Will Mike Matheny improve in 2015?

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On November 14, 2011 just days after the St. Louis Cardinals won their 11th World Series and Tony La Russa announced his retirement, the club named his former catcher and special adviser at the time Mike Matheny as the new Manager. It was a unique time in the sense, Matheny never had any formal, professional managerial experience at the time.

Fast-forward three seasons and Matheny has shown himself to be quite a great hire with 3 straight NLCS appearances, 2 NL Central Division titles, finishing second in another and a World Series appearance to boot. Not to shabby for someone who had never managed before. It certainly helps that Matheny learned a great deal under one of the greatest managers of all time, Tony La Russa, whom himself was also hired as a manager without any experience but he began his career at a minor league affiliate. Not too many managers in the history of the game have gotten off to the kind of start Matheny has. With that being said, no manager is without flaws and there is always ways to improve. Therefore, I pose the question: Will Mike Matheny improve in 2015?

The Cardinals boast a lineup full of guys capable of driving in runs such as Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, etc. However, an argument could be made that because of the lack of base-stealing attempts more opportunities are being missed. There is legitimacy to the notion the Cardinals do not have alot of speed guys or guys that can pose a threat every time they reach base.  Kolten Wong stole 20 bags last year compared to the rest of the team which swiped 37. It would certainly behoove Matheny to consider attempting more steals utilizing Wong, Jon Jay, leadoff man Matt Carpenter and Jason Heyward to help generate more runs.

Having been a catcher at a high level, Matheny knows what it takes to manage a game in all facets. He should also know that managing a catcher and their health goes a long way in providing them longevity and effectiveness over time which is where he could stem to grow in regards to Yadier Molina. Molina is arguably the best catcher in the game and one of the best defensively of all time. When he is in the lineup, the pitching staff, defense, and team is all better and more importantly they win. A more limited schedule for Yadi behind the plate, at least early on should keep him healthier down the stretch.

An area that Mike Matheny is rather weak at is his handling of a bullpen which has perhaps costs him a World Series ring or two. Last season for example, he constantly ran Pat Neshek out for the 8th inning and at times the ninth, and Neshek did an Awesome job. That is until the end of the regular season and post-season when he started to get hit more often due to breaking down. Lets not forget Trevor Rosenthal who despite being amongst the league leaders in saves and strikeouts for relievers was a head case at times lacked confidence, putting a lot of guys on base, over pitched and didn’t trust his stuff. I get it, Mike Matheny trust his players to do their jobs and execute but at what point do you say enough is enough and find someone else to do the job if its not being done right? Give guys clearly defined roles and maybe have a shorter leash for guys that struggle especially in the playoffs because that can be what stands in the way of winning a division or World Title, or sitting on the couch watching while another team is where you want to be.

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Mike Matheny often times comes off as very loyal especially when filling out his everyday lineup. For instance last season there was a major drop off from not only the leadoff spot with former all-star Matt Carpenter struggling more at the plate in part to his position change, but the 3 and 4 hole in the order as well. Even though Carpenter put up solid numbers as leadoff hitter again, they were a dropoff to his performance the year prior. Matheny could have shifted him down in the order and moved Jay or Wong up but chose to ride it out and that could be a reason for the offense not clicking as well. Hopefully this season Matheny doesn’t use that same reluctance and if a change needs to be made he will utilize his other options.

Those are areas Mike Matheny could stand to grow and become more savvy at but otherwise he is off to a great start for his career and has the makings of possibly one day hoisting a World Series title of his own. Thanks for reading!

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