Cardinals Won't Waver From Hitting Philosophy
When the Cardinals wooed hitting coach Jeff Albert back to the organization as its major league hitting coach, they had more than the majors in mind.
The goal, front office executives described, was to rethink and reboot how the organization instructed hitting, from the technology it used to the approach it had to modernize. At one point during spring training, manager Mike Shildt even referred to the "learning curve” some of the hitters would go through on the job this season. And they did.
The Cardinals’ offense vanished in the National League Championship Series, and while the game saw an eruption of offense in 2019, St. Louis saw some notable regressions. The intent to stray from the plan did not waver.
"I think I still will go back to what I said when we hired him originally—this was a long-term play,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in October. "It wasn’t simply about getting quick results and then patting people on the back. It is about developing a process and an over-arching strategy that, in the end, we think will make our organization and our players consistent hitters. I still believe that it’s going to happen.”
A driving force behind synthesizing a total-organization approach to hitting is the Cardinals need to update their tech and how they use it for hitters and pitchers.
The Cardinals want to make sure as their better hitters arrive younger to the majors that they’re hearing the same message, that they’re familiar with the tech, and that they’re preparing their swings for the majors long before they get their first one. The first big test cases will be Dylan Carlson in 2020 and Nolan Gorman, probably in 2021.
Longtime hitting gurus in the organization Mark Budaska and George Greer were both dismissed in 2019.
The Cardinals plucked Russ Steinhorn from the Phillies organization to be minor league hitting coordinator. He and Albert worked together with the Astros.
"Unify voices,” Mozeliak said. "One of the things about building a hitting approach and having Albert see this A-to-Z model . . . is that we needed to find someone to complement him. That will allow us to be more aggressive teaching the teachers.”
— His season mostly erased by biceps and shoulder issues, lefthander Austin Gomber appeared in four games toward the end of the minor league season to slingshot him into a normal winter with an eye on being full strength for spring. There he’ll get a look as a lefty starter. The 25-year-old went 4-0, 2.98 in eight starts for Triple-A Memphis before the injury.
— In his postseason debut, power pitcher Ryan Helsley pitched 5.1 scoreless relief innings, including four scoreless in the National League Championship Series. The righthander had eight strikeouts and built on a second-half statement that will get him a look as a starter to begin spring and possibly a reliever who can finish games in 2020.