Friends, I know it doesn’t feel significant, but it is.
Mike Matheny and the Cardinals have to get better at replay challenges.
Sunday’s 1-0 win was a brisk, tense game. With no margin for error, Wainwright pitched a gem and the game winning RBI came off Matt Holliday’s home run in the top of the 1st. Should it have been so close?
Before Holliday’s at bat, Kolten Wong hit into a double play. The turn was fairly clean, but Wong appeared to be safe at first. The play wasn’t challenged and instead of Holliday’s home run plating 2, it was a solo shot.
Calls that should be challenged but aren’t are just as bad as the ones that are and shouldn’t be. Maybe Wong is called safe, maybe not. But if you’re going to pass on that one… then the one you do use has to be better.
Two innings later, Matt Carpenter was trying to stretch a single to center into a double and the ball arrived at second base about 2 seconds before Marp. He tried a trick slide and upon replay, it wasn’t as close of a call as it originally appeared. But he was at best way less out.
Matheny challenged and lost. He’s now 2-16 on the season and still ranking at the very bottom of baseball for challenges.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around how awful this is.
As far as I know, the Cardinals have the same tools that every other team does in terms of being able to see replays and signaling to Matheny when to challenge or not. Ultimately the choice remains with the manager, but the Cardinals MUST get better at challenges before (hopefully) the playoffs – and that includes everyone involved in the decision chain.
It’s not getting better for the stats, but for the sake of not having a glaring disadvantage in something that is meant to be an equalizer.
As the games get more and more intense, the replays are going to be a critical part of game strategy and management. The last thing we want to be stewing on all winter is an early playoff exit on botched replay challenges.