The MLB Network frequently talks about Dave Duncan being the first pitching coach to reach the Hall of Fame. The 2012 Cardinals were already headed in a different direction, but one that led me to believe they still had a great shot to win the NL Central, and possibly advance far in the playoffs led by the return of Adam Wainwright. I didn’t feel the loss of manager Tony LaRussa or Albert Pujols would derail that plan. I actually thought the biggest loss with Jeff Luhnow (Luhnow became the GM of the Astros). Now, I’m a little worried. Duncan is stepping down as pitching coach of the Cardinals to deal with his wife’s health issues, and this is a permanent move.
One thing is for sure, Mike Matheny’s job as a rookie manager just got a lot harder. He will not have over 30 years of experience at his side when dealing with the pitching staff. Hopefully, Chris Carpenter and Wainwright learned enough from Duncan to pass it down and carry on. How the loss of Duncan will impact the staff aces is anyone’s guess at this point. Matheny will be able to call on Duncan from time to time, but it’s not the same as having his ear right there in the dugout.
What about that big binder that Duncan had on every hitter in baseball, how to pitch them, and how to position the defense? Will that be passed down?
The only good thing about all of this is that Matheny is the manager, and he knew Duncan’s style of play for years. He also has Yadier Molina. I think it’s more important now more than ever that the Cardinals try lock up Molina long term.
Dave Duncan will be missed, there’s no getting around it. With Derek Lilliquist as the probable replacement, it’s good to know that he had a year under Duncan. The biggest problem I see here is on a confidence level of the pitching staff, both the starters and the young arms in the bullpen. The Cardinals will go on, but 2012 just became more of a question.