MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch provided some interesting reporting on Monday, investigating how Cardinals manager Mike Matheny decides on his lineup for each game. It’s really rather fascinating.
To sum up the process: Matheny created a rough draft of Sunday’s lineup against the Dodgers before the series began on Friday. He watches video of Sunday’s starter Alex Wood, then decides if anyone would have a particularly favorable match-up. Matheny then asks for freedback from the Cardinals’ baseball operations staff. He’ll create his first real iteration of the lineup before sending it to his coaching staff for input. Individual performances in the first two games of the series on Friday and Saturday led to some alterations of Sunday’s lineup. By the time he leaves the stadium on Saturday, Matheny had three potential lineups, but he finally decided on one and texted it to his team.
Over the course of a season, optimal lineup construction only amounts to a handful more runs than a sub-optimal lineup, so Matheny is, in reality, spending a lot of time on something that matters little on paper. However, there is something to be said for having a process that doesn’t just favor seniority, which is typically how lineups have been constructed. Matheny’s willingness to solicit outside opinions from both his coaching staff and the baseball operations department shows open-mindedness, another trait that hasn’t been typical of managers in the past.