The St. Louis Cardinals were barreling toward their third consecutive missed postseason when they made the decision to part ways with manager Mike Matheny and turn the reins over to Mike Shildt.They still wound up missing the playoffs.But oh Willie McCovey Jersey , what a run they made.A club that was hovering around .500 when Matheny was dumped in July set a record for consecutive series wins, and climbed into the playoff race well into September. St. Louis was finally eliminated on the seasons penultimate day, but the organization was left feeling much better about the future.Weve been in postseason mode since virtually the All-Star break, Shildt said, so you appreciate what went well, and you appreciate and grow through experiences and you grow together. Theres a lot of takeaways, and the good news is well take advantage of it. I can promise you that.Shildt, who never played the game beyond college, was so impressive in righting the course as a first-time manager that the Cardinals stripped him of the interim tag before the end of the season. That answered the biggest question heading into the offseason.Now, the Cardinals can begin planning around their young core for next season. Erstwhile cornerstone Adam Wainwright, first baseman Matt Adams and pitchers Tyson Ross and Bud Norris are not expected back, which means the Cardinals will head to spring training largely intact.What I take away is really simple, really how you respond, outfielder Harrison Bader said. Kind of got kicked in the teeth a little bit, but to have 162 games and then ultimately it come down to the last four or five, playing meaningful baseball that late in the season is what its all about.Unfortunately this year we didnt come out on the right side of where we really wanted to be, he said, but it very easily could have gone another way. To set us up in that position with such a young team and young in terms of age and experience, its no excuse but its very promising.REBOUND CANDIDATESDexter Fowler hit just .180 with a handful of stolen bases Mel Ott Jersey , and considering he is due $16.5 million each of the next three seasons, the Cardinals need their offensive sparkplug to be more spark and less plug. Pitchers Alex Reyes and Brett Cecil also struggled, the former with injuries and the latter with effectiveness.STILL CATCHINGYadier Molina proved hes still one of the best backstops in the game, even though he missed some time with an injury. The 36-year-old catcher hit .261 but slugged .436, and he belted 20 homers with 74 RBIs while helping to bring along a young pitching staff.ABOUT THAT STAFFInjuries decimated the staff early in the season, but that merely thrust some young guys into the mix. Now theyre poised to form a formidable rotation next season, and competition to crack it will be brutal in spring training. Miles Mikolas and Michael Wacha are sure things, but Reyes, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Carlos Martinez, Austin Gomber and others are eyeing a job.ERRORS GALOREThe Cardinals had the most errors in the majors with 133, or more than double the club with the fewest (Houston with 63). All those mistakes put more pressure on that injury-riddled pitching staff and an offense that finally started humming late in the year.Weve got some room for improvement in some of these areas, Shildt acknowledged. I think in general there is optimism about how this team is going about competition and the style of play and excited about what it looks like moving forward. I think theres a real good energy behind our fan base right now. It should be, at least.BIG SPLASHDespite so many returning pieces, the one thing the Cardinals could use is a middle-of-the-order slugger. Manny Machado or Bryce Harper would fit the bill, but quite frankly, the bill is also quite large. Regardless, the Cardinals could use a consistent force in the middle of the lineup.Three straight years of coming up short. We as an organization , as a total group top to bottom everybody in this clubhouse, all the staff, we have to find a way to get better, first baseman Matt Carpenter said. Were headed in the right direction. The second half was definitely a good starting point, but weve got to find a way to get there. Time to replace the clutch?"WhiteFanposts Fanshots Sections Diamondbacks Farm TeamsGameday ThreadsDiamondbacks NewsDiamondbacks Game ReportsFang FoodDiamondbacks Opinion & Analysis2018 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews: #8, Daniel DescalsoNew,6commentsTime to replace the clutch?needs a player of his ability for a bench role at his price point.Torey Lovullo did not make it a secret how much he appreciated Descalsos contributions to the team, and for the second straight season the utility man appeared in more than 130 games. Its the first time he reached that mark in consecutive seasons since 2011-2012. Daniel rewarded his managers faith with the best season of his career. He had career highs in nearly every metric both advanced and traditional. Put bluntly, he was one of the lone bright beacons of the disappointing 2018 Arizona Diamondbacks. Daniel Descalso is never going to win an MVP award, but he is as good of a bench utility player a team could hope for.How was he able to reach career highs in a multitude of metrics? What changed in how he approached the game? Queue the groans from the audience, Daniel Descalso did a much better job this season keeping the ball off the ground and driving pitches resulting in more extra base hits. His ground ball percentage plummeted to a career low 30.1%. Before he came to Arizona, he was never below 43% and was at 38.9% in 2017. Did hitting coaches in Arizona make changes to his swing that produced better results? Now to be clear, hitting the ball in the air more in itself is not going to produce better results. A weak fly ball is still likely to produce an out. However, Descalso wasnt hitting weak flyballs. His hard contact % skyrocketed to 43.1%. Again, this was not the type of player he was before he came to Arizona having never produced a figure above 30%. He was at 37% in 2017. Those figures I referenced above were sourced from Fangraphs. Statcast paints a slightly different picture when it comes to hard hit %, but there is another tool available on Baseball Savant to drive this point home. You may have heard Michael McDermott and Sean Testerman mention the term barrels in the past. Its a way to evaluate how well a player is putting the barrel of the bat on the ball resulting in good contact through a combination of launch angle and exit velocity. Unfortunately, the data only goes back to 2015, but Descalsos 2018 season is a clear outlier. He had 25 barrels in 2018 which was more than his 2015 through 2017 seasons combined. Descalsos average launch angle from 2015-2017 was 11.3 degrees, but in 2018 it was a whopping 19.1 degrees. Ill repeat that its not enough to get the ball into the air more if you arent hitting it hard as well. The launch angle revolution is not beneficial to every player Matt Williams Jersey , but it was for Descalso in 2018 because he was hitting the ball harder. His average exit velocity from 2015-2017 was 86.7 MPH, but in 2018 he turned up the heat to 89 MPH. Hes never going to lead the league in dingers or slug it out in the home run derby, but its obvious that he has benefited from making changes to his swing.Where he really shines is in late and close situations as defined by Baseball Reference when the game is in the 7th inning or later and the score separated by a run or less. Some people dont believe in the split or that its an actual skill, but Daniel has demonstrated a knack to produce time after time when it matters. sOPS+ on Baseball Reference is a players OPS split for a given situation relative to the entire leagues split in the same situation adjusted by run environment. 100 is average, anything below 100 is worse than average, anything above 100 is better. Simple enough. In 2018, Daniel Descalsos sOPS+ in late and close situations was 126. Its not a fluke for him either. He was at 174 in 2017, 150 in 2016, 128 in 2015, and 136 in 2014. You get the point. He is really good at the plate when his team needs him the most, but what are our examples of this? Where does this show up browsing over his game logs?Fortunately, Fangraphs has a metric called clutch that measures how well a player performed in high leverage situations.FangraphsIt shouldnt be a surprise then that Descalso ended up with a score of 1.69 for the 2018 season. That puts him on the cusp of excellence when it comes to clutch as defined by Fangraphs. Its easiest for us to browse his game logs with his highest win probability added, or WPA+, in order to find these moments in action.On May 8th the Diamondbacks were surprisingly eight games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, had already won seven out of ten games against them in the season, and had not lost their first eleven series of the season. They were squaring off against the eventual National League Champions in Los Angeles, and it turned out to be a wild extra inning affair. Enrique Hernandez homered in the bottom of the 9th off of Brad Boxberger to tie the game at five apiece, the closers first blown save on the young season. Thats where our man in question comes in at the top of the 12th. Alex Avila and Paul Goldschmidt reached base ahead of him, but David Peralta and A.J. Pollock could not do the same resulting in two on and two out in a tie game. Sounds high leverage to me. Lets roll the tape.It wouldnt be the only time during the 2018 season Descalso came through late and close against the Dodgers , although the outcome for the Diamondbacks wasnt as nice next go round. Of course, it came during their horrendous September collapse which should tell you all you need to know. He hit a solo home run in the top of the 9th to break a single run tie. That should have been enough to lift Arizona to victory, but Andrew Chafin and Archie Bradley were unable to seal the deal culminating in a Matt Kemp walkoff double.Equally as pleasing as his ability to produce in high leverage situations is his versatility in the field. Twice in 2017 he was called upon to pitch in blowouts to save the bullpen, and hed be asked to do the same in 2018. The most memorable instance for me, because I had to recap the darn thing, was the July 11th debacle against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Thanks Shelby Miller. Before that game, Descalso had an ERA of 0.00 in 3 pitching appearances over 2 and 2鈦? innings for the Diamondbacks. Heck he hadnt even allowed a single baserunner, but that would change against the Rockies. Daniel was forced to come into the game in the bottom of the 4th with the Dbacks already trailing by the whopping score of 14-1. The Rockies were no less kind to him tallying four hits two of which were long balls.2019 OutlookAll things told, it was a successful two years for the left handed journeyman in the desert. He set a variety of career highs in 2017 and bested them in 2018. Hes now a free agent having completed his two year agreement with Arizona, and there has not been much indication that the team is looking to bring him back. However, being that he is only 32 years old he is bound to latch on with another team in a similar capacity. It has been mentioned that the St. Louis Cardinals, the team he was drafted by and debuted in the majors with, might be interested in a reunion with him as they push to return to the playoffs.I realize that I just wrote a fairly glowing review of a utility player thats essentially been replacement level in terms of WAR over his career, but most teams would love to have a Daniel Descalso on their bench. Torey Lovullo has talked in the past of having players in the clubhouse that are an extension of the manager, and that he is not opposed to having players manage themselves from time to time. Descalso fits that role as a managers player with his veteran presents. His ability to produce in high leverage when it matters most is what sets him apart from other utility bench players.