Cards' offensive prowess speaks well of new hitting coach Mabry
Cardinals hitting coach John Mabry doesn't want the praise - but he deserves some
By BEN FREDERICKSONFS Midwest
ST. LOUIS -- Interviewing the busiest man at Busch Stadium isn't easy.
He arrives early, seven hours before most evening games. By the time his players have checked in, he's pored over video of opposing pitchers for tips and tells. He then moves back and forth between the field and the batting cage hidden below Busch, throwing batting practice or watching, arms crossed, from behind the plate. Then the game starts, and he coaches in real time.
But if you trail John Mabry for a series, you might catch him with four minutes to spare.
Daniel Descalso will have just finished drilling a steady stream of pitching-machine fastballs into the back of the cage. Mabry, having watched from a folding chair a few feet away, will wander out to a hallway lined with bats and wait on whoever comes next.
"You've got to look at things differently," the player turned head hitting coach says. "You've got to look at how things affect them, how things can fit into their game, not your game. It's all about them. It has nothing to do with you. When you're playing, you're worried about yourself, how you can take your four at-bats and play your position. Now, you're worried about everyone else, the game plan, where they fit and how it works."
That's about all you will get from Mabry. He enjoys talking about himself about as much as he likes watching one of his guys strike out looking.
Ask around though, and the men he works with will sing his praises. Mabry, who shifted from assistant hitting coach to the head role when Cardinals legend Mark McGwire vacated the spot to join the
Los Angeles Dodgers, is doing a heck of a job.
"I knew when we lost Mark that there could be a public perception of a step back," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak says. "But internally, we knew John was ready for this job."
"He has made a good transition," manager Mike Matheny says. "A lot was made around here -- and rightfully so -- when you have some prominent names that aren't here anymore. You feel like there are big shoes to fill. That can certainly be said about Mark McGwire leaving, with the success that Mark was able to have with this club. John has made a seamless transition."
Mabry says it's all about his players. His players' numbers say something about him.
St. Louis entered Wednesday's game against Philadelphia with a .277 team batting average that is second-best in the MLB. The team’s on-base percentage (.338) is third, and its slugging percentage (.414) is ninth. Combine the two and the Cardinals' OPS (.752) ranks fourth. No team has been better with runners in scoring position; the Cardinals hit .337 in that scenario, while the second-best Detroit sits at .289.
And there's more.
St. Louis is fourth in runs scored (481), hits (919) and RBIs (459). The Cardinals aren't the most powerful -- they've hit just 82 home runs -- but their 644 strikeouts are the second-fewest in all of baseball.
Carlos Beltran explains Mabry's style as a hands-off approach that can tweak a swing or stance without a player realizing he's been coached.
"Sometimes, as a hitter, I know what I need to do in order to get ready to play the game," he says. "But it's always good to have another pair of eyes watching what I'm doing. He can see things I cannot see myself."
The same day Mabry found some time to talk, it was Beltran who appeared at the end of the hallway with batting gloves in his hand. The hitting coach began to lean back toward the cage, and it became clear the interview was over.
"I've got one waiting for me now," Mabry said.
He'd rather help hitters than talk about himself. He'd rather you believe this team's success at the plate has little to do with him.
Those who work with the busiest man at Busch know better.
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org