The St. Louis Cardinals are rightly giving Jeff Albert’s system time
To the dismay of many fans, the St. Louis Cardinals are bringing back hitting coach Jeff Albert in 2021. His system needs more time.
For a long time, the St. Louis Cardinals were not a team that embraced analytics much. In regards to their coaches and methods of coaching, it was traditional methods all the way.
On the hitting side of things, that changed when the team brought in Jeff Albert as hitting coach in the winter after the 2018 season.
From that point until now, Albert has been tasked with completely remodeling the Cardinals’ minor league system to fully embrace the analytical side of hitting. Looking around baseball, the teams with the best analytics departments are frequently the teams who win. Take a look at the final four teams in the playoffs this year. The Astros (despite other methods they may have used along the way), the Dodgers, and the Rays are among the teams that have the most devoted to analytics.
For the Rays, an edge in analytics is the only way they are able to compete with a payroll giant like the Dodgers. The catch, however, is that since Albert has taken over as the analytical brainchild behind the Cardinals’ offense, the team has had one of the worst offenses in the league.
Regardless of the lack of results, Jeff Albert isn’t going anywhere just yet.
As seethingly angry as Jeff Albert keeping his job may make some of you, I want to urge patience. Sure, keeping Albert in his role might be a sign of the complacency this team has at times, but systemic changes sweeping over an entire organization don’t happen overnight.
To this point, Albert has had fewer than a season and a half’s worth of games with this offense. There is also the argument that Albert doesn’t have all that much of an effect in the first place. When it comes down to it, the personnel matters more than anything. Before Albert got here, the Cardinals’ offense wasn’t exactly a strength, and not much has changed since then.
Adding to it, there were competing voices in the clubhouse for the majority of the 2019 season. Former assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska was a main proponent of the traditional way of teaching hitting. In what would eventually lead to his firing, players were hearing different things from Budaska and Albert.
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Budaska was fired in mid-August of 2019, shrinking the time that Albert has been the sole coaching voice to under four months worth of games.
There is also the fact that the Cardinals had to go through the toughest schedule of any team this year. No other team had to play anywhere close to the 53 games in 44 days that the Cardinals were put through, and everyone could see that the players were worn down.
In that KMOX interview with John Mozeliak from September 27, Mo said, “We feel from a systematic process standpoint he’s making the type of inroads that we wanted to see.” Adding to that, he said Jeff Albert’s changes weren’t supposed to be a “light switch.”
The changes that Albert is making are more for the three to five-year horizon rather than just the here and now. I know that isn’t what anyone wants to hear, but what is a good alternative?
I’d argue that no coaching change is a light switch and if the Cardinals headed in a different direction now, the last year and a half would’ve been a waste. The team believes in the direction they are headed and the switch to a more analytical approach to coaching is a proven pursuit. We all just need to be patient.
In the meantime, the Cardinals need to spend more effort on improving the talent on the roster. The best hitting coach in the world can only get you so far. Baseball is a results-driven sport, but sometimes that rule needs to be bent. For now, fans don’t have a say in the matter and will just have to see where Albert takes the team.