Mathenaging, Part I

It was a win that almost wasn’t.  For a team starved for runs and wins, a loss last night would have been just one more sign that this team is all talk and no action.  It was a win that manager Mike Matheny had to have in order to deflect the ever growing criticism of his managing and the teachings of his coaches.  It wasn’t a easy win or a decisive win.  There have been very few of those types of wins this season for the Cardinals.

I have made this criticism of Matheny before and after last night’s squeaker win I am going to make it again.  Mike Matheny has no clue how to properly utilize a bullpen.  Mike Matheny has demonstrated no ability to think outside the box.  Matheny is stuck in a rut of repetition and roles.  Trevor Rosenthal is the closer.  Pat Neshek is the set up guy.  Seth Maness is the ground ball double play guy who gets outs of inherited runner jams.  So on, and so on.

As a consequence of this ritualistic bullpen management, Matheny overuses some pitchers and underuses others.  No matter what, if it is a save situation, Matheny is going to go to Rosenthal, no matter how many days in a row he has pitched or how many innings or pitches he has thrown.  He did the same thing to Edward Mujica last season, and we all know how that turned out.  Is Rosenthal on a similar path?  It’s difficult to tell, but last night’s performance by Rosenthal did not inspire confidence in anyone.  Twice in the 9th inning Rosenthal had the bases loaded.  The first time resulted in a run scoring.  The second time he fortunately got the 3rd out and saved the game.

The Cardinals’ top three relievers in terms of innings pitched are (not surprisingly): Seth Maness (61.1), Trevor Rosenthal (56.0) and Pat Neshek (50.1).  The rest of the bullpen have about half or less the amount of innings as those three.  The top three relief pitchers in terms of appearances are:  Trevor Rosenthal (56), Pat Neshek (54), and Seth Maness (53).   The next closest is Randy Choate with (45).  The top three relief pitchers in pitches thrown are:  Trevor Rosenthal (1002), Seth Maness (855), and Pat Neshek (712).  The next closest is Sam Freeman with (486).

Let’s compare Rosenthal’s usage to other top closers in baseball.  Atlanta’s closer Craig Kimbrel has 48 IP, 49 appearances and 836 total pitches thrown.  The Royals’ Greg Holland has 47.1 IP, 49 appearances and 797 total pitches thrown.  Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez has 55 IP, 56 appearances and 842 total pitches thrown.  Fernando Rodney of the Mariners has 50.2 IP, 52 appearances and 852 total pitches thrown.

Only Rodriguez has similar numbers to Rosenthal but has 160 less total pitches thrown.  Rodriguez is also 32 years old and has been pitching for 12 years.  Trevor Rosenthal is 24 years old and this is his second full season as closer.  At the pace he is being used he would surpass Rodriguez in total career IP and appearances in less time.

What does this tell us about Matheny’s use of Rosenthal?  That would be up to the interpretation of the reader.  What it tells me is that Matheny’s over reliance on certain pitchers is harmful to the pitcher and to the team.  It tells me that Matheny is a poor bullpen manager and doesn’t appear to the have the ability to change his methods to adjust to situations.

This is not my only criticism of Matheny’s managing skills.  In future posts I will demonstrate his poor usage of his position players and how he could maximize the resources that he has but has failed to do so.  His whining about criticism no doubt will be reserved for critics that matter more than me.

 

P.S.  I was asked by a regular reader to please say something nice about Jon Jay today.  He is very good at rising to a challenge.  And he has cool hair.

 

Thank you for reading.

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16 Comments

  1. baseballmania

     /  August 15, 2014

    Matheny never managed. You cant lay blame on him. That fault is again that of the GM. However are you comparing opportunites because with so many close games I can see why Rosenthal is in as much as he is. I think the reliance on Mott never panned out.
    I always thought that Ron Warner was being groomed for manager after Tony left. Although he has a very important role I do believe he manages the bull pen pretty well.

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    • Please, this is Matheny’s third year of managing and he is getting worse instead of better. I can certainly lay the blame on him. He doesn’t HAVE to use Rosenthal every time in a save situation. It is not against the rules.

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  2. Thank you!!! I disagree about the hair though…cuter bald!

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  3. baseballmania

     /  August 15, 2014

    My comments about managing the bullpen well were directed about Warner.
    Yes I know Matheny is in his 3rd year…a good catcher doesnt necessarily make a good manager especially one who never managed a game.
    Not every reliever is a closer.
    Who should he use? I would suspect that Mott was to share duties. Thats not Matheys fault. He has to work with what he has.

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    • There is nothing wrong with having a “closer”, but a good manager is flexible enough to rely on other relievers in situations where the regular closer has already pitched multiple consecutive days. So when Rosenthal has pitched too much (IMO two days in a row is enough), then he goes to someone else. Neshek, Siegrist, Freeman, even Maness in certain circumstances.

      Any relief pitcher can be a “closer” as long as they are effective. This stuff about “roles” and such is just nonsense.

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  4. baseballmania

     /  August 15, 2014

    Sorry. Not all relievers are closers. Those guys are not closers. They are relievers. They dont have the stuff to close out the game for the save.
    I do not disagree sometimes you need to relieve the work load but you need another guy who can close. Take the Marlins closer the other night. He struggled a bit too. The next night they put in someone who can also close out a game. Once again..that would have been mottes role. There is no one else that I know who can do that job. Thats on the GM for not giving matheny that person.

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    • Well I just disagree. The whole “closer” thing is just something made up anyway. A reliever is a reliever; if they are effective in high leverage situations they can pitch the ninth inning. There is no magic to pitching one inning over another. I don’t buy into all that “role” nonsense.

      TLR would never designate anyone a “closer” because he knew relievers were interchangeable and he wanted to maintain flexibility.

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  5. baseballmania

     /  August 15, 2014

    The stuff about roles is important. All ML teams give their relievers roles. Its only by committe when you are having a bullpen crises.
    Great program I saw on fox sports. Called Closer Kingdom. Really helps to understand the mechanics of the bullpen.
    I actually never felt Trevor had a closer mentality. Dont think he always trusts his stuff. But he is young and hits high numbers. Thats his job. Matheny has a job. If upper management thought he was being over used they would let it be known. But they dont care.
    They just dont care. He is cheap and gets the job done. The cardinal way.

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  6. baseballmania

     /  August 15, 2014

    TLR was old school but he had specific guys to close and stuck with them until they could not anymore. Isnt that how Motte got the job? Ask any pitcher if they prefer a specific role and they will say yes. Lefty or dp specialist, long reliever, set up guys , closers. They all prefer it that way and they train that way as well.
    I thought you didnt like how he managed?

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  7. baseballmania

     /  August 15, 2014

    I am not disagreeing with you on your points. I just disagree that its all mathenys fault.
    I blame it on the GM. He has to give matheny the tools he needs especially since he has issues managing.

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    • I was not a fan of TLR, but it was his manner and personality I didn’t like, not his managing.

      Mozeliak has given Matheny tools, he is just misusing them. Like I said before, the only thing I fault Mozeliak for is keeping Descalso on the roster. Hopefully he will correct that mistake in the offseason.

      As for Mozeliak “letting it be known” that he doesn’t like something Matheny is doing, what makes you think he didn’t let Matheny know he didn’t like playing Craig instead of Taveras? All indications from his interviews suggested he did. Matheny just disregarded him. Trading Craig was then his only alternative. There is only so much a GM can do in those kinds of situations. From a PR standpoint you can’t let it be known that there is friction between the GM and the manager. Appearances must be maintained.

      Of course there are financial considerations involved, it’s a business. Talk of “being cheap” is just nonsense, if the Cardinals were cheap, they wouldn’t consistently have a payroll in the top half of all teams.

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  8. baseballmania

     /  August 15, 2014

    I may be wrong but arent the big bucks tied up in only a handful of players? Why in the world did they give Carpenter so much money so soon, not that I dont say good for him.
    Maybe Matheny is realizing a lot that players have known for a long time. Same issues that TLR had.
    You want to win a championship? Build a better clubhouse.
    Maybe they might get hot. Maybe the offense will wake up. One thing for sure. No postseason then a lot of changes.

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  9. baseballmania

     /  August 16, 2014

    I just read a good article on Neshek and Rosenthal being burnt out. Kind of helps one understand that you cant have the entire bullpen in the role of closer. Last night Matheny told Neshek to be ready. He spoke about not being able to sit back and really enjoy many games because of them being so close and the extra workload. Didnt this happen to Mujica?
    I cant lay blame on Matheny. He can only use what is given to him by the GM and that is a whole bunch of guys who cant hit.

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    • They are burnt out because Matheny uses them too much. He did the same thing to Mujica. Mujica himself said his problems from last season stemmed from overuse. Matheny is not smart enough to use the bullpen properly so he sticks with the same guys over and over. He doesn’t spread the workload out because he doesn’t have the intelligence to know how.

      I blame Matheny every day and twice on Sunday. He is a poor utilizer of his resources. He mismanages his position players as well. He doesn’t play them according to their strengths. He just throws his favorites out there every day and hopes for the best.

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      • baseballmania

         /  August 16, 2014

        I cant argue that there could be a better manager but that again is the fault of the GM. Thats why I dont blame Matheny. Ausmus was having the same issues but I think they have a much better pitching and hitting staff to support him as a new manager. Still they have issues.
        I always thought Warner would do a good job or Oquendo.

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  10. If Matheny is getting worse rather than better, it follows he will be worse still next year. Agree?

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