor him.
        3. Matheny and Mo could be ignoring lineup recommendations from their data analytic advisors. Since I do not know these recommendations, I cannot tell who is ignoring or following them.
        4. I suspect Matheny is a loyal company guy and not at cross purposes with Mozeliak.

        • crdswmn says:

          I agree with 1 and partially agree with 2 (Matheny would ignore, I doubt Mo would)

          I disagree with 2 and 4. I don’t assume that Matheny and Mo are on the same page at all. What Mozeliak says in public may well be predicated on keeping up the appearance that they are on the same page to avoid a media frenzy of speculation and pot stirring. What is actually true may be far different.

          Is it possible Matheny and Mo are completely on the same page? Yes, but I don’t make that assumption, because I still believe (until proven otherwise) that Mo is smarter than that.

  7. crdswmn says:

    The irony is that tonight’s game is the game where Matheny’s lineup is perfect. The last two games (that we lost), it was not. Waino’s not a fly ball pitcher and Bumgarner is left handed.

    I would however, make outfield changes when the bullpen comes in (other than Maness). Especially with a lead. Bourjos has got to be brought in to man that huge outfield. Matheny has to get over himself about Bourjos, whatever his beef is about. If this game is screwed up there is no tomorrow.

    • Bw52 says:

      Which Waino do you think shows up tonite?Good Waino or bad Waino?I I am really hoping AW has something left but I sure don`t want his heart to override his elbow.Don`t want to see the chance of worst injury that could linger into next season.

    • blingboy says:

      The most likely thing Matheny will do is what he has done before, whether what he did before worked or not.

  8. blingboy says:

    If anybody was wondering if OT and the organization are on the same page:

    • Brian Walton says:

      What conclusion did you draw from it?

      • blingboy says:

        Not on same page.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I dunno. He accepted the weight thing. Whether he agrees or not, it was the politically-correct thing to say. A lot of guys want to play winter ball in their homeland – especially when the alternative is a strict workout regimen administered by others. On the other hand, he did get in about 500 at-bats this season so I can see where the Cardinals might be coming from. I guess I am for whatever will help him get around on the fastball better. 😉

          • blingboy says:

            He has to recognize that he’s more or less in the dog house. He’s had some problems with the org not being totally happy with him before. If he had half a brain he would have said “I haven’t heard what the team wants me to do this winter”. Really, the last thing on his mind should be what he wants to do and it is hard to believe that he does not understand that. I really do wonder if he has the make up needed to be big time performer, at least with this organization. I guess the word I’m looking for is clueless. I think he’s clueless.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Or a 22-year-old who still has some growing up to do. If that is the case, he surely would not be the first or last.

              It is easy to forget that as recently as July 4th, Kolten Wong was still banished to Memphis. For all we know, he might have stayed there had Ellis or Descalso hit a lick. I am not suggesting that the issue with Wong was conditioning, however. Just another example that young players have a shorter rope – some maybe shorter than others.

              • blingboy says:

                Yes, I forget about the youth factor. When I was 22 probably the day I got my first big league paycheck is last they’d see of me for a while. I do hope he pans out.

                I mentioned previously, I think the cards strategy will be to set things up next spring where he has to outplay somebody pretty good if he wants the job.

  9. Bw52 says:

    Cards tried but came up short.Big letdowns by big guns (Holliday,Peralta) injury to Yadi and mistakes just too hard to overcome and Giants took advantage of every screwup Cards made and Giants got some lucky bounces also.It happens.No point in bringing up MM.He is what he is.The big question now is how to improve this Cardinal team?
    1.Apparently you can`t ever have too much pitching.Quality pitching that is.
    2.Improve the bench,
    3.Backup Catcher
    4.Team speed
    5.Teach more fundamentals (baserunning,bunting,cutoffs etc)
    6.Make full use of your roster

  10. crdswmn says:

    If anyone has had any doubts about the non-wisdom of Matheny’s thought processes, this should remove all doubt.

    Matheny, when asked about not using closer T. Rosenthal in 9th: "We can't bring him in, in a tie-game situation. We're on the road.”— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) October 17, 2014

    • Nutlaw says:

      It’s not very creative thinking, for sure. Runs count against you just the same whenever they are scored and they would have had a travel day today if they had won, so no need to rest your best arms.

      Must not be all that fun to manage if you feel that you have to follow the book in every situation, applicable or not.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Wow. Bernie just had his column written for him with that quote.

      • blingboy says:

        Bernie pointed out that the reason Mo gave Choate a three year contract was to pitch to exactly those two hitters (Belt and Ishikawa) in exactly that situation.

        It was not fair to Wacha to put him in that situation, and he will now have it hanging over his head all winter, and for who knows how long. I really do believe that having Matheny managing us gives the other team an unfair advantage. We have enough talent to overcome it pretty often, but not often enough.

      • crdswmn says:

        Starting to be picked up nationally.

        Matheny is going to be a source of mockery for a while.

  11. blingboy says:

    I’d like to be the first to wish Mike well in his future endeavors.

    • blingboy says:

      Every April I get frustrated by what I perceive to be a lack of urgency. The ‘there is always tomorrow’ mentality. A loss in April counts the same as a loss in September I say, only to be shot down by the ‘long season/always tomorrow’ crowd. While it is true that a loss in April counts the same as a loss in September, it is just as true that a loss in October counts a lot more. Which is why it is such a bad idea to let that always tomorrow mentality take root over the regular season. Young players especially can’t be expected to take what they have been immersed in all season and suddenly throw it out the window. Old players clearly can’t be counted on to do it very well either, nor can Matheny. My position is that if they had all been practicing a win or die trying approach all year they would have been a lot better at it in October. Granted, not everybody would survive the rigors of that approach, but the survivors would be ready for the win or go home time. Matheny is not a win or die trying manager and never will be, so a team managed by him never will be either.

      Writers whose livelihood doesn’t depend on being in the good graces of the Cardinal org have an advantage. I am not sure to what extent the Cardinals-beholden butt kissers will, or realistically even can discuss the 800 pound naked elephant, but I appreciate that somebody out there will.

      I am already on record predicting that Mike had to win the NLCS to keep his job. I have already wished him well in his future endeavors. Maybe he could be a motivational speaker.

      • Bw52 says:

        I think Matheny gets a pass.Getting to the World series last year and playoffs the other two years will get him some leeway.Somebody will be the fall guy and since the offense was very inconsistent all season John Mabry will be the sacrificial lamb .Lilliquist will be okay because the pitching did okay even with injuries.I think Mabry “resigns” and takes another position with the organization.

        • blingboy says:

          Apart from the decisions he makes, I’m tired of Matheny’s imperturbable and emotionless demeanor. Let’s see what the team would do with Chris Carpenter at the helm. Now that would make for some entertainment.

      • crdswmn says:

        There IS a difference between the regular season and the postseason. You can’t manage a postseason game like a regular season game and expect to go all the way. For all of TLR’s faults, he knew this. He managed very differently in the postseason than he did in the regular season. In the 2011 postseason he routinely yanked a starting pitcher at the first sign of trouble, no matter how early in the game it was. He never did that in the regular season; I remember a lot of regular season game postmortems when we all griped about TLR leaving a starting pitcher in too long.

        Trying to have the “win or go home” approach in the regular season would accomplish nothing but burning everyone out before the season is over. Look at this season’s Brewers, they did exactly that and they were completely gassed by midseason.

  12. blingboy says:

    “All the people upset with Matheney’s ninth inning decision” is the promo for the Channel 5 5 O’clock news.

    • blingboy says:

      Frank C., the channel 5 guy pretty much defended Matheny, mostly by pointing out that you can’t win in the playoffs with a bullpen than stinks, which the Cardinals pen did. Of course, he didn’t mention the role Mike’s management contributed to the pen’s troubles. He really had his lips limbered and puckered up.

      • crdswmn says:

        There are always going to be some media types who will go out of their way to defend the manager. Mainly I think it is because they think it wins them access brownie points.

        Matheny is being pilloried on the national level. The local guys have a little more at stake and are somewhat more circumspect in their criticism.

        • blingboy says:

          The thing I notice right off is the out of town media types seem to have no idea that the Wacha decision is a lot more shocking to them than it is to Cardinal fans who recognize that it is just an especially egregious example of a familiar theme. To us, its not that decision in particular that is the story, but to them it is.

          • crdswmn says:

            Because they are not subjected to the almost daily examples of Mathenaging. Only when it is on display to a national audience in big important games does it become a thing,

  13. blingboy says:

    On the subject of Matheny, I noticed an item buried deep in a Rob Rains article not about Matheny that caught my eye.

    “There already has been some suggestions in the Bay Area that bench coach Mike Aldrete could be headed back to Oakland to serve as the A’s bench coach. If that happens, it would be nice to see the Cardinals bring in somebody with major-league managing experience to serve in that role.

    The Cardinals have not been shy about promoting coaches from their own system, but sometimes that can create an atmosphere where nobody wants to question the manager or challenge any of his decisions. The Cardinals need a bench coach who isn’t afraid to do that, and has the experience necessary to have Matheny listen to his opinions and recommedations. ”

    My initial thought is what kind of former major league manager, who knows what he is talking about, would want to take the job of trying to tell Matheny how to manage? And what kind of manager would tolerate having his bench coach appointed for him with that role in mind? And for heavens sake, why not just make that guy the manager?

  14. crdswmn says:

    Maybe a guy who hopes to be the manager when Matheny predictably ignores his advice and goes his own way? Firing a manager who is already into his extension rather than before it starts looks better to the public. At least you can argue that Matheny was warned ahead of time that things had to change, and if they don’t, well then you have an insubordination argument. It’s like suspending some one first before you fire them. Then you haven’t ambushed them.

    • blingboy says:

      Well, its a novel idea that falls between the need to fire him now, and the they won’t fire him now positions that have been beaten to death already. It would make for ongoing sub-plots galore every step of the way. But if the thinking is to position themselves to fire him without looking like dunces, they should just sprout a pair and do it already. On the other hand, if the thinking is he can be helped to become a good manager, um, I don’t know what to say exactly. Anything can happen, I guess.

      • crdswmn says:

        It is both really. I spent 20 years doing personnel work for my department. I was the one who advised management what to do with difficult employees. The first idea is to make them better employees if that is possible. That is always the goal. But along with that you have to plan for the contingency that what you do won’t work and you may have to take other action. So you do what you can to help them. If they don’t improve, then you give them a warning that their job is in jeopardy if they don’t make changes. That is to both give them another chance and insulate management in the event that termination is necessary and questions are asked or legal action is taken. If they don’t improve after the additional chance, then you have the indication that the employee simply has no will to change, and then you dump them with all of your ducks in a row for the aftermath.

        • blingboy says:

          Yes, I can see the reality in what you are saying.

          I do question this: ” If they don’t improve after the additional chance, then you have the indication that the employee simply has no will to change”

          There is also the scenario where there is all the will in the world, but not the ability. Efforts to help them are not going to work due to lack of ability, personal makeup, or whatever. Suppose that is recognized. Do you then go through the motions, however long that delays getting on with correcting the situation?

          • crdswmn says:

            It is rare that inability is determined right off the bat. There is a probation period where performance is measured. Then, if there are issues, suggestions are given on how to do better. Then another period to determine if the employee has implemented the suggestions and whether performance has improved. If performance does not improve, then typically either further suggestions are made, or if the nature of the job is such that further periods for improvement are not warranted, then no further suggestions are made and the employee is either terminated or perhaps transferred to a position that better matches their abilities.

            To analogize this to Matheny, I don’t think it can be determined that he does not have the ability. He has shown in the past some awareness of things not working and trying something else. This is a marker of someone who has ability, at least, to learn. I don’t think it is lack of ability, I think it is unwillingness to depart from his core philosophy, even when it garners bad results. This is a problem of will, not ability.

            • blingboy says:

              Interesting. Again, I see the reality.

              A person coming into a job without experience could be expected to adopt a ‘by the book’ approach, sticking closely to common wisdom, and hesitant to stray from it in response to events. None of that equates to lack of ability.

              On the other side of the ledger, I cannot imagine anyone successfully arguing that his management strategies and decisions have improved the least bit from the day he signed on until now. Nor can I imagine that no efforts have been made already to help him overcome his lack of experience and unsteady decision making. In addition, he has shown an alarming stubbornness, as well as an unwillingness to cooperate with his boss. As a result, Mo has had to force the issue several times.

              I think Mike has been lucky enough to have inherited a talented team of winners, backed by depth and a productive pipeline. IMHO, the run of post-seasons is in no way attributable to ability on his part. On the contrary, I think that the major league team is not getting full benefit from the talent being supplied. The quality and competitiveness of the product on the field is steadily degrading under his leadership. The manager of the major league team has become the weak link in other words. I don’t think it is fixable without a change. Mo might, though, or at least be compelled by off field realities to put off doing what needs to be done.

              • crdswmn says:

                Perhaps that all is true. I certainly don’t dispute the idea that his success has been more player driven than manager driven, especially this season. All of the close games, all of the necessity for mounting “comebacks” in the last innings, these all point to more player effort than manager tactics.

                However, we don’t know what has gone on behind the scenes. There have been indications that all is not kosher in the GM/manager relations. But there have also been indications that GM is backing his manager no matter what. Whether that is PR driven or the result of actual agreement between GM and manager, well, nobody knows.

                I have had instances in my career, where supervisors have had issues with employees, but have not sought help in getting them under control until they have reached the breaking point with the employee. In those instances there is typically no paper trail of evidence that backs up the supervisor’s issues with the employee, merely undocumented verbal conversations and a lot of hand-wringing and bitching to other supervisors or staff. When the breaking point is reached, the supervisor comes to me wanting to get rid of the employee, and all I can do is tell them they screwed up and have to continue with the employment until they have documented the issues and followed the correct procedures. Time was wasted and the employee gets to continue the employment for some time while continuing to be a problem child.

                So, I don’t know whether Mozeliak has made any efforts to address the issues, though I hope he is smart enough to have done so. But you would be surprised what some smart people do when they are in a situation like that. There is a certain amount of ego involved with people believing they can handle the problems in a certain way, and then time shows them they were wrong. Admitting you screwed up is difficult for many people.

                • blingboy says:

                  ” . . . you screwed up is difficult for many people.” Yes, and it may be for Mo. It probably isn’t for BDW though. Anyway, Brian is going to go ‘Mo’ on us and impose a character limit if we keep this up.

                  It might be an interesting winter.

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