Breaking Down the Mike Matheny Era and Moving Forward

I’ve never been much of a Matheny fan, as a manager, and I’ve been vocal about it. He was a great leader of men, but he was a lousy leader of ballplayers; he was the right guy when Oscar Taveras passed away, but the wrong guy making pitching changes.

That said, I was shocked to see the move made; not because a change was needed, but because I expected it in the off-season. Adding John Mabry and Bill Mueller in the firing was expected though; the hitting has been so one diminsional and streaky for years, something needed to be changed there.

Mike Shildt will be the interim manager, with Mark Budaska and George Greer being added as hitting coaches; Budaska was the guy that would work with Grichuk, Piscotty, and Wong when they were demoted and would get them hitting again (at least until they came back up and Mabry got ahold of them again).

Matheny by the Numbers
On the whole, Matheny didn’t have bad overall numbers: 591-474, .555 winning percentage. His teams averaged a 91-71 record for the full seasons he managed (.560 winning percentage). Those are respectable numbers, until you break them down.

When you look at his winning percentages over his 6.5 years as manager, there is some variation, then a noticable trend.

(Note, 2018 was the team win percentage as of his firing)

After some fluctuation the first 4 seasons, there is a steady decline. Now, we can’t put this blame solely on Matheny; the front office gets him the players and the players play the games. But as the leader of those they give him, he’s supposed to get the most out of their talent; Tony LaRussa was good at this.

If you look at their Pythagorean Winning Percentage (calculated of runs scored and runs allowed), the trend was the same.

The interesting thing is when you look at the 2 together

While they corresponded in trends, this shows you the team underperformed 5 of his 7 seasons; based off runs scored and allowed, they should have won more games those seasons than they did.

This basically shows that the team won 7 more games than they should of in 2014 and 4 more in 2015.

You could also look at how they finished in the standings:

YearFinishPost Season
20122ndNLCS Loss
20131stWS Loss
20141stNLCS Loss
20151stNLDS Loss
20162ndMissed PS
20173rdMissed PS

Trending in the wrong decision.

The team was a borderline .500 team this year and many of the clubhouse distractions had a part of it (the Fowler/Matheny issue and the Norris/Hicks issue).

Going Forward
I think Shildt will be in place for the full season, unless the Reds start to target a candidate they want. I also think if the team has a massive turn around, he’ll get given serious consideration for the permanent job.

Joe Girardi is probably the odds on favorite right now; I was pretty high on him right away too. But then I started to talk to Yankee fan friends and reading up on his time in New York; he’s a more analytical Mike Matheny. Sports Illustrated reported that “connectivity and communication with players as a reason for him being ousted. I’ve also heard he like to rely on veterans, which is a trait that the team doesn’t need.

Cardinal fans will be pushing for 3B Coach Jose Oquendo; Oquendo was a hot commodity in the managerial interview circuit a few years ago, but there were rumors that his lack of fluid English kept him from getting the New York Mets job that went to Terry Collins. Since then, it appears that his managerial desires have waned. I’d be very surprised if he were to get the job.

The internal dark horse is Stubby Clapp; the former scrappy, utility player for the Cardinals took over the reigns of Triple A Memphis last season and led the team to a minor league best 91-50 record; he’s following it up with a PCL best 59-35 this season. He’s proven that he can work with the kids in the system, which is a plus for a team that keeps funneling kids to the Major League team.

The external dark horse is Jim Riggleman, the interim manager for the Reds. Since he took over April 18th, the team is 40-38; if you take a closer look, they are 23-16 since June started. The problem with Riggleman is his track record; he’s got a career record of 702-862 over 13 seasons; he’s only had 4 winning seasons as a manager, and only 1 has been over a full season (another is this season, so this number could decrease).

There have been a few other candidates named, like Mark McGwire and Dusty Baker, but I don’t expect them to be in serious consideration. McGwire probably doesn’t want to be that far away from home and the history with Baker is probably too much to overcome (although I think we can see he’s past riding young pitcher to death).

At this point, I’d really like to see Clapp get the shot; I think he works well with young players and appears to be pretty analytical.

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