St. Louis Cardinals: Was firing Budaska the right move?
After an ugly losing streak, the St. Louis Cardinals decided to fire assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska as a last resort to boost the offense. Has it worked?
Back in early August, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that they had fired assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska and promoted Memphis hitting coach Jobel Jiminez to the Major League hitting staff.
Throughout the season, the Cardinals have starved of offense despite having big names in the lineup like Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, and Paul Goldschmidt. Even with the top-notch lineup on paper, the Cardinals were still in the bottom three in most offensive categories, including batting average, runs produced, and OPS.
Manager Mike Shildt tried to do many things to increase productivity on offense. Whether that was benching key starters or completely switching the lineup around; it didn’t seem like anything was working.
After the Cardinals offense got flat-out embarrassed against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which resulted in them getting swept; the Cardinals decided it was time for a change. The following day, the Cardinals relieved Budaska of his duties as a last resort to boost the offense.
New hitting coach Jeff Albert and Budaska both had different philosophies as coaches.
Albert is very analytic-heavy and worships launch angle, exit velocity, and many other analytic stats. This shouldn’t bee too much of a surprise though since he came from the Houston Astros, who are one of the most analytical teams in the MLB.
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Budaska was a polar opposite; he wasn’t too high on analytics and somebody who praised the Whiteyball method, named after legendary Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.
Whether you like it or not, the baseball world is shifting heavily towards analytics and throwing the old-time stats out of the window. With Albert and Budaska combatting philosophies, it put “too many voices in the hitters head”, according to General Manager Michael Girsch.
With Budaska being in the Cardinals organization for many years, even being the hitting coach last year after the Cardinals fired John Mabry; firing him meant one thing. They’re going all-in on analytics and what Jeff Albert has to offer.
Since firing Budaska though, it seems like the offense has taken a turn for the better, with many starters starting to find themselves at the plate at last; including Harrison Bader, Kolten Wong and Yadier Molina.
The Cardinals have averaged six runs a game (the Los Angeles Dodgers average five a game), putting up double-digit runs on four occasions, and have also yet to get shutout since firing Budaska; which happened plenty of times before he got the axe.
With the offense improving, so has the teams performance overall, as they have gone 15-4, including three sweeps. They retook the lead in the NL Central race and have upped their playoff odds via FanGraphs (I highly suggest you check them out if you are trying to get into analytics, amazing site). Before firing Budaska, they were at a slim 35% chance.
It’s only been about three weeks, so this may just be a fluke and the Cardinals just playing a bit harder; at this point, who knows? Hopefully soon, we get to hear about the impact that Jeff Albert has had so far on players from the players themselves.
Whatever Albert has been preaching to Cardinal hitters, he needs to keep doing that. With the Cardinals bats heating up, they are getting closer and closer to winning the NL Central; and most importantly, getting back into the postseason for the first time since 2015.