Mike Matheny has made some questionable decisions as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. The results may be positive, but it still leaves many fans scratching their heads at the end of the day.
Prior to the start of Game 2 of the NLCS on Saturday, the team announced that Lance Lynn would be the starter for Game 4 in Los Angeles. Matheny will look to the veteran starter over rookie Shelby Miller for the second time this postseason.
Lynn drew the start for Game 2 in the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That start, which took place in St. Louis, did not go as well as was hoped for the Cardinals. Lynn would only last 4.1 innings while allowing seven hits, three walks and five runs. The team would go on to lose that game and would need to pick up wins in both Game 4 and Game 5 of the series to advance.
The Cardinals would turn to Lynn again out of the bullpen in Game 1 of the current NLCS against the Dodgers. He would come into the game in the 12th inning and give the Cardinals two scoreless innings, earning the win after Carlos Beltran provided the team with a walk-off victory in the 13th.
Derrick Goold of StlToday.com caught up with Mike Matheny to discuss his decision to go with Lynn over Miller this postseason.
"I think it’s more hot hand than anything else,” Matheny said. “Say the postseason happened in June and Shelby is out there consistently rolling off quality, long, efficient starts. ... That Shelby was not sharp at the end, but he was fighting without his best stuff. We had other guys throwing better. That plays into it a lot.”
Matheny is referring to Lynn's consistency through September of this season, which happened while Miller's production regressed.
While the statistics seem to show a regression for Miller from his production earlier in the season, it is far from a clear-cut advantage for Lynn. They have almost identical stat lines through September this year, and the team was able to win in all five of Miller's starts as opposed to only three of Lynn's five.
Lynn did pitch better against the Dodgers this season. Both Lynn and Miller started in a May series with the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Lynn would receive a victory for his efforts, going six innings and striking out nine while not allowing a run. The Cardinals would win Miller's start, despite the righty only pitching 5.1 innings and surrendering three runs.
Matheny also shared with Goold that it was a combination of Lynn's success against the Dodgers earlier this season, his recent production and how other pitchers have fared against them recently.
Matheny said Lynn’s nine-strikeout start at Dodgers Stadium did factor into the decision, but so too did how each righty finished the season. Matheny said they considered the stats from similar pitchers as Lynn and Miller against the Dodgers.
Lynn's production in the postseason and the team's record in games that he has appeared in leave something to be desired. The team has 11 wins in the 18 games that Lynn has appeared in; however, only one of those wins has been from the three starts Lynn has logged after the regular season. His start in this year's NLDS was the first time he was able to pitch into the fourth inning during a postseason start.
The Cardinals will go into Game 4 with the advantage of having won at least two of the first three games of the series. Adam Wainwright can give them a decided 3-0 advantage on Monday before Lance Lynn takes the ball for his start on Tuesday. Ultimately, the Game 4 starter may not be an important factor in this series.
If Game 4 provides a turning point in this series, Matheny will face more scrutiny over a questionable choice.
All statistics in this article are sourced from Baseball-Reference.
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