The St. Louis Cardinals have the third-best record in the league since Mike Shildt took the reins as manager, and the team’s success could make him a candidate for Manager of the Year.
The St. Louis Cardinals are 119-88 since Mike Shildt took over as manager, and the team’s current hot streak is making the playoffs appear likely. Shildt’s guiding hand could have a lot to do with that.
The team was fractured under former manager Mike Matheny. Some thinly veiled comments from players at the time made it clear that they were unhappy with the skipper. And while team chemistry can’t be measured (outside of video games), many players have praised Shildt.
Kolten Wong gave Shildt credit early in the season for having faith in the second baseman and continuing to start him, and Wong has turned those opportunities into results. Dexter Fowler has also performed much better after he was freed from his tense, nearly wordless relationship with Matheny.
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The team’s defense has also improved tremendously under Shildt. The Cardinals’ Ultimate Zone Rating and defensive runs saved are among the best in the league. The Cardinals clearly knew what to focus on, and Shildt has helped make sure the team has produced results on defense.
Shildt also needs to receive credit for his lineup construction. While Matheny tried to plug Wong and Matt Adams in the outfield to less than impressive results, Shildt is not making such strange decisions, letting players play where they’re comfortable.
In some cases, such as Tommy Edman’s, putting players in positions of comfort can still mean putting them all over the field. But the difference between Shildt and Matheny, in this case, is what the results have been, and the team-wide defensive improvements speak for themselves.
Shildt’s bullpen decisions have occasionally been a source of criticism, although his hook appears to have been shorter recently, with Shildt often pulling pitchers at the first sign of trouble. It’s clear that it’s crunch time, and Shildt seems to be seeing every game as a must-win.
Shildt can’t be credited for every success the team has had, nor can he be held blameless for every failure. But the record speaks for itself, and Manager of the Year is an award predicated on results. The more the team wins, the more likely the manager is to be recognized as a candidate for the award.
The team’s turnaround since the Matheny mediocrity could net Shildt some votes when the time comes, but performance in the postseason, if the team even reaches it, is likely to be the deciding factor.