PostCards: Mike Matheny talks prior to 2014 NLCS Game 1
Q. I would like to get your perspective on Lance Lynn. Couple different points. One, the consistency you’ve seen from him this year, but, two, how he’s developed as a pitcher during your time here.
Oct 11, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) shakes hands with St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny before game one of the 2014 NLCS playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
MIKE MATHENY: This has been a hot topic of conversation as we look at the success Lance has had and I’ll still say he’s probably one of the most underrated pitchers in the game with what he’s been able to do. A lot of statistics people don’t put weight on, but we do, and that’s staying in there and fighting until you get a win.
Lance has improved not just in that category, but in every category. Part of it’s just the maturity process and having time and some hard lessons learned with trying to figure out the kind of pitcher he wanted to be. A guy that can throw hard and overpower people and also has a good sinker.
So he was kind of going back and forth, and also trying to control being a very intense, emotional‑style pitcher and how that was really reflecting on the bottom line.
He took a lot of steps in the right direction, a more consistent approach on the mound with his stuff, with his demeanor, and just had a very, very good season for us.
Q. Mike, when you were talking about the offense in general and when you got to Kolten, you used the same term “right” “get right, do it right.” I know you could write a thesis on what is right, but offensively speaking from the batter’s box, what’s “right” to you?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, “right” is going to have a whole lot of different faces, and tonight there is going to be nine of them. And it’s sticking with the game plan and trusting the plan, and usually that’s taking your strengths, even trying to outweighing those over the pitcher’s strength, and trying to figure out, This is what I need to do to give myself a chance at success.
And getting back to John Mabry, once again, this is something he’s done well. He doesn’t put this canopy over our offense to say, This is what we have to do to be successful against this pitcher. He breaks it down hitter by hitter. What they’re doing now and how they feel, and then taking into consideration the opponent.
And “right” can be completely different from one guy to the next. And I think it’s just sticking with that and believing in that process. First, coming up with the right plan and stick with it until it comes through. These guys have been pretty diligent in that.
Q. There is a lot going on in your city right now in terms of protest and unrest outside the ballpark. Understanding that your job is to play the game, is there anything that a baseball team that’s important to the community can do at a tough moment to help it heel or unify or anything like that?
MIKE MATHENY: I think baseball has done a great job of being that. Sometimes the distraction, sometimes a force that unifies and, hopefully, that’s the case here. We’ve got a lot of hurt that’s happened in the past all over our country, and baseball seems to be part of that healing process. And we have some hurt in our community right now and hopefully this playoff baseball, and baseball in general, can help that healing process here as well.
Q. Mike, you’ve talked this season about how impressed you’ve been with the way Mark Ellis handled both his change in the role and now left off the roster. How has that manifested itself in the clubhouse in terms of maybe making an impact and what can he do for you guys off the field?
MIKE MATHENY: Leadership comes in many forms and I think it probably speaks the loudest in adversity. And when you have a player of Mark’s credentials and you look at what he’s been able to do through his career, and as recently as last year, and now being put in a spot that he is, I think that’s when you truly see the make‑up of people.
Mark has even kicked it into a higher gear to figure out how he can help more. When I turn around and we’re looking for guys and talking about some of our options, Mark is the first one in line to start talking to the younger players about who might be used in a certain spot.
He’s the epitome of a pro and has been a great fit here for us. It’s been an odd season for him with health issues early and some that came late getting in the way of him hitting his stride to where he could be more of an impact out on the field. But I believe his impact has been even greater by how he’s going about his business and being intentional about trying to focus on other people and not just his circumstances. And it’s glaring.
When we go in and we have closed doors, the guys want him to speak. They want to hear what he has to say. And for a guy his first year on a team, that speaks volumes.
Q. When you spoke of Lance Lynn a few moments ago, you said the idea of staying in a game and fighting to get a win is important to you guys, even if that statistic is not maybe as in vogue as it used to be. Why is that important to you and how can that payoff to you over the course of 162 games, even if it may not pay off in one game?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, we’re paid to win baseball games. We have a starter that goes out there and somehow keeps us in a game, and his name is in there when that decision comes around. There is a lot that had to go right in order for that to happen.
I am a big fan, too, of the modern statistic and trying to figure out an advantage we can have, but there is something to be said about a guy who goes out there every fifth day, and through the ups‑and‑downs he figures out a way to get it done or give his team a chance to get it done.
He’s a competitor. And I think that’s normally what you’re going to find in common with people who have good careers as far as the win‑loss records go. They get in there and fight and get through those times when they don’t feel their best and they still compete.
Lance has a lot of intangibles and is growing in his leadership role, even in a club like with a Wainwright and even Lackey, who have more time. Lance has spent time with Carpenter and he has helped him with the intangibles to help him be a leader on the staff and he’s making all the right strides.
Q. In your bullpen, Pat Neshek, putting up the numbers, minor league free agent, putting up the numbers he did, what’s the impact for you guys this year?
MIKE MATHENY: It’s been huge, besides just the numbers, being able to step in in a couple of different roles. At times when we were really beating Trevor Rosenthal up by pitching him so much there, would be times where we would have to hold Pat Neshek back and he would be our closer. How consistent of an approach he’s had and, again, we talk a lot around here about leadership.
We have so many young arms around here to have some guys who have had some experiences that brings a great deal of value to our club, and Pat has been just one of those huge surprises. We walked into the Spring Training thinking we were going to have a right‑handed version of Randy Choate and not even know if he’s going to make our team, to a guy who can throw the seventh, eighth and ninth if he’s healthy.
Q. Mike, because Wacha was such a force last October, what advice did you give him this year as a bullpen guy, or did you need to?
MIKE MATHENY: He hasn’t really been a bullpen guy here until the last couple of weeks, and the only advice is just be ready to pitch. He’s been ready in pitch. He has been in October and knows what it takes. He’s just looking for the opportunity. And with the situation in our pen right now, it’s not that much unlike what we saw with Shelby Miller last year, a guy who won 15 games for us and couldn’t get him into the game.
And Michael, as we were talking about Mark Ellis, health issues got in the way, and we had to be real careful with him. It set him back a little bit to where he wasn’t as sharp as we needed or he wanted to be, for sure. But we still believe he can come in and throw some of his biggest innings, and some of our biggest innings of the year. That was the conversation we had after we won the Division Series, Stay sharp. This could would be exactly like what we saw last year, and how things played out, so stay sharp.
Q. Mike, Jake Peavy has had a career renaissance since being traded to the Giants. I know you guys haven’t seen him this year. What do the scouting reports tell you about him?
MIKE MATHENY: We see the scouting reports and we’ve seen his game and we’ve seen enough of him firsthand to know much like as I was talking about Lance, the guy competes and figures out how to get it done.
That’s something he’s done his whole career and has been very much of an adjustor. He figures out what he needs to do in his game to give himself a chance with the stuff that he has right now.
He’s had a great career and has been a very good addition for that club. He brings a lot of intensity and emotion and it’s all natural. And I think that influences and impacts his club.
We know he will come out with everything he’s got.