Matheny, Cardinals, double switch@cardinalsgifs

Photo Credit: @cardinalsgifs

Let me take the time here to offer my hearty congratulations to Mike Matheny for being manager of a team that has won a game for the 500th time in his career.

Did I dance around that well enough? Did the verbal gymnastics get their point across?

Because it’s awfully hard for me to give Mike Matheny credit for winning that game.

No, I’m not talking about the wacky lefty killer lineup that produced 2 hits off of the starter, nor am I referring to the back end bullpen mayhem that has somehow resulted in watching the once celebrated relief core of Siegrist-Cecil-Rosenthal-Oh turn into “Oh please umpire call that clearly outside pitch from Matt Bowman a strike.”

Nah, I mean that moment when Mike Matheny once again proved that he doesn’t have a clue why anyone should ever use a double switch.

Here was the faithful move:

StlCardsCards | THE INTREPID STL
StlCardsCards | THE INTREPID STL

The Cardinals were leading 1-0 going into the top of the 8th, and Mike Matheny decided to go with Oh as the pitcher instead of staying with Brett Cecil. With the pitcher due up 2nd to start the inning, Mike went with the double switch.

Now, so far as I can tell, there are two main reasons a manager might choose to go with a double switch (ignoring ejections, injuries, etc.):

  1. To move the pitcher’s spot out of the 9th hole in order to gain the ability to let a reliever go more than one inning.
  2. To leave a pinch hitter in the game in an effort to get them more at-bats or upgrade the defense.

#2 doesn’t apply here, as there was no pinch hitter. This means that you would think that this was a move designed around #1, But I can’t see any evidence of that either.

Yes, it’s true, the double switch did move the pitcher’s spot from 9th in the order to 6th, which means it wasn’t due up the next inning, but let me offer this deep thought as to why that may not make much sense: WHO CARES?

Still, let’s explore possible reasons for this move.

You might want Oh to pitch for more than one inning

Mike Matheny clearly didn’t intend to keep Oh in for any longer than one inning. Oh wasn’t about to be asked to go two innings for a save, when he was recently removed from the closer’s role because he had enough trouble successfully completing one inning.

There is further evidence that this was never on Mike Matheny’s mind since Oh was actually pitching quite well – he’d have had a perfect inning if not for an error – and yet was relieved by Tyler Lyons to get the 3rd out. That’s not exactly evidence of intending to trust Oh to go longer than an inning. And no, it’s not evidence that he might have wanted a pitcher relieving Oh to do it either – because in that case, he simply could have made the double switch later.

Maybe Piscotty was a necessary defensive upgrade?

Well, I would say that Piscotty is probably at least a marginal defensive upgrade over Jose Martinez in right field. That’s just an opinion. I’m not going to sabe you bro, because any assessment of Jose Martinez is largely based upon the much fabled eye test, and a very small sample size. It sure doesn’t seem like Jose Martinez is very good at right field, and thus replacing him with Piscotty is a defensive upgrade.

Of course, if Jose Martinez isn’t very good at right field, his natural position, it would naturally stand to reason he would be much worse if you were to play him out of position. That’s what Mike Matheny chose to do, by putting Piscotty in the 6th spot in the lineup and removing Luke Voit, arguably a better hitter and defender than Martinez. In fact, Voit had just made a great diving play a few innings before. Also, while I doubt Voit is going to be getting any fielding awards at 1B, he does actually play the position. He’s probably got somewhat of a clue over there.

If the eye test tells us anything about Martinez at 1B, he does not have a clue over there. The eye test on Martinez produces the same sort of agony that one might get visiting a small town strip club at noon on a Monday. It’s not pretty.

So if this move was to upgrade the defense, it failed. Piscotty may have been a little better in right, but 1B was much, much worse. This was evident as Martinez immediately screwed up a basic ground ball by approaching it like a scared baby giraffe, allowing the tying run on base with nobody out.

Maybe it was to get Piscotty’s bat in there?

Why? You could just pinch hit him in the 9th spot the next inning. In fact, you don’t even have to pinch him if you don’t want to. You have a full bench at that point in time, including Matt Carpenter, to give you a potential platoon advantage. Why on earth would we want to allow the Nationals to set up their bullpen for the top of the 9th by telling them who you will have hitting?

OK, no no, I got it, It was to upgrade defense in right field, but saying “screw it” to 1B defense while giving yourself another at-bat for Jose Martinez if needed.

Shut up, me. That’s idiotic, convoluted, and silly.

Jose Martinez bats again in one of two situations, one is bottom 8, as the 5th man up (this happened! He grounded out!), which he always would have been anyway had you just let Piscotty pinch hit for the pitcher, instead of being double switched in.

The other scenario is that it would have been bottom 9 with the game either tied or the Cardinals behind, and Jose Martinez just has to bat, so he continues to play 1B while Matt Carpenter, your best hitter, watches from the bench. I guess it totally makes sense to lose a close game with Matt Carpenter watching your 5th outfielder take an at-bat.

So what was it?

This is the sort of thing that makes me feel like an idiot. How little must I know about baseball that there must be an obvious answer out there as to why a double switch would be made, and I cannot possibly think of what it might be?

I wrote my cohorts over here at The Intrepid, which besides myself, includes three of the smartest minds I know and Brenden, and no one had an answer for me.

The simplest answer is probably the best. The pitcher was due up 2nd the next inning, and Mike Matheny decided he had to find a way to push that spot out as soon as he could. This is silly logic, of course. Had he just pinch hit Piscotty at the beginning of the next inning, he wouldn’t have had to make another decision about the pitcher for 9 more lineup spots. As is, with the double switch, he actually shortened the number to 6.

This meant that going into the top of the 9th, Matheny actually made another double switch in the exact same vein. Even though Mike was obviously not going to go to Rosenthal for more than one inning of work, Matt Carpenter was double switched into the pitching spot due up 3rd, and Jose Martinez was removed. The difference with this move, is that somehow Mike had managed to make the 1B defense so bad that Matt Carpenter was actually an upgrade!

That’s quite an accomplishment since Matt Carpenter as a good defensive replacement can only be considered a good move in the same sense that drinking three week old expired milk is a good move if your only other choice is bleach.

Of course, when he did this, Mike was adding to what is believed to be his greatest managerial record of all, total number of games where he has removed his number 3 hitter to a double switch in a close game.

This is hardly the first time Matheny has deployed a brainless double switch. He’s done it enough that such a move should be named after him. It’s unfortunate that none of the coaches had either the ability to stop Mike, the vision to see the faulty logic, or the courage to leave him bound and gagged in the bowels of Busch while they take control of the reigns donning a Matheny mask. It does go to show up that regardless of the shuffling the team has seen from the front office, coaching staff, and the players themselves, that Mike will still be up to his old, terribly nonsensical tricks.

This Cardinals team is obviously extremely flawed. It might be the right year to have a flawed team. They have a chance to make a playoff push that they have done little to deserve. Will they do it? I doubt it, but it seems certain that if they do, it’ll be as a flawed team miraculously finding ways to win games while their manager acts as an anchor, dragging them down every step of the way.

You can see why I remain pessimistic.