The St. Louis Cardinals: John Mabry should be the offensive fall guy

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: Yadier Molina #4 of the St Louis Cardinals (L) is congratulated by coach John Mabry after hitting a homerun in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: Yadier Molina #4 of the St Louis Cardinals (L) is congratulated by coach John Mabry after hitting a homerun in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals’ anemic offense have fans, bloggers, and the media pointing fingers at what or who is responsible.  Many are pointed at hitting coach John Mabry.  Is John Mabry the culprit or is he just the fall guy?

The 2018 St. Louis Cardinals have seen their team batting average fall to .237, 22nd in baseball. They have also seen their team SLG (.391), fall to 23rd in baseball, and their team OBP (.319) is currently 16th in baseball.

The question has become for fans and the media, who is responsible for this mess?

Many fingers are being pointing at hitting coach John Mabry, which is nothing new.  Mabry has been under growing criticism since he took over the hitting coach duties from Mark McGwire following the 2012 season.  The Cardinals team batting average has fallen from .271 in 2012, McGwire’s last year, to .256 in 2017.

The debate between fans, bloggers, and the media, also reflects here at Redbird Rants.  In our most recent podcast, Tito Rivera, Dr. Michael D. Miles, and Christian May-Suzuki debate the John Mabry question for half of the podcast.  You can listen to their comments here.

During the off-season, I posted a defense of John Mabry, that advocated he was being scapegoated by fans and media.  You may read it here below.

Related Story: A defense of the Cardinals' hitting coach

Many of the past criticisms were directed at Mabry due to the lack of development of some young prospects, such as Matt Adams, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, and Alemdys Diaz.  All four have since been traded and having mixed success with their new teams.

Criticism has also been directed at Mabry for the current hitting woes of veterans Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, and Kolten Wong.  Carpenter and Fowler are having career worst years, and Wong hasn’t yet found his footing at the plate for 2018.  All three are still hitting less than .200 with over a quarter of the season being played.

Marcell Ozuna is also another player who is not living up to expectations when the Cardinals traded for him during the off-season.  Although Ozuna is performing better than Carpenter, Fowler, and Wong, his current .234 BA is  below his six-year career average of .275.  The Cardinals expectations were closer to his .312 BA in 2017 when he played for the Miami Marlins.

So, is this criticism justified?  Should John Mabry be fired as the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach?

Let’s first look at Adams, Piscotty, Grichuk and Diaz.  Since being traded two have had limited success with new teams and new hitting coaches, while two others have gotten worse.

Matt Adams has the most success since leaving the Cardinals.  In 2017, after being traded to the Atlanta Braves in May, he hit .271 with 19 HR, 58 RBIs, a .315 OBP, and a .543 SLG in a 100 games.  With the Washington Nationals this year in 39 games, he has a .255 BA, 10 HRs, 27 RBIs, a .363 OBP, and a .585 SLG.

However, these numbers reflect his six-year BA under Mabry with a .271 average.  Nevertheless, in a combined 136 games with the Braves and the Nationals, Adams shows some improvement in OPB and SLG, thus far.

It’s really unfair to look at Stephen Piscotty’s numbers in 2017 and so far in 2018, due to his mother’s recent health issues and passing.  Currently,  his 2018 stats reflect his 2017 stats and assigning blame would be unfair.

However, Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz are a different story.  Both were traded to the Toronto Blue Jays during the off-season and  they have gotten worse with a new hitting coach.  Diaz is hitting  .216 in 102 at bats and Grichuk is hitting a pathetic .106 in 66 at bats.  Grichuk and Diaz are currently on the 10 day DL.

As stated earlier, veterans Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, and Kolten Wong are all having early season struggles so far in 2018.  All four so far, experiencing their worse offensive season.

As Jose de Jesus Ortiz noted in a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Carpenter and Fowler are established veterans and shouldn’t need Mabry to pull them out of their woes at this point in their careers.  Ortiz also points out that although Wong is still relatively young, he has proved last year he can hit much better than he has so far in 2018.

So is John Mabry just the  fall guy for this disappointing offense in 2018?

Mabry can’t be blamed for what is happening to Girchuk and Diaz in Toronto.  After all they have a new hitting coach and as noted, are doing worse.  The trades of these two appear to be sound and looks like the Cardinals made the right move.

Matt Adams has been essentially the same hitter in Atlanta and Washington that he was in St. Louis under Mabry.  A streaky hitter who could never settle in and be consistent at the plate.  New pitching coaches haven’t really made that much difference for him.

Like Ortiz, I believe Fowler and Carpenter shouldn’t need Mabry to pull them out of their current hitting woes.  I also believe that the same goes for Ozuna and Wong.  These players have enough experience and their struggles at the plate shouldn’t fall completely on Mabry’s shoulders.

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Also, it appears that Matt Carpenter has pulled out of his slump in the last week.  In his last seven games, Carpenter has slash line of .400/.444/.640.  That brings his season average up to only .194, but considering he was hitting in the .140s, this is a significant improvement.  Should John Mabry be credited for this recent improvement?  Or is this just a veteran player who has worked himself out of slump?

Blaming John Mabry for all the hitting woes of the St. Louis Cardinals may be unfair.  Nevertheless, the team is so far hitting at a pace that is significantly lower than it has in the past.  If there isn’t improvement by the end of the year and the Cardinals fail to make the playoffs for the third consecutive year, changes the coaching staff will be likely.

Mabry would then have to be considered at least part of the problem.

Last year changes in Mike Matheny‘s staff included the  dismissals of pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley.  This year could include Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller.

Will John Mabry be fired?  I believe, unlikely until the end of season.  Should John Mabry be fired?  If the team doesn’t improve at the plate, then yes,  he should and will be the ‘fall guy’.

Next: Cardinals who should be on the move

Let us know your opinion.  Thanks for reading.