Five takeaways following the St. Louis Cardinals’ early postseason exit

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Oct 12, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (26) speaks after game three of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

5. Management Needs Improvement

Many advocates could make the case that Mike Matheny deserves manager of the year honors for his ability to bring out a 100-win team around all of the injuries he faced. However, just as many adversaries could argue that certain decisions on behalf of Matheny doomed the Cardinals toward their only first-round postseason exit in his four-year tenure.

The consistency of getting into postseason is there, but how often does a team’s postseason run get remembered if it ends with three consecutive losses year after year? Managing in the postseason is almost like a game of poker and more times than not Matheny did not play his cards right.

Many of these questionable decisions unfolded on the road, starting with Game 3. After the Cardinals offense established some momentum against Cy Young hopeful Jake Arrieta to take a 2-1 lead into the fourth inning, Matheny rolled the dice with Michael Wacha in hopes that the 24-year old would overcome issues that led to four base runners through his first three frames of work.

As Wacha’s inability to command the strike zone continued, he allowed the go-ahead, two-run home run to a struggling Kris Bryant. This moment ultimately changed the course of the series, given that Matheny did not act upon change in times of danger and left several rested relief pitchers without an opportunity to challenge the Cubs’ rookie.

The what-if applications go on and on, whether it be pitching Siegrist against hitters he has historically struggled with or playing the waiting game with offensive struggling veterans Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta too long. All of these situational mishaps serve as lessons for Matheny and other managerial influences to learn from in the offseason, considering that all four division rivals have shown signs of improvement for seasons to come.

Next: 2015 St. Louis Cardinals' Season Review: Disappointments