St. Louis Cardinals: Let’s not throw Mike Shildt under the bus
With the St. Louis Cardinals having to play 52 games in the last 44 days of the 2020 regular season, this is not the time throw Mike Shildt under the bus.
If you’re ready to throw Cardinal manager Mike Shildt under the bus for some recent losses, then take this into consideration. The St. Louis Cardinals, after shutting their season down for two weeks, had to come out of the gate to play eight games in five days, which included three doubleheaders.
The St. Louis Cardinals were also without several key players during that stretch. Yadier Molina, Paul DeJong, Carlos Martinez, Lane Thomas, Austin Gomber, and Ryan Helsley weren’t available due to COVID-19, along with Kodi Whitney, Austin Dean, Junior Fernandez, Rangel Ravelo, and Edmundo Sosa. This doesn’t include Miles Mikolas and John Brebbia who both will miss the entire season due to injuries.
After those first eight games back, the rest of the schedule in August doesn’t get much easier with 13 games in 12 days, including a doubleheader. In fact, the Cardinals aren’t scheduled for a day off until September 3rd. However, in September, the doubleheaders start again, with the Cardinals playing 32 games in 27 days.
Mike Shildt under fire from fans
Nevertheless, with all the issues concerning the Cardinals roster depth in the lineup, rotation, and bullpen, Mike Shildt has already come under fire by many in the fanbase. Much of the criticism from fans have been more directed at his bullpen management than the rotation or lineup decisions. Some of the fire at Shildt has gotten bad enough that comparisons to Mike Matheny are being made.
But let’s take a look at what options on the bench the Cardinal manager has to work with in putting together a daily lineup and when he looks toward his bullpen.
Mike Shildt has been forced to go to such household names like John Nogowski, Max Schrock, Roel Ramirez, Rob Kaminsky, Jesus Cruz, and Nabil Crismatt among others. Please understand, I’m not trying to throw these players under the bus. After all, some such as Shrock and Crismatt have so far done a credible job. My point is the available options on the Cardinal bench has made Shildt’s life challenging, to say the least.
Questions about Bullpen management
The criticism seems to start with Roel Ramirez’s disastrous outing on August 16th vs the White Sox, when he gave up six earned runs and four consecutive home runs in just 2/3 of an inning.
To say this least, it was painful to watch and had many wondering why Shildt didn’t pull Ramirez before the inning got out of hand. The best guess is with a Cardinal sweep of the doubleheader the day before and facing another doubleheader vs the Cubs on the following day, Shildt felt he needed to stretch Ramirez as much as possible.
Ramirez’s outing is an example of Mike Shildt being forced to use and depend on a pitcher of little or no major league experience. We know in a normal season, Roel Ramirez and some of the other names we see in the bullpen, wouldn’t be on the 40 man roster at this point in their careers, much less pitching in a major league game.
The outing also showed that Shildt is willing (or was forced) to leave a reliever in a game longer than he would in a normal season. With so many games and with few days off during the rest of the year, the Cardinal manager probably feels he needs to stretch out appearances. This will not likely change even when he gets some of his better bullpen arms back.
Help is on the way
Some of the issues will be eased in the near future with the return of many players on the COVID-19 list. Yadier Molina and Austin Gomber have returned for the Reds series and Paul DeJong is back on Sunday. Hopefully, we will soon see the likes of Carlos Martinez, Ryan Helsley, and Lane Thomas in the near future.
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As I write this, the Cardinals are currently sitting in second place in the NL Central with a 8-8 record. Since their return on August 15th, they have played at a .500 clip. Not bad when you consider the roster the Cardinals have been forced to use over the last week.
The 3-0 victory over the Reds Saturday night is a good example of how Shildt can manage when he can use major league ready players. With the exception of Dylan Carlson, the lineup was one you expect to see during a normal season. Additionally, when he looked to the bullpen, he was able to turn to John Gant, Andrew Miller, and Giovanny Gallegos.
There is no blueprint to follow in 2020
In 2019, during a ‘normal season’, Mike Shildt was named the NL Manager of the Year and I believe he deserved it. He took a team, and I believe overachieved with it, by beating the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
There is nothing normal about this 2020 season, especially for Mike Shildt and the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s a season Shildt is learning how to manage on the fly and there is no blueprint for him to follow.
MIke Shildt didn’t suddenly become a bad manager this week, he is just facing some obstacles he or any other major league manager hasn’t faced before. In my opinion, no matter what happens, Mike Shildt deserves a pass during this breakneck 2020 season.