All posts by Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.

2019 St. Louis Cardinals Post-Season Review

photo: Harrison Bader (Brad Mills/Imagn)

In summary

Looking to become Major League Baseball’s champions for the third time in the 2000s, the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals leveraged strong pitching and solid defense to 91 regular season wins. They clinched a Wild Card on September 23, but did not capture the Central Division title until Game 162.

In the Division Series, the Cardinals faced the Atlanta Braves, the first-place finisher in the East Division and holder of the second-best regular-season record in the league at 97-65.

The Braves held a 4-2 edge over the Cards in the regular season, but that did not matter. After St. Louis nullified the home field advantage in a split of the first two contests in Atlanta, the Braves came back with a Game 3 win in St. Louis. However, the Cards won two straight elimination games, dominating in Game 5 on the road to take the series, three games to two.

The Cardinals fell far short in their Championship Series appearance, bowing out of the post-season in four games straight to the Washington Nationals. St. Louis had home field advantage despite the Nats having won 95 games in the regular season since Washington was a Wild Card. The underdog Nationals had eliminated the 106-win Dodgers in the LDS after dispatching the Brewers in the Wild Card Game.

In Games 1 and 2, Cardinals pitching held the visitors to just five runs in total, however, St. Louis’ offense scored just one. Heading to the Nation’s Capital down 0-2, the Cards were dominated in Game 3 by Stephen Strasburg and dropped Game 4 as well.


The NLDS roster

In the traditional 2-2-1 format for the best-of-five Division Series. SunTrust Park was the site of the opening two tilts between St. Louis and Atlanta.

The Cardinals went with a typical roster of 13 position players and 12 pitchers in the series. Though they had spent most of the season in Memphis, pitchers Genesis Cabrera, Ryan Helsley and Daniel Ponce de Leon, along with outfielder Randy Arozarena made the squad.

Among the excluded were two pitchers who had been with St. Louis all season – John Gant and Michael Wacha. The latter was dealing with a mild shoulder strain while the former struggled in the second half after dominating before the break. Another left off the roster was outfielder Tyler O’Neill.

Second baseman Kolten Wong returned from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the final 10 days of the regular season and he started every game.


NLDS Game 1 – Cardinals 7 at Braves 6

Kolten Wong (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

The Cardinals pulled out a one-run victory in Game 1 with a late offensive surge. St. Louis scored its first run and tied the contest in the fifth inning when Harrison Bader came home on Dexter Fowler’s ground out.

In the eighth and ninth innings, the Cardinals offense put up six runs. Paul Goldschmidt hit a solo home run and Matt Carpenter added an RBI single in the eighth. In the ninth, doubles by Marcell Ozuna and Kolten Wong brought four runs home.

Starter Miles Mikolas pitched five innings and gave up one run on three hits. The right hander struck out two and walked two. In the sixth, Tyler Webb surrendered two runs, one earned, before Giovanny Gallegos finished the inning without further damage. John Brebbia, Andrew Miller, and Ryan Helsley combined for the next 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Carlos Martinez gave up three runs in 1 1/3 innings to finish the game and despite the rough performance, was awarded the win.


NLDS Game 2 – Braves 3, Cardinals 0

In Game 2 behind Mike Foltynewicz, the Braves shut out the visiting Cardinals to tie the series at 1-1. St. Louis’ offense managed just six hits, all singles.

Starter Jack Flaherty pitched seven innings and gave up three runs on eight hits, while fanning eight and walking one. Two of the three runs given up came in Flaherty’s final inning on Adam Duvall’s back-breaking pinch-hit home run. Tyler Webb tossed a scoreless eighth, but the offense was unable to come back.


Adam Wainwright (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

NLDS Game 3 – Braves 3 at Cardinals 1

The Cardinals suffered a heartbreaking loss in the final inning of Game 3 at Busch Stadium. Adam Wainwright pitched a gem, going 7 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing four hits, striking out eight and walking two. Andrew Miller got the last out of the eighth, escaping a bases-loaded jam created by Wainwright. The game was lost in the ninth inning when closer Carlos Martinez gave up three runs on three hits.

The Cardinals scored their lone run in the second inning. Marcell Ozuna doubled and came home on a sac fly by Matt Carpenter. St. Louis missed other chances but still took a 1-0 lead into the ninth.


NLDS Game 4 – Cardinals 5, Braves 4 (10 innings)

Yadier Molina (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

In the first of two elimination games, the Cardinals eked out an extra inning, one run victory to force Game 5 in Atlanta. St. Louis scored twice in the first inning on Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna back-to-back solo home runs. After the Braves put one on the board in the third, the Cardinals responded in the fourth on Ozuna’s second solo home run.

The Braves took the lead with three in the fifth, but the resilient Redbirds knotted it up again on a single by Yadier Molina in the eighth. After the game headed into extra innings, Molina was again the hero. In the 10th, after Kolten Wong advanced following his ground rule double, Molina’s sac fly to left field brought him home for the walk off victory.

Starter Dakota Hudson went 4 2/3 innings and gave up four runs, one earned, on five hits. The bullpen was the star, as seven pitchers combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings – Tyler Webb, Giovanny Gallegos, John Brebbia, Andrew Miller, Ryan Helsley, Carlos Martinez and winner Miles Mikolas.


NLDS Game 5 – Cardinals 13 at Braves 1

Jack Flaherty (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Faced with another win or go home game – this time in Atlanta for Game 5, the Cardinals chose the former in the biggest way possible. The Redbirds came out swinging in the first inning and didn’t stop until 10 runs crossed the plate, sending Foltynewicz to an early shower.

The scoring went like this. Marcell Ozuna singled to plate Dexter Fowler. Matt Carpenter walked to score Goldschmidt. Tommy Edman doubled to bring in Ozuna and Yadier Molina. Jack Flaherty walked and Carpenter scored. Fowler doubled to plate Edman and Paul DeJong. Wong doubled to score Flaherty and Fowler. The 10th run, delivered by Wong, came home on a wild pitch as Ozuna struck out.

The Cardinals added one run in the second on DeJong’s double. In the third, Harrison Bader pinch hit for Carpenter and singled in a run, and DeJong did the same to make the score 13-0.

Winning pitcher Flaherty went six innings and gave up one run on four hits while fanning eight and walking one. Giovanny Gallegos, John Brebbia, and Genesis Cabrera each tossed a scoreless inning of relief.


NLDS leaders

Paul Goldschmidt (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

First baseman Goldschmidt and left fielder Ozuna, the third and fourth hitters in manager Mike Shildt’s lineup, powered the Cardinals offense in the LDS. Both hit .429 (9-for-21) over the five contests, including two long balls each. They each had a .478 OBP, as well.

Goldschmidt hit four doubles to Ozuna’s three, but the outfielder scored five runs to the first baseman’s four. Goldy drew two free passes to the Big Bear’s one, but Marcell plated five vs. two for his teammate. Both of their OPS’s were out of this world, with Goldschmidt holding the slight 1.383 to 1.335 edge.

Marcell Ozuna (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Molina batted just .143 in the series, but had arguably the biggest moments. His RBI single in the eighth inning of the first elimination contest, Game 4, enabled the Cards to tie. His sacrifice fly in the 10th plated Kolten Wong and capped the comeback that led them to Atlanta, where they crushed the Braves in record fashion in Game 5.

Wainwright certainly deserves prominent mention for his 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 3. The 38-year old was saddled with a no-decision when Carlos Martinez yielded three runs in the ninth to take the loss.

Ace Jack Flaherty was outdueled in Game 2, but had yielded just one score over six frames before a pinch-hit two-run home run from Adam Duvall in the seventh gave Atlanta its winning edge. Though the offense delivered a record-setting 10 runs in the first inning of Game 5, Flaherty kept his edge on the road, holding the Braves to a lone run over six innings in the clincher. The right-hander finished with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings and a 2.77 ERA.


NLDS strugglers

Dexter Fowler went 2-for-22 (.091) and both Harrison Bader (2-for-10) and Matt Carpenter (1-for-5) batted .200 in the LDS.

Carlos Martinez was in the center of the action, with a win, a loss and a blown save. The closer was responsible for six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.


The NLCS roster

The Cardinals made no personnel changes between rounds 1 and 2.


NLCS Game 1 – Nationals 2 at Cardinals 0

After scoring 13 runs in their prior contest, the Cards were blanked by the Nationals 2-0, and were nearly no-hit by Anibal Sanchez in the process. A pinch hit single by Jose Martinez in the eighth ended the no-hitter and was St. Louis’ only hit.

Starter Miles Mikolas pitched six innings and gave up one run on seven hits. Giovanny Gallegos surrendered a run in the seventh before Andrew Miller, John Brebbia, Ryan Helsley, Tyler Webb and Carlos Martinez yielded no runs the rest of the way.


NLCS Game 2 – Nationals 3 at Cardinals 1

The Cardinals managed to scratch one run across the plate, but that wasn’t nearly enough as St. Louis lost its second straight contest to Washington at Busch Stadium.

Again, the Cardinals were nearly no-hit, this time by Max Scherzer, until Paul Goldschmidt’s single in the seventh inning. Pinch hitter Jose Martinez drove in the Cardinals’ only run on a double in the eighth after Paul DeJong singled for one of the three Cardinal hits in the game.

Starter Adam Wainwright pitched very well, but received no run support. Wainwright tossed 7 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on three hits. Two of the three runs scored in the eighth. Andrew Miller and Ryan Helsley collected the final five outs.


NLCS Game 3 – Nationals 8, Cardinals 1

The Series moved to Washington for Game 3, but the script was similar. The offense-deficient Cardinals once again were the losers, this time spanked by an 8-1 score.

St. Louis’ offense pushed its lone run across the plate in the seventh inning on a single by Paul DeJong, one of only seven hits against Nats starter Stephen Strasburg.

Starter Jack Flaherty pitched four innings and gave up four runs on five hits. Tyler Webb and John Brebbia yielded three more scores between them before Daniel Ponce de Leon was charged with the final Washington run.


NLCS Game 4 – Nationals 7, Cardinals 4

The Cardinals entered Game 4 with a slightly different lineup, but even with Jose Martinez and Harrison Bader starting, the result was the same. St. Louis lost 7-4, despite scoring more runs than in the previous three games combined.

After falling behind 7-0 in the first inning, the Cardinals got on the board in the fourth on a solo home run by Yadier Molina. Three more runs were added in the fifth inning. Tommy Edman grounded out to plate Bader. Martinez doubled to bring in Kolten Wong and Dexter Fowler.

Dakota Hudson didn’t have it. St. Louis’ starter lasted only 1/3 of an inning, giving up seven runs, four earned, on five hits. Adam Wainwright, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller did not allow a run the rest of the way, but the damage was done.


What went wrong?

The lack of scoring was the predominant issue in the Cards’ poor showing, a weakness all season. Nationals pitchers completely shut down the offense, as the Cardinals plated only six runs in the four games. Their aggregate slash line was .130/.195/.179/.374.

Jose Martinez (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Only Jose Martinez, who did not start every game, had an OPS above .800 during the NLCS. The next highest OPS was .702 by Yadier Molina. Middle of the order batters Marcell Ozuna and Paul Goldschmidt had OPSes of .438 and .125 respectively in the NLCS after leading the way in the Division Series win.

Two starting pitchers faltered. Dakota Hudson had a disastrous start in Game 4 after the letdown of Jack Flaherty yielding four runs in four innings in Game 3 (9.00 ERA). Miles Mikolas (1.50) and Adam Wainwright (3.00) were fine, as was the bullpen (2.76).

While the NLCS was a major disappointment, the 2019 season represented a successful turnaround for the Cardinals, with 91 wins, the division title and a place earned among MLB’s final four.


Acknowledgement

TCN’s Marilyn Green contributed to this article.


For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners and team recaps for the entire system. This 50-article annual series is now concluded.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


What is next?

Now that our recap of 2019 is in the books, starting on Monday will be our next series – the countdown of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 Prospects for 2020.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

2019-2020 Cardinals Winter Ball Report – November 7


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

2019 St. Louis Cardinals Regular Season by the Numbers

photo: Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

This post-mortem of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2019 regular season is a follow-on article to this in-depth piece on spring training and a month-by-month recap:

2019 St. Louis Cardinals Regular Season Review

The focus here is on key numbers behind the 91-win season that powered the Cards to the National League Central Division title.

Major sections that follow:

  • New arrivals
  • Medical update
  • Defensive improvement
  • Team stats
  • Player stats leaders
  • Standings breakdown
  • Ticket sales
  • In conclusion

New arrivals

The Cardinals used 43 players in 2019, including 14 who were age 24 or younger. The youngest players were age 22 (Jordan Hicks, Junior Fernandez and Genesis Cabrera) and the oldest 37 (Adam Wainwright).

Eight players made their Major League debuts with St. Louis in 2019 – Randy Arozarena, Genesis Cabrera, Tommy Edman, Junior Fernandez, Ryan Helsley, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo and Lane Thomas.


Jordan Hicks (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Medical update

Health was a generally positive factor for St. Louis in 2019. 18 players spent time on the injured list, down from 36 in 2018. Two players missed the entire season due to injury (LHP Brett Cecil and LHP Tony Cingrani, acquired in trade).

By the end of the season, the two were joined on the 60-day injured list by outfielder Lane Thomas and closer Jordan Hicks. The latter, who required Tommy John surgery in late June, was the greatest loss.


Defensive improvement

Defense was a major plus for St. Louis in 2019. The Cardinals set a club record with just 66 errors and posted a league-best .998 fielding percentage. They tied the White Sox for the MLB lead in double plays with 170. This was a major change as the Cardinals led the majors with 133 errors in 2018 and became the first team to go from worst to first in errors in back-to-back seasons.

In new defensive stats, the Cards fared exceptionally well. In Ultimate Zone Rating/150, the Cards were first in the NL at 6.0 (second in MLB) and second in both the NL and MLB in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) with 95.

The coaching staff readily accepted data indicating opposing hitter tendencies, and according to Inside Edge, the Cards made the most effective use of shifts of any MLB team.

Individually, the team had six Gold Glove Award “finalists”, top three finishers, with Kolten Wong winning his first award, as well as The Fielding Bible’s top MLB second baseman. Shortstop Paul DeJong also had an exceptional season defensively per advanced fielding metrics.


Team stats

Statistically, the Cardinals had the worst hitting of the teams that made the playoffs. In the 15-team National League this season, the Cardinals finished 10th in runs scored, 11th in batting average and 12th in slugging.

As it has in recent years, pitching continued to lead the way for St. Louis. The 2019 team ERA was second in the league, up from sixth in both 2017 and 2018. The actual ERA itself improved year-to-year-year from 4.01 to 3.85 to 3.80.

St. Louis’ starters ERA of 3.78 was third-best in the NL, same ranking as in 2017, though the ERA itself was up from 3.52 the year before. The team’s relief ERA, on the other hand, showed tremendous improvement. The 2018 mark of 4.38 had been fourth-worst in the 15-team league, but was second-best in 2019 at 3.82. St. Louis’ bullpen WHIP, a surrogate for baserunners allowed, went from second-worst in the NL at 1.47 to second-best at 1.22 this season.

The offense was disappointing, with the 10th place finish in the National League in runs scored a drop from fifth the year before. In the slash stats, the Cardinals were also down in all four measures compared to 2018 as a bottom-third unit – just 11th in average (.245), 10th in OBP (.322) and 12th in slugging (.415) and OPS (.737).

The 2019 Cardinals made major improvement on the bases, improving from 63/14th in steals to 116/2nd. Further, their success rate was a good 80 percent.


Player stats leaders

Team leaders Hitters Pitchers
Home runs 34 Paul Goldschmidt K rate 33.3% Giovanny Gallegos
RBI 97 Goldschmidt BB rate 4.2% Miles Mikolas
Stolen bases 24 Kolten Wong HR/9 0.037 Carlos Martinez
Walk rate 12.9% Dexter Fowler LOB % 87.3% Gallegos
Strikeout rate 12.8% Yadier Molina GB % 67.2% Jordan Hicks
Isolated power 0.231 Marcell Ozuna ERA 2.31 Gallegos
Batting average 0.304 Tommy Edman FIP 2.86 Martinez
On-base pct. 0.361 Wong xFIP 3.07 Hicks
Slugging 0.476 Goldschmidt

Detailed articles on key individual player stats from the 2019 Cardinals have already been posted. To dig into those, check out these four articles:


Standings breakdown

The Cardinals hung around first place all season in the tight NL Central, never more than five games out, though they slipped into fourth place for 10 days in May. While St. Louis was in first place at some point in every month except June, they were out of the top spot continuously from May 7 until July 25.

The 2019 Cardinals last had a losing record on July 12 (44-45) and left .500 behind for the last time just two days later. The club reached its high-water mark of 23 games over .500 on September 23 (90-67).

The team won six consecutive games three times, once in each of the final three months of the regular season – from July 21-26 (Cin, Pit, Hou), August 23-27 (Col, Mil) and September 18-23 (Was, ChC, Ari). The club lost five straight twice – from June 23-29 (LAA, Oak, SD) and August 3-7 (Oak, LAD).

There were no major areas in which St. Louis had a negative split, and on the positive side, they were 19 games over .500 at Busch Stadium (50-31) and 16 games over .500 (46-30) in the NL Central.

After being dominated by the Cubs in 2016 and 2017, the Cards won the season series 10-9 for the second consecutive year. St. Louis played Wild Card Milwaukee to the same 10-9 advantage in 2019.

In one-run contests, St. Louis finished only slightly above .500 at 25-22 but fared better in extra-inning games at 8-4.


Ticket sales

The Cardinals surpassed the three million mark in season attendance for the 16th-straight year (2004-19) and the 23rd time overall. The total of 3,480,393 (42,968 per game average) ranked second only to the Dodgers in MLB. It was fifth-best in franchise history and included 22 sell outs. Even so, there seemed more empty seats than usual even though discounts were prevalent, television ratings were down and all playoff games did not sell out.


In conclusion

Put that all together and the St. Louis Cardinals returned to the post-season after a three-year drought in Mike Shildt’s first full year at the helm.

Mike Shildt (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

The defense was exceptional and the pitching was also very good, but the offense was inconsistent thanks to subpar seasons from most of the starters, especially, but not limited to Matt Carpenter. Marcell Ozuna is likely to leave in free agency, leaving a gap in the middle of the lineup that probably cannot be filled by internal candidates.

There is optimism that this core can improve in 2020, but that will be difficult without a number of players, including Paul Goldschmidt, Carpenter, Dexter Fowler and Miles Mikolas, returning to their prior career norms.

With unfavorable Carpenter and Fowler contracts on the books and committed salary increases to a number of others, keeping the current roster seems the path of least resistance. This also indicates there is little payroll room for major improvements from the outside this winter.

As a result, despite how successful 2019 was, a segment of the team’s fan base is restless about 2020.


For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners and team recaps for the entire system. This 50-article annual series will conclude with a look back at St. Louis’ 2019 post-season.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

2019 St. Louis Cardinals Regular Season Review

photo: Cardinals clinch playoffs, 09/22/19 (St. Louis Cardinals)

This is the first installment of our three-part annual series recapping the recently-completed season for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Part 1 begins with a quick summary, before we go into significant detail on off-season moves, spring training and the regular season, month by month.

Sections include:

  • Season summary
  • Personnel changes
  • Spring training injuries
  • Spring training results
  • Job competitions
  • Lineups and roles
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

Part 2 of this annual recap will take a deep dive into the Cardinals’ regular season numbers followed by Part 3, a post-season review, with the latter being offered after a three-year hiatus.


Season summary

The 2019 St. Louis Cardinals concluded their 128th season of play by winning their 12th N.L. Central title and their first since 2015.

The Cardinals reported to spring training with a new star first baseman and a manager running his first camp with a resolve to break a three-year playoff drought.

Mike Shildt (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

After securing Paul Goldschmidt in trade and signing left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller, manager Mike Shildt’s Cardinals were plagued by an inconsistent offense in the spring as they suffered their first losing spring since 2016.

Unlike in recent seasons, the Cardinals played extremely well in April, going 20-10 (through May 1) while opening up a three-game division lead. It was short-lived, however, as the club went into a tailspin in May. On the 22nd, they had fallen to .500 and were in fourth place, five games back. At the July All-Star break, the Cards were still treading water at 44-44.

A post-break spurt enabled the Cards to re-capture the division lead for a week starting on July 25. A disastrous 0-6 road trip to Oakland and Los Angeles knocked St. Louis back into third place, four games out.

In the midst of a six-game winning streak, on August 23, the Cardinals took over first place for the final time. Even including the aforementioned West Coast trip, St. Louis finished the month 18-9.

On September 8, St. Louis opened up its season-best 4.5-game lead. A huge four-game sweep in Chicago ending on September 22nd helped to put the Cubs away and in the process, the Cards clinched a Wild Card.

But Milwaukee, even without injured reigning MVP Christian Yelich, would not go away. The Cardinals were pushed to the final day of the regular season before clinching the division, ending at 91-71 and a two-game edge over the Wild-Card Brewers.


Personnel changes

Last fall, the club said goodbye to six players – first baseman Matt Adams, relievers Bud Norris, Matt Bowman and Tyson Ross, infielder Greg Garcia and starter Adam Wainwright. After declaring free agency, the latter immediately re-signed a much-reduced, incentive-laden contract to return to St. Louis for a 14th season.

Paul Goldschmidt (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

On December 5, the Cardinals announced the acquisition of all-star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona for pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, minor league second baseman Andy Young and a draft pick. 16 days later, they signed free agent lefty reliever Andrew Miller.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Cardinals added a journeyman free agent catcher on a minor league contract. However, Francisco Pena was not added to the big-league roster at the end of spring training as had been expected when a more experienced backstop, Matt Wieters, was signed in late February.

There seems to be at least one major contract announcement each spring and so it was in 2019. In fact there were two. First, 2018 NL All-Star pitcher Miles Mikolas agreed to terms on a four-year extension covering 2020-2023, then in a major surprise, Goldschmidt agreed to remain with the Cardinals from 2020-2024 before ever playing a home game at Busch. His five-year deal was announced on March 23.

Matt Carpenter (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

In a rash of multi-year extensions that swept across MLB this spring, apparently the Cardinals felt they had to join in. In a surprise to most, the Cardinals agreed to a two-year extension plus a third-year vesting option with Matt Carpenter, guaranteeing him $39 million.

The April 10 deal was struck a year earlier than necessary, and because of the third baseman’s struggles in 2019, it looked bad almost from the very start. Carpenter put together his worst season as a major leaguer and eventually lost his starting job to rookie Tommy Edman.

Multiple changes were made in the coaching staff from the interim staff assembled when Shildt was promoted into the top job last July. New hires were hitting coach Jeff Albert, a former Cardinals minor league coach who came from Houston, and first base coach Stubby Clapp, two-time Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year and title winner.

In other shifts, George Greer and Jose Oquendo returned to their prior minor league coaching duties. Oliver Marmol moved from first base to bench coach and Ron “Pop” Warner shifted from bench coach to third base.


Spring training injuries

Five Cardinals opened the regular season on the injured list. Jedd Gyorko missed much of camp with a hamstring injury and minor leaguer Justin Williams sat out for what became months due to a hand broken in the off-season.

On the pitching side, Carlos Martinez’ shoulder problems from 2018 returned, keeping his role in an odd limbo. Without appearing in a regular-season game, reliever Brett Cecil required surgery to address carpal tunnel syndrome and Luke Gregerson’s rehab from his 2018 shoulder problems continued into May. Shortly after, he was released.


Spring training results

(St. Louis Cardinals)

In a signal of some of the problems in the regular season ahead, the Cardinals’ sub-par 12-15-4 Grapefruit League record was primarily due to inconsistent hitting, while the pitching, particularly the starters, was good. It was the first losing spring in the last three for St. Louis.

Average spring home attendance of 6,182 was up 4.7 percent from 2018.

Continuing the pattern from at least the prior five years, pitching led the way, with the 11th-best team ERA in MLB at 4.57, still up from 3.93 and fifth in 2018.

The offense was worse than usual, however. After ranking 21st and 23rd in OPS the last two springs, the 2019 Cards were last in MLB in OPS. In fact, they were 30th in all four slash stats – .239/.308/.391/.698.


Job competitions

There were really only a few open job competitions in camp. The most controversial was in right field, where coming off a terrible 2018, Dexter Fowler received a vote of confidence for another chance in 2019. He batted just .200 in Florida but was in the Opening Day lineup with Jose Martinez serving as a reserve.

Dakota Hudson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Other bench players were infielders Yairo Muñoz and Drew Robinson (for the injured Gyorko), outfielder Tyler O’Neill and catcher Matt Wieters.

There was a true battle for the fifth starter job. Though both pitched well, Dakota Hudson (1.25 ERA) outperformed John Gant, with the latter opening in the bullpen. Coming off two years of injury frustration, Alex Reyes made the team as a reliever.

Other bullpen members were returnees – closer Jordan Hicks, Dominic Leone, Mike Mayers and John Brebbia plus the free agent signee Miller. Another lefty, Chasen Shreve, was placed on waivers to make 40-man roster room for Wieters. He cleared and reported to Memphis.


Prospect spring standouts

Among minor league mound standouts in camp were Chris Beck and Tyler Webb. Non-roster hitters catching coaches’ eyes included infielder Tommy Edman, outfielder Randy Arozorena and infielder/outfielder Rangel Ravelo. All except Beck would go on to perform for St. Louis in the regular season.


Individual spring results

Among starters, Hudson led the way, but Michael Wacha and Jack Flaherty also posted strong spring ERAs of 1.93 and 2.12, respectively. Adam Wainwright was next at a solid 2.51, but Mikolas struggled to a 6.23 mark.

Relievers with ERAs at 3.00 or under included regulars Leone, Mayers, Brebbia and Hicks. Miller stood out for the wrong reason, with poor control, and struggled at 11.81.

On the offensive side, Goldschmidt had the highest batting average among regulars at just .280. His .560 slugging was the team-best as was his .939 OPS. Tyler O’Neill did Tyler O’Neill things – leading the Cards with five home runs, but batting just .230 and striking out at a 29 percent rate. With just nine RBI, Edman led the team. Harrison Bader and Drew Robinson stole five bags each.

In a bit of a concern, five every-day players did not hit above .212 in Grapefruit League action – Bader, Dexter Fowler, Paul DeJong, Jose Martinez and Matt Carpenter. Other than DeJong, all went on to have subpar offensive years. And even DeJong, who began hot like the team, trailed off badly over time, but was only rarely given a day off.


Lineups and roles

Unlike former manager Mike Matheny, who was often criticized for his revolving-door lineups and for riding hot hands, Shildt was quite the opposite. He opened the season with a set lineup and stuck to it every day until injuries occurred in late April.

In fact, as Carpenter’s struggles extended from weeks to months, the manager continued to ink his third baseman into the leadoff spot – until finally forced to make a change. Tommy Edman was the primary beneficiary.

The top three in the Opening Day lineup were Carpenter, Goldschmidt and DeJong, followed by Ozuna, Molina and Fowler. Wong, Bader and the pitcher brought up the rear.

Miles Mikolas (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

In recognition of his strong 2018 Cardinals debut, Mikolas was selected to make his first Opening Day start, with Flaherty, Hudson, Wacha and Wainwright following in the rotation. Flaherty took the ball in the home opener.

The identity of the closer was unstated, though it seemed the formal announcement of Hicks was not made to keep pressure off. Miller was next in line.

With the exception of Hicks requiring Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals avoided serious injury to front-line players in 2019. When Hicks went down, Carlos Martinez took over as closer.

In August, Harrison Bader lost his job in center due to long-term offensive struggles. Dexter Fowler moved over to cover, with Edman often starting in right. That re-opened the door for slumping Carpenter to return to the regular batting order.

By end of the year, Shildt’s regular lineup was: Fowler, Wong, Goldschmidt, Ozuna, Molina, Carpenter, Edman, DeJong and the pitcher.

The final rotation was the same as it was at the start, though Wacha had been removed for a period due to ineffectiveness. In fact, only two other pitchers started all year – Daniel Ponce de Leon (eight starts) and Genesis Cabrera (two starts).

In the first half, John Gant and John Brebbia seemed the most trusted right-handed relievers, but Giovanny Gallegos (who did not make the team out of spring training) became the most dependable reliever down the stretch.

From the left side of the pen behind Miller, Brett Cecil missed the entire season and Chasen Shreve flamed out, but Tyler Webb stepped in admirably.


March/April

For the fourth straight season, the Cards did not get out of the gates smartly, however, they righted the ship much more quickly than in recent years.

St. Louis dropped two of their first three series, starting with a 1-3 showing in Milwaukee dominated by reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich. (Paul Goldschmidt had a three-home run Game 2.) By the fourth set of the season, Reyes, Muñoz and Robinson were sent to Memphis, replaced by Gyorko (off the IL) plus relievers Giovanny Gallegos and Tyler Webb. All three stuck.

The Cards then reeled off their first of three five-game winning streaks in April, beginning with a four-game home sweep of the defending league champion Dodgers.

After dropping a second set in Milwaukee, the Cards took over first place and expanded the lead to 2 ½ games during a 7-2 homestand that featured series wins over the Mets, Brewers and Reds.

St. Louis finished the 19-10 month three games up in the division after winning a pair in Washington.

In the injury department, Bader went on the IL effective April 14. That led Shildt to move Fowler to center and Jose Martinez took over in right. Bader returned 10 days later, around when Fowler lost a week and eight pounds due to a virus.

Marcell Ozuna (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

The team had three .300 hitters in April, including two right-fielders – Jose Martinez (.364) and Dexter Fowler (.312). In between was Paul DeJong at .342. Fowler had the top OBP at .415, with Marcell Ozuna’s slugging of .610 highest, as was DeJong’s 1.010 OPS.

After a slow start, Ozuna slammed 10 home runs and drove in 28 in 27 games. Goldschmidt was next in both categories with nine and 19, respectively. DeJong led the entire National League with 14 doubles (but would have just 17 more over the next five months combined).

For the second consecutive season, leadoff man Carpenter was off to a rough start, batting just .202 with five RBI. However, unlike 2018, the third baseman with the big, new contract extension never rebounded.

The fact the team went 19-10 with these ERAs from the starters was pretty amazing – Hudson 5.62, Mikolas 5.29, Wacha 4.78, Flaherty 4.08 and best of all, Wainwright at 3.73.

The bullpen was strong, with Brebbia (0.55), Gant (0.90, three wins and two saves) and Hicks (2.13 with nine saves) leading the way.

Two top 10 prospects made their St. Louis debuts during the month and performed well in their brief fill-in stints before returning to Memphis – outfielder Lane Thomas and pitcher Ryan Helsley. Both would be back.


May

A win to open the month gave St. Louis MLB’s-best 20-10 record and maintained their three-game division lead.

After the Cards dropped a getaway day game in D.C., the first Cubs series of 2019 became a Chicago home sweep, starting a downward spiral that led to a terrible May. In fact, it was the third-worst in team history, as the club went 9-18 (.333) and did not win a series the entire month. Even so, the division deficit was just 3 ½ games.

In mid-month, the Luke Gregerson experiment officially ended with the right-hander’s release. Carlos Martinez returned from the injured list, still shrouded by confusion over his role. On the last day of the month, Yadier Molina was placed on the injured list with what was called a tendon strain in his right thumb, a problem that would plague the 37-year old catcher for months.

With veteran Michael Wacha struggling, the team pushed lefty Genesis Cabrera into the rotation for two starts, on May 29 and June 4, but the 22-year old showed he was not ready, soon returned to Memphis.

At .293, Goldschmidt was the only regular to bat over .268 in the month. Despite a .226 average, Ozuna led the team with six home runs, 17 runs scored and 22 RBI. DeJong (.200), Fowler (.171) and Wong (.170) struggled.

Hudson had the best month among the starters, with a 2-2 record and a 2.80 ERA. In addition to Wacha (8.86), Wainwright (6.33) also had a rough May.

The pen was strong, led by Gant (1.86), Miller (2.25) and Brebbia (2.77). However, Hicks (6.14) had just two save opportunities all month, and converted both.


June

June opened better, as the Cardinals returned the favor, sweeping the Cubs in St. Louis. However, just a week later back at Wrigley, the Cubs took all three over the Cards.

From there, things began to look up a bit, as the Cardinals won consecutive series over the Marlins, Mets, Marlins again and Angels, but still could never string more than two consecutive wins together. A five-game losing skid before an extra innings win on the 30th added up to a mediocre 13-13 month.

Albert Pujols (USA TODAY Sports Images)

A pleasant by-product of the Angels series was the emotional and celebratory return of Albert Pujols, in his first games at Busch Stadium since his departure as a free agent following the 2011 World Championship. Also along for the trip was the current best player in baseball, Mike Trout.

On June 11, Molina was activated from the injured list, but did not seem 100 percent. The 25th brought two pieces of bad news on the pitching front. Inconsistent Alex Reyes went back on the injured list at Memphis with a strained pectoral muscle, and even worse, closer Jordan Hicks required Tommy John surgery. Neither would return in 2019. Carlos Martinez, who was being aimed back toward the rotation, was instead installed as the new ninth-inning man, a job with which he had prior experience.

The injury bug bit even harder on the 29th, as team RBI leader and cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna suffered fractured fingers while running the bases. Tyler O’Neill was given an extended trial in left field, but did not excel before being injured again himself, leaving left field in 2020 a major open question.

The offense continued to sputter. No regular batted .300, with Ozuna tops at .299. Fowler led the way with 14 RBI despite batting .235. It was a similar story for June runs scored leader DeJong (12/.218). Other strugglers included Carpenter (.208), Goldschmidt (.181) and Bader (.155).

Once again, Hudson topped the rotation with a 2.25 June ERA, but the even bigger news was that both Wacha (2.84) and Wainwright (2.96) rebounded from their difficult Mays. Gallegos began to emerge in the pen, with 18 strikeouts and just one run allowed in 14 2/3 innings (0.61 ERA).

Flaherty endured his worst stretch of the season, going 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA in five June starts. Brebbia was bombed for 10 runs in 10 1/3 innings (8.71 ERA).


July

Concluding the first half with a 4-5 West Coast road trip through San Diego, Seattle and San Francisco, the Cardinals slogged through a 25-game stretch against teams of apparent lesser quality with a record of just 13-12.

That landed them at the All-Star break right where they started, at .500 (44-44). Yet because no team in the division was playing consistently well, St. Louis was just two games behind the first-place Cubs.

Paul DeJong (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

In an outside assessment of the disappointing season to date, the Cardinals had just one All-Star Game selection. DeJong was chosen as a reserve, primarily based on his strong April. Only because each team was required to have one representative was a Cardinal likely chosen at all.

Coming off a season-long slump, the worst of his career, Carpenter was activated from the injured list coming out of the break, but the team lost Molina, whose earlier hand injury was not healed. Rookie Tommy Edman provided a spark at the top of the lineup while Carpenter was away and continued to earn time as a utility player.

Following the break, the Cards went 13-6, including five of six series wins, to conclude the 16-9 month of July. As the calendar flipped over to August, the Cards won two of three over the Cubs at Busch.

Goldschmidt’s bat powered the way, as the first sacker blasted 11 July home runs and plated 27 in 25 games. Wong batted .357. The same names were bringing up the rear – DeJong (.205), Carpenter (.200) and Bader (.146).

Giovanny Gallegos (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Despite a team-best 2.48 ERA in five July starts, Flaherty could not buy a win. Mikolas had his best month at 2.93, but Wainwright (4.85) and Hudson (5.47) backslid.

Gallegos continued to impress in relief, with 18 strikeouts and a 0.69 ERA over 13 innings. Miller also had a solid month (1.80 ERA, 14 Ks in 10 IP). Martinez saved all nine July chances, but his 4.91 ERA reminds us that nothing came easy.

The trade deadline was very quiet in St. Louis, with no deals done – other than the subtraction of third baseman Gyorko, sent to the Dodgers for salary relief and two injured pitchers. It was a curious deal to say the least.


August

On August 7, the 58-55 Cardinals were languishing in third place. They were 3 ½ games back of first-place Chicago, which had a 62-52 record. The Brewers were in second place. The Cards had just lost five consecutive games.

From there, St. Louis turned on the jets, including winning two series over the Brewers and one against the Rockies to close the 18-9 August, the team’s best month of 2019. The Cards took over sole possession of first place following their win on August 23 and held it for the remainder of the season.

Kolten Wong (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Not all was smooth sailing, however. In mid-August, the Cardinals fired assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska amid rumors of tension between new boss Jeff Albert and the organization’s old-school instructors. Once the season concluded, minors hitting coordinator George Greer was let go as well.

Wong led the Cards in August with a .373 batting average and a .460 OBP and was eventually rewarded with a move up into the number two spot in the order. In a bit of a surprise, Fowler drove in 21 runs in the month, the most on the team. Carpenter (.238) and DeJong (.235) continued to scuffle, though the latter still plated 15. Edman led the team with 19 runs scored, with DeJong one behind.

Flaherty (0.71 ERA) and Hudson (2.38) both went 4-1 in the month. The pen was anchored by Webb (1.64) plus Gallegos and Helsley (both with 1.69 ERAs). Martinez was 5-for-6 in save opportunities.


September

St. Louis did not pull away in the final month, returning to their early-season routine of never winning or losing more than two straight.

That changed with a six-game winning streak. The highlight was reached on the 22nd, when Cardinals clinched a playoff berth at the end of an exciting four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. All four wins were decided by just one run. This not only propelled the Cards into the post-season after a three-year drought, it essentially knocked the Cubs out, hastening the departure of manager Joe Maddon, whose contract was not renewed.

However, taking the division title proved to be a greater challenge as the Cards lost two of three in Arizona, including a crushing 19-inning defeat, while the red-hot Brewers closed to within one game heading into the final weekend.

Those same Cubs traveled into Busch for the final three games. With a number of front line players sitting out, the Cubs started many younger players and reserves. It did not matter, as Chicago won the first two, but Colorado provided a major assist, defeating Milwaukee twice as well.

Jack Flaherty (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

On the final day of the season, with the magic number down to one, the Cardinals won the division through the front door. They dominated the Cubs in Game 162 with win no. 91 of the season behind their ace Flaherty. Chicago manager Joe Maddon was told the night before he would not be retained for 2020, managing Game 162 as a lame – make that dead – duck.

The Brewers finished with 89 wins, even with a season-ending fractured knee cap to Christian Yelich suffered on September 10. Their 20-7 September was incredible, but left them just short of repeating as Central Division Champions. (Milwaukee lost in the Wild Card Game to eventual World Series winner Washington.)

At the end of the regular season, the Cards led the division by two games, just ahead of the Brewers with the wilting Cubs a distant seven games back in third.

In September, injured players Jose Martinez and Tyler O’Neill returned to the active roster, but both played sparingly down the stretch. After a demotion to Memphis to work on his hitting, Bader returned in the final month, but struggled to a .191 average in September. Lane Thomas suffered a broken hand and was lost for the year.

Call-ups from Memphis included pitchers Genesis Cabrera, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Junior Fernandez and Mike Mayers, catchers Andrew Knizner and Joe Hudson, infielders Rangel Ravelo and Edmundo Sosa and outfielder Randy Arozarena. Of the group, only Cabrera (as the third left-handed reliever) and Arozarena (over Tyler O’Neill) made the post-season roster.

With a 0.91 ERA over the final two months of the season, including an 0.82 in September, Flaherty was the National League Pitcher of the Month in both August and September – a rare and dominating feat.

Tommy Edman (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

In fact, all the starters came through in the final four weeks. Mikolas, with a still-respectable 3.34 ERA, was the only rotation member to have a September ERA over 3.00.

Though it got hairy at times, Martinez was 8-for-8 in saves and added two holds and a win. Brebbia (7.36 ERA), Miller (8.10) and Gant (13.50) all scuffled in September.

Goldschmidt stepped up to lead the offense, with 24 RBI in the final 27 games. Edman batted a cool .350 and scored 22 runs. However, all was not well with the offense as four regulars batted under the Mendoza Line in September – Ozuna (.160), DeJong (.175), Fowler (.183) and the aforementioned Bader (.191).

The offensive shortfall was an ongoing theme that would lead to the Cardinals demise during the Championship Series. Much more on that is coming!


For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners and team recaps for the entire system. Following a deep dive into the numbers behind the 2019 regular season, this 50-article annual series will conclude with a look back at St. Louis’ post-season run.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SDI Shows Why Only One Cardinal Won a 2019 Gold Glove

photo: Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong (Joe Puetz/Imagn)

Our eyes told us that the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals were a substantially better team defensively than in recent seasons. Another more quantitative data point was provided when Rawlings recently announced that six Cardinals were among the top three finishers in the National League Gold Glove Award competition at their respective positions.

With Sunday evening’s announcements, we now have both the Gold Glove Award winners and the consolidated metrics-based view of player performance in the field. The latter, called the SABR Defensive Index, is an important measure, as it is 25 percent of the annual Gold Glove Award scoring, with coaches’ and managers’ votes carrying the other 75 percent.

A new winner at the second base position in the National League was crowned Sunday evening – Kolten Wong.

The Cardinals’ other five “finalists” fell short, headlined by shortstop Paul DeJong. Among all fielders at all positions in the National League in 2019, DeJong had the second-highest SDI. Unfortunately for him, the Gold Glove Award winner at short, Nick Ahmed, logged the NL’s best SDI.

No measure is the be-all, end all, which is why actual voting by managers and coaches still make up the lion’s share of the Gold Glove Award scoring. But the SDI has a solid foundation, based on not one, but a group of five defensive metrics. Though some discount any single-season’s worth of fielding results, those behind the SDI originally created and refined many of the measurements and devised the Index as a blended measure of multiple stats. (SDI background can be viewed here.)

Overall, SDIs reflect the final results quite well, with six of the nine NL Gold Glove winners having the top SDI at their respective positions. The only “finalist” who seems undeserving is Washington left fielder Juan Soto, who lugged home a negative 1.3 SDI, placing him 11 of 14 qualifiers at his position. This strongly suggests the voters did not consider the SDI when placing their left-field votes.

With that background in mind, let’s look at how St. Louis Cardinals players fared in the final update of the SDI for the 2019 season. (Because of its importance in the Gold Glove Award results, the full-year SDI is not published until after the winners were announced.)

These results are as close to the actual Gold Glove Award scoring as we will get, as Rawlings does not disclose any further details beyond the names of the winners and the other top three finishers by position.

Here are the Cardinals’ scores and the NL winners and “finalists” by position listed as well.

Rank NL pitchers (36) Team SDI Recognition
1 Max Fried ATL 4.0
2 Mike Soroka ATL 3.2
T3 Aaron Nola PHI 3.1 finalist
T3 Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD 3.1
6 Miles Mikolas STL 2.7
T9 Zack Greinke ARI 2.5 GG winner
T9 Jack Flaherty STL 2.5 finalist
T12 Dakota Hudson STL 1.8
21 Adam Wainwright STL 0.8
Rank NL catchers (16) Team SDI Recognition
1 J.T. Realmuto PHI 12.0 GG winner
2 Austin Hedges SDP 9.9 finalist
3 Buster Posey SFG 7.3
4 Yadier Molina STL 4.2 finalist
Rank NL first base (12) Team SDI Recognition
1 Christian Walker ARI 9.3 finalist
2 Brandon Belt SFG 4.8
3 Anthony Rizzo CHC 4.0 GG winner
4 Paul Goldschmidt STL 3.5 finalist
Rank NL second base (11) Team SDI Recognition
1 Kolten Wong STL 13.0 GG winner
2 Enrique Hernandez LAD 4.7
3 Adam Frazier PIT 3.9 finalist
5 Ozzie Albies ATL 1.6 finalist
Rank NL shortstop (16) Team SDI Recognition
1 Nick Ahmed ARI 15.7 GG winner
2 Paul DeJong STL 14.6 finalist
T3 Trevor Story COL 12.4 finalist
T3 Javier Baez CHC 12.4
Rank NL third base (15) Team SDI Recognition
1 Nolan Arenado COL 13.1 GG winner
2 Josh Donaldson ATL 7.9 finalist
3 Evan Longoria SFG 5.0
5 Anthony Rendon WSN 4.2 finalist
11 Matt Carpenter STL -1.0
Rank NL left field (14) Team SDI Recognition
1 David Peralta ARI 7.7 GG winner
2 Hunter Renfroe SDP 6.2 finalist
3 Joc Pederson LAD 4.1
6 Marcell Ozuna STL 0.7
11 Juan Soto WSH -1.3 finalist
Rank NL center field (14) Team SDI Recognition
1 Victor Robles WSH 11.1 finalist
2 Lorenzo Cain MIL 10.2 GG winner
3 Harrison Bader STL 9.3 finalist
Rank NL right field (11) Team SDI Recognition
1 Cody Bellinger LAD 7.9 GG winner
2 Bryce Harper PHI 7.2 finalist
3 Jason Heyward CHC 3.4 finalist
8 Dexter Fowler STL -1.3

These rankings are especially enlightening, since the Gold Glove Award announcements only include the top three vote-getters, the so-called “finalists”, in no particular order.

Among the six Cardinals’ announced “finalists”, in the SDI, the team had a first (Wong), a second (DeJong), a third (center fielder Harrison Bader), two fourths (Paul Goldschmidt at first base and Yadier Molina at catcher) and a ninth (pitcher Jack Flaherty).

Kolten Wong (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

The 8.3 point SDI gap between Wong and the second-place scorer, Kike Hernandez of the Dodgers, was the largest by any NL position leader.

In other words, according to the defensive metrics, no second sacker was close to the Cardinal in 2019. That was confirmed by The Fielding Bible, which earlier anointed Wong as the top second baseman across all of MLB in 2019.

As a team, St. Louis is continuing a bit of a renaissance in Gold Glove Award results. Before Molina won in 2018, the Cardinals had been shut out of the nine NL Gold Glove Awards in both 2016 and 2017. However, even last year, Molina and Wong were St. Louis’ only “finalists,” aka top three finishers.

As usual, the Cardinals feature strong fielders but also others who did not stack up well against their peers. In the latter department, St. Louis has two defenders with negative SDIs – Matt Carpenter at third base (-1.0) and Dexter Fowler (-1.3) in right field. They ranked 11th of 15 qualifiers and eighth of 11, respectively, at their positions.

In left, 2017 Gold Glove Award winner Marcell Ozuna barely managed to reach a positive SDI in 2019, at 0.7. That was still two points higher than finalist Soto, however.

Of the four St. Louis pitchers among the 36 ranked in the NL, Miles Mikolas (sixth) actually has a higher SDI than two of the finalists, teammate Flaherty and winner Zack Greinke. Dakota Hudson also placed strongly, just making the top third, at 12th. Former Gold Glove Award winner Adam Wainwright also had a positive SDI (0.8), but ranked just 21st in 2019.


Footnote


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

TCN’s 2019 Cardinals Comeback Player of the Year


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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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Mayers Leaves Cards via Waivers, C Hudson Dropped from 40-Man

photo: Mike Mayers (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced several roster moves today (Friday, November 1), as they moved three players from the 60-day Injured List to the team’s 40-man Major League roster and outrighted catcher Joe Hudson.

Added to the team’s 40-man roster from the 60-day Injured List were right-handed pitcher Jordan Hicks, left-handed pitcher Brett Cecil and outfielder Lane Thomas.

The team also announced that right-handed pitcher Mike Mayers was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Angels.

The Cardinals 40-man Major League roster currently stands at 37.


Brian Walton’s take

And so the first of the Cardinals’ off-season player adjustments begin with two 40-man roster removals that were of no surprise.

Further, MLB teams’ use of the injured list is not allowed during the off-season, necessitating the 60-day IL moves.

As a note, St. Louis’ fourth 60-day IL player, pitcher Tony Cingrani, was removed on Thursday and granted free agency, along with pitchers Adam Wainwright, catcher Matt Wieters and outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

Joe Hudson

Hudson had been added to the 40-man roster and promoted to St. Louis on September 1 to serve as fourth catcher. At the time, regular reserve backstop Matt Wieters was out for a short period due to injury and Hudson was promoted as inexpensive insurance behind Yadier Molina and Andrew Knizner.

Hudson’s official St. Louis stint consisted of one at-bat, during which he struck out. He previously had 12 at-bats with the 2018 Angels before after signing with St. Louis as a minor league free agent last November.

The 28-year old spent all of 2019 with Memphis, where he hit a very modest .223 but was solid defensively while performing in a job-share with Knizner. Hudson is subsequently likely to become a minor league free agent once again and move elsewhere for 2020.

Speaking of the Angels, it is the new home for Mayers, who like Hudson, was expected to be removed from the 40-man roster following the season. Neither was active during the playoffs.

Mayers made his St. Louis debut in July 2016 and appeared in 73 games for the Cardinals over four seasons, logging a 7.07 ERA in his 80 2/3 mound innings. His 2019 mark was only slightly better, at 6.63 in 19 innings pitched.

Mike Mayers

Because he was already outrighted once (back in early August), Mayers would have been able to declare free agency when outrighted a second time. He never got that far, however, as Los Angeles claimed him instead.

Mayers became expendable as he was passed by younger, more promising relievers who also offer the Cardinals more roster flexibility in the future. Out of minor league options, Mayers will have to stick with the Angels’ big-league club next spring or he will end up on the waiver wire again.

In the meantime, Mayers offers inexpensive bullpen depth for Los Angeles. With two years, 20 days of MLB service time, the 27-year old does not yet qualify for a salary increase via the arbitration process.

The Cardinals made these two moves to clear up 40-man roster space to protect eligible prospects ahead of the December Rule 5 draft and give them additional flexibility for trades and free agent additions. Top candidates to be added by the November 20 Rule 5 deadline are pitcher Jake Woodford and third baseman Elehuris Montero.


For more

To track the Cardinals’ 25- and 40-man rosters as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.


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TCN’s 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Player of the Year

photo: Kolten Wong (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

If anyone would have told you that the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals would win 91 regular-season games, finish first in the Central Division and reach the National League finals despite their number three and four hitters coming in fourth and fifth on the offense respectively in WAR, would you have believed it?

Well, that is precisely what happened. New first base acquisition Paul Goldschmidt logged a 2.8 bWAR, followed by left fielder Marcell Ozuna at 2.2. Offensive performers ahead of them, all by at least one win, are three Cardinals – Kolten Wong (4.7), Paul DeJong (4.1) and TCN Cardinals Rookie of the Year Tommy Edman (3.8).

Given that background, the competition for the team’s top player in 2019 is really between the two middle infield starters for the entire season, second baseman Wong and shortstop DeJong.

While both are plus defenders, Wong is considered one of the very best in the game at his position and as such was the unanimous 2019 Fielding Bible Award selection for all MLB second basemen, his second consecutive honor. He is also the favorite to win the NL Gold Glove Award at second base, after coming close in 2018. Like Wong, DeJong is a 2019 top three Gold Glove Award finisher (aka “finalist”).

Offensively, DeJong has a clear power edge, but faded considerably at the plate as the season progressed. In a direct comparison of total offensive contribution, DeJong ended as a league-average player (100 wRC+), while Wong, allowed to play every day for the first time since 2015, came in at 108.

All factors considered, Kolten Wong is The Cardinal Nation’s St. Louis Cardinals Player of the Year in 2019.


The numbers

There were a number of noteworthy offensive performances by Cardinals hitters in 2019. Let’s look at the stats of the 10 who had at least 200 plate appearances for St. Louis. They are listed in descending bWAR sequence.

Hitters – 2019 G PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS fWAR bWAR
Kolten Wong 148 549 11 24 0.285 0.361 0.423 0.784 3.7 4.7
Paul DeJong 159 664 30 9 0.233 0.318 0.444 0.762 4.1 4.1
Tommy Edman 92 349 11 15 0.304 0.350 0.500 0.850 3.2 3.8
Paul Goldschmidt 161 682 34 3 0.260 0.346 0.476 0.822 2.9 2.8
Marcell Ozuna 130 549 29 12 0.243 0.330 0.474 0.804 2.6 2.2
Harrison Bader 128 406 12 11 0.205 0.314 0.366 0.680 1.8 2.0
Dexter Fowler 150 574 19 8 0.238 0.346 0.409 0.755 1.5 1.7
Yadier Molina 113 452 10 6 0.270 0.312 0.399 0.711 1.2 1.3
Matt Carpenter 129 492 15 6 0.226 0.334 0.392 0.726 1.2 0.8
Jose Martinez 128 373 10 3 0.269 0.340 0.410 0.750 0.3 -0.3

Nine of St. Louis’ 10 busiest offensive players generated a positive bWAR (per Baseball Reference), and all 10 had fWARs (Fangraphs uses a different formula) above zero.

Jose Martinez was last in both WAR measurements, with our 2018 winner and Player of the Year in three of the last four years, Matt Carpenter, a very disappointing second from the bottom.

With 30 home runs, DeJong was only topped by Goldschmidt among Cardinals. Wong paced the club with his career-best total of 24 stolen bases, and was only caught four times.

Wong also led the regulars with his .361 on-base percentage and his .285 batting average only trailed Edman, who did not have enough MLB plate appearances to qualify among league leaders.

Hitters – 2019 BB% K% ISO BABIP wRC+
Kolten Wong 8.6% 15.1% 0.138 0.321 108
Paul DeJong 9.3% 22.4% 0.211 0.259 100
Tommy Edman 4.6% 17.5% 0.196 0.346 123
Paul Goldschmidt 11.4% 24.3% 0.216 0.303 116
Marcell Ozuna 11.3% 20.8% 0.231 0.259 110
Harrison Bader 11.3% 28.8% 0.161 0.268 81
Dexter Fowler 12.9% 24.7% 0.170 0.294 103
Yadier Molina 5.1% 12.8% 0.129 0.289 87
Matt Carpenter 12.8% 26.2% 0.166 0.285 95
Jose Martinez 9.4% 22.0% 0.141 0.328 101

Dexter Fowler edged traditional team leader Carpenter in walk rate, while Yadier Molina and Wong struck out least often.

As one would expect, Goldschmidt and Ozuna led the Cards in Isolated Power (ISO). DeJong, Ozuna and Harrison Bader all had low BABIPs, suggesting some misfortune, perhaps. The BABIP of Edman was high, with a potential correction ahead.

In a catch-all offensive measure, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), Edman topped the group, due to his strong 92-game MLB debut. Among the full-season regulars, Goldschmidt and Ozuna again led the way in wRC+, with Wong right behind them.


The winner’s 2019 highlights

Not only did Wong improve as the season went on and the Cardinals pulled into the division lead, he got better as each game progressed, too.

Following the All-Star break, the left-handed batter ranked fifth in the National League in batting average (.342) and just missed the top 10 in on-base percentage (.409, 11th). Wong was hottest in the hottest months, batting .366 during July and August, the highest mark in the National League and second-best in MLB.

Hitting in the seventh inning or later, Wong’s .344 mark trailed only reigning MVP Christian Yelich in the National League.

Kolten Wong

Among NL second basemen in the field, the 28-year old ranked first in Defensive Runs Saved (14), first in Defensive Zone Rating (.819), and second in double plays (103). According the Fielding Bible, Wong “made 38 plays in which he sprinted to either reach a popup or go after a ground ball, five more than any other second baseman.”

As noted, Wong also had a solid offensive year. His NL ranks include: stolen bases (24, 7th), stolen base percentage (85.7, 24-28, 4th), hit by pitch (13, T11th), bunt hits (10, 1st – also first in MLB), infield hits (20, T8th), and lowest grounded into double play percentage (2.3, 6th). He also led all Cardinals league qualifiers with his .285 BA and .361 OBP.

(Thank you to St. Louis Cardinals media relations for the above rankings.)


What could be next?

Looking ahead, Wong has earned a more important role in the offense and I believe the 28-year old should get another shot at the leadoff spot.

In 2019, we saw Wong’s increasing maturity as a hitter, taking balls the other way, bunting for hits, no longer wildly swinging for the fences and striking out as frequently. Further, he has been smart, yet appropriately aggressive on the bases, all of which are substantiated in the numbers above.

Wong still has career upside, which prior leadoff men and 30-plus year olds Carpenter and Fowler do not. Manager Mike Shildt showed the confidence in his second baseman to let him play every day in 2019 and was rewarded. It is time to take the next step with Wong.

With a projected 2020 lineup that looks as it will include most of the same names from the stagnant 2019 offense, the team still needs to take action –  to get more from those who have the best chance of delivering more. That upside group certainly includes Wong.


Prior year winners

Our top player honorees over the past years follow.

TCN Player of the Year
2019 Kolten Wong
2018 Matt Carpenter
2017 Tommy Pham
2016 Matt Carpenter
2015 Matt Carpenter
2014 Jhonny Peralta
2013 Yadier Molina
2012 Yadier Molina
2011 Lance Berkman
2010 Albert Pujols
2009 Albert Pujols

These winners are also permanently recorded under “SEASON RECAPS/TOP PLAYERS,” located on the left red menu bar here at The Cardinal Nation.


For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up is our in-depth St. Louis regular-season recap.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article and you want to unlock more, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

St. Louis Cardinals Organization Roster Matrix – 2019-2020 Off-Season

With the official opening of free agency for another fall, it is time for a refresh of the Roster Matrix.

This article and the tables below reflect moves during the 2019-2020 off-season. The previous matrix reflects the rosters as they evolved from the 2019 draft and short-season play through the end of the World Series.

If you are new to The Cardinal Nation and not familiar with the Cardinals organization roster matrix, here is quick summary:

As the off-season officially began, the St. Louis Cardinals had 322 players under contract from top to bottom, including a full 40-man roster, plus four players being brought off the 60-day injured list. The 40-man members are called out in bold.

The matrix places each of the 322 at his assigned level in the system as well as by position. The matrix is kept updated daily or as transactions occur.

Also broken out are major league and minor league free agents, though of course, they are no longer included in the organization’s totals.

Nowhere else will you find this current and comprehensive single-page view of the entire Cardinals organization plus a decade of history.

(Do not be concerned about the order of the players’ names within position. It has no relative significance.)

Looking ahead and back

Now that you’ve found this page once, remember one of three ways to get back here. Bookmark the page, type “Roster Matrix” in the dark blue search box at the upper right (click on the magnifying glass icon) or use the menu at the left of the page: “ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES” > “TRANSACTIONS/ROSTER MATRIX”.

While you are using that menu, note TCN’s full rosters and player pages for every level and every player in the Cardinals system.

St. Louis Cardinals
Memphis Redbirds
Springfield Cardinals
Palm Beach Cardinals
Peoria Chiefs
State College Spikes
Johnson City Cardinals
Gulf Coast League Cardinals
Dominican Summer League Cardinals Blue
Dominican Summer League Cardinals Red

For details behind past rosters and transactions, check out the earlier versions (back to 2009) of the Cardinals organization Roster Matrix, via the following link.

Link to previous matrices

(Note that all international players signed to 2020 contracts are listed separately and not yet on team rosters. Team assignments will not be resolved until late May, when 2020 DSL rosters are set.)

Transactions

10/30: New matrix. Organization total: 322 players. 40-man roster full plus four players coming off the 60-day injured list – Ps Brett Cecil, Tony Cingrani and Jordan Hicks and OF Lane Thomas.

10/31: 5 MLB free agents. Ps Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Tony Cingrani, C Matt Wieters, OF Marcell Ozuna. New organization total 317. 40-man roster at 39.

11/1: C Joe Hudson outrighted to Mem. StL RHR Mike Mayers claimed off waivers by LAA. New organization total: 316 players. 40-man roster at 37.

11/4: Mem C Joe Hudson elects free agency. New organization total: 315 players.

11/7: 3 minor league free agents: Spr RHR Merandy Gonzalez, OF Johan Mieses, PB RHP Williams Perez. New organization total: 312 players.

The St. Louis Cardinals Organization Roster Matrix (effective 11/7/19)

St. Louis (32) 40-man (37)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Flaherty  Webb (L) Y Molina Goldschmidt Wong  DeJong Carpenter  Fowler
Mikolas A Miller (L) Knizner Ravelo Edman  Munoz Bader
D Hudson Helsley Sosa  Jose Alb Martinez
C Martinez  Cabrera (L) Arozarena
Ponce de Leon  O’Neill
G Gallegos  L Thomas 
Brebbia
Ju Fernandez
Cecil (L)
Hicks
Gant
Leone
MLB free agents (5)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Wainwright Cingrani Wieters M Ozuna
Wacha
Minors free agents (6)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Rosscup (L) M Gonzalez J Hudson Mieses
Shreve (L) W Perez
Memphis (27)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
A Reyes  Morales O’Keefe Nogowski Schrock Urias E Mendoza A Garcia 
Woodford R Ramirez Godoy Donovan Jose Alex Martinez J Williams
Shew Whitley Carlson
Parsons Meisinger
Au Warner (L) J Cruz
Ellis Elledge
Dobzanski
C Jones
D Gonzalez
Herget
Springfield (25)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Oviedo Fasola (IL) Ju Rodriguez Chinea Kirtley Robertson E Montero Nootbaar
Leahy M Baird Yepez I Lopez Ascanio Y Gonzalez Toerner
A Rondon Patterson (L) Capel
FaGalde Osnowitz
Kruczynski (L) R Williams
Gomber (L) Latcham
Dayton (L)
Palm Beach (26+1)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
DellaValle (RL) Yokley D Ortega Baker Dunn Perri Gorman Plummer
Roberts Prendergast I Herrera A Luna
E Gonzalez Aker Reichenborn
D Cordero (L) Escobar Pinder
Seijas L Taveras Denton
Tewes R Santos Hurst
Walsh
Oxnevad (L)
Thompson (L)
Peoria (27)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Roach Casadilla C Soto Whalen Shaw Del Perez Ynfante
Brettell N De Jesus A Wilson Figuera Riley
Schmid (L) Sisk (L) I Diaz Cedeno
Zamora Tabata Machado
P Kelly Pacheco
C Thomas (L) Coward
Gragg Pereira
Locey
Avelino
State College (30)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Holba Schlesener (L) Duce D Gomez D Williams M Castillo Figueroa An Warner
YaSenka Villalobos (L) Pages Benes Ware Vinsky
Randolph Solano Sabino Woodall
Politz Blanco (L) Espinal
Pallante Jr Gonzalez Fuller
Mardueno Jew
Lex
Ralston
Lunn
Dulle
Johnson City (31)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Sommers E Perez (L) Z Jackson Lott Redmond B Baird Nunez Fletcher
Guay Robbins Antonini Longa Gil R Ozuna Torres
Peck A Gallegos Skeels Del Rio
Pearce (L) F Justo V Garcia
J Moreno Soler
Drake W Jimenez
Puello
W Rivera
Witkowski
H Soto
Ortiz
Gulf Coast (29)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Statler Gingery (L) Richardson F DeJesus P Gomez F Soto Y Rosario Burgos
Green L Jimenez J Garcia R Mendoza A Cruz
Hart Trompiz F Hernandez J De Los Santos
Cordova Madera Romeri
Santana R Garcia Selmo
Paniagua Abreu Montano
Ventura Tena
N Heredia (L)
DSL Blue (30)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
D Rodriguez J Ramirez L Rodriguez F Diaz E De Jesus Del Villar B Hernandez L Pena
E Martinez Miranda J Zapata Arcia Moquete
GJ Rodriguez Benitez J Sanchez GA Rodriguez
Ozoria (L) Pimentel Orecchia Otamendi
Portillo Richard Jo Rodriguez
Suarez Arias
W Ortega Villanueva
Lugo J Peralta
DSL Red (28)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
V Herrera Yedis R Heredia Andujar Inoa C Ramirez
Rincon Calderon Velasquez E Thomas Matute Brazoban
Dominguez Cuenca Mora E Salas
D Guerrero (L) H De Los Santos S Vargas
H Cordero (L) L Garcia Marcos
H Gomez Manzo
Jaquez O Lopez
B Ramirez
Marcelino
DSL sign 2020 (26)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Beltre (L) M Martinez J Guerrero Bolivar R Guzman Carbonara
Cervantes J Salas M Hernandez Encarnacion Cordoba
Cuello Curvelo Burns Espinoza Ramos
Davila Almonte M Justo Reynoso
F Guzman Giulianelli Rivas F Taveras
Saladin Rombley

Codes
(NRI): non-roster invitee to MLB camp
(IL): injured list
(TI): temporarily inactive list
(PL): paternity leave
(RL): restricted list
(L): left-handed pitcher
bold: on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster
(#+#): for teams, the number of active players on the roster plus number of inactive/not under contract (IL+TI+PL+RL) players


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN’s 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year

photo: Jack Flaherty (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

There have been times in the last decade-plus when sitting down to evaluate the candidates for the St. Louis Cardinals’ top starting pitcher from the just-concluded season that I had no idea who would stack up on top.

That was not the case here in 2019.

Any doubt was obliterated as Jack Flaherty became the best pitcher in the entire National League over the second half of the season, winning the league’s Pitcher of the Month award in both August and September.

So yes, The Cardinal Nation’s St. Louis Starting Pitcher of the Year honors go to Flaherty in a landslide. But, hey, stay with us, as there is more to see here!


The data

Here are the key numbers posted by the seven pitchers to make at least one start for St. Louis in 2019. That is down from 11 the year before. They are listed in descending fWAR order.

Starters – 2019 Starts QS W-L StL record IP/start Run spt
Jack Flaherty 33 20 11-8 17-16 6.0 4.2
Miles Mikolas 32 17 9-14 17-15 5.2 4.2
Adam Wainwright 31 14 14-10 19-12 5.1 5.4
Dakota Hudson 32 17 16-7 22-10 5.1 4.9
Daniel Ponce de Leon 8 2 0-2 5-3 4.1 4.3
Michael Wacha 24 6 5-7 11-13 4.2 5.2
Genesis Cabrera 2 0 0-2 0-2 4.0 2.5

Flaherty led the staff in starts, quality starts and innings per start, while receiving the least run support from the offense (tied with Miles Mikolas). Not surprisingly, this pair with the poorest run support did not win as many games as those who had more runs scored for them (Dakota Hudson and Adam Wainwright).

Note that Hudson (and Mikolas) had just three fewer quality starts than did Flaherty. (A quality start is of at least six innings during which three of fewer earned runs are yielded.)

Next are the rate stats for the starters.

Starters – 2019 K/9 BB/9 K/BB BABIP ERA FIP fWAR
Jack Flaherty 10.6 2.5 4.2 0.242 2.75 3.46 4.7
Miles Mikolas 7.0 1.6 4.5 0.302 4.16 4.27 2.5
Adam Wainwright 8.0 3.4 2.4 0.319 4.19 4.36 2.2
Dakota Hudson 7.0 4.4 1.6 0.275 3.36 4.92 1.1
Daniel Ponce de Leon 8.1 4.9 1.6 0.258 4.15 4.74 0.4
Michael Wacha 7.3 4.0 1.8 0.304 4.66 5.53 0.0
Genesis Cabrera 5.4 4.3 1.3 0.344 6.48 6.57 -0.1

Like I said, It wasn’t even close. By a considerable margin, Flaherty had the lowest ERA, lowest FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and highest strikeout rate.

If that wasn’t enough, his overall value as measured in Wins Above Replacement (according to Fangraphs) is the same as the next-best two starters, Mikolas and Adam Wainwright, combined.

Continuing his tradition, Mikolas had the lowest strikeout rate (tied with Hudson), but his walk rate was so impressively low that his strikeout to walk ratio bested the other starters. Flaherty came in second in both walk rate and K/BB ratio.

The only minor blemish – and it is minor – is that Flaherty’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was low at .242, suggesting some good fortune perhaps. However, it may just be his approach, as his 2018 BABIP was .257.


The winner

Here are just a few of the 2019 highlights by the 23-year old right-hander.

  • NL Ranks: ERA (2.75, 4th), starts (33, T3rd), innings pitched (196.1, 8th), WHIP (0.97, T1st), opponent BA (.192, 1st), opponent OBP (.256, 1st), opponent SLG (.335, 3rd), opponent OPS (.591, 2nd), hits/9 IP (6.19, 1st), baserunners/9 IP (9.03, 1st), strikeouts (231, 6th), strikeouts/9 IP (10.59, 9th), strikeouts/BF (29.9%, 5th), quality starts (20, T6th), highest percent of swings that miss (30.7%, 6th), lowest percent of pitches put into play (15.1, 5th), lowest percent of swings put into play (31.4, 4th), most pitches thrown per batter faced (4.12, 1st), opp. SB percentage (1-4, 25.0, *1st).
  • Personal records: Established his single-season career highs in wins (11), innings pitched (196.1), strikeouts (231), quality starts (20) and games started (33).
  • Team records: Set Cardinals single-season records in strikeouts/ 9 IP (10.59) and percentage of swings that missed (30.7) (in data since 1988). His .192 opponent batting average was second to only Bob Gibson (.184) in 1968.
  • MLB accomplishments: Sported the third-lowest ERA (0.91) in MLB history in 15 starts after the All-Star Break, behind 2015 Cubs Jake Arrieta (0.75) and 1994 Braves Greg Maddux (0.87). Made MLB-leading 14 starts pitching 6.0 or more innings while holding his opposition to three hits or fewer (Justin Verlander 12; Gerrit Cole 11). Since 1885, he is only the third pitcher younger than 24 years of age to record a season of at least 230 strikeouts (231), while permitting 55-or-fewer walks (55) to go along with an ERA of 2.75-or-better (2.75), joining Clayton Kershaw (2011) and Mark Prior (2003).

Jack Flaherty

(Thanks to Cardinals media relations for the ranking information above.)


Prior year winners

Our top starting pitcher honorees over the past decade-plus follow.

TCN Starter of the Year
2019 Jack Flaherty
2018 Miles Mikolas
2017 Carlos Martinez
2016 Carlos Martinez
2015 Carlos Martinez
2014 Adam Wainwright
2013 Adam Wainwright
2012 Kyle Lohse
2011 Chris Carpenter
2010 Adam Wainwright
2009 Adam Wainwright

These winners are also permanently recorded under “SEASON RECAPS/TOP PLAYERS,” located on the left red menu bar here at The Cardinal Nation.


For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up is our St. Louis Player of the Year.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article and you want to unlock more, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN’s 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year

photo: Giovanny Gallegos (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

What a difference a year made for the St. Louis Cardinals’ relief corps.

In 2018, the bullpen was a big reason why the team again underachieved, missing the post-season for the third consecutive season. The myriad of painful story lines included the busts of veteran imports Greg Holland, Luke Gregerson and Brett Cecil, plus the odd ride taken and ended with Bud Norris.

In 2019, the script flipped completely, to the point the bullpen was the most reliable component of the team (arguably right up there with the defense).

To accentuate the point, the relievers’ aggregate ERA was 3.82, just a tick below St. Louis’ starters (3.78) and second-ranked in the entire National League. Further, the bullpen held opposing hitters to a very strong .219 batting average against, best in all of MLB.

All this occurred despite closer Jordan Hicks blowing out his elbow in June.

A year earlier, St. Louis’ relief ERA of 4.38 ranked 12th, or fourth-worst in the Senior Circuit. In other words, the 2019 group was more than a half-earned run per nine innings better than in 2018.

That is significant improvement!


Individual results

Against that team backdrop, we are here to select the top relief pitcher on the 2019 Cardinals. Three of the prior year’s top performers, our 2018 winner John Brebbia, Hicks and Carlos Martinez, were among those back for another year.

But the top man out of the 2019 pen was an unexpected leader – a rookie who did not even make the 25-man roster out of spring training – Giovanny Gallegos.

Let’s get into the first of three views of the numbers, all of which illustrate Gallegos’ advantage in different ways.

A quick housekeeping note first, however. Relievers are listed in all tables in the same fWAR sequence, from highest to lowest. The nine bullpen members who appeared in at least 20 games for St. Louis are included in this analysis.

Relievers > 20 games G IP K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 fWAR
Giovanny Gallegos 66 74 11.3 2.0 5.8 1.1 1.6
John Brebbia 66 72.2 10.8 3.3 3.2 0.7 1.3
Carlos Martinez 48 48.1 9.9 3.4 2.9 0.4 1.2
John Gant 64 66.1 8.1 4.6 1.8 0.5 0.9
Jordan Hicks 29 28.2 9.7 3.5 2.8 0.6 0.5
Tyler Webb 65 55 7.9 3.8 2.1 1.2 0.1
Ryan Helsley 24 36.2 7.9 3.0 2.7 1.2 0.1
Dominic Leone 40 40.2 10.2 4.9 2.1 2.0 -0.3
Andrew Miller 73 54.2 11.5 4.5 2.6 1.8 -0.4

Lefty Andrew Miller made the most relief appearances for the team in 2019, but in doing so, posted the lowest fWAR, a negative 0.4. (Non-tender candidate Dominic Leone, who was left off the post-season roster, was the other below-zero contributor.)

Not only did Gallegos log the best fWAR, he threw the most innings. The rookie had the second-highest strikeout rate and lowest walk rate by a considerable margin, one key to his success. Therefore, Gallegos’ strikeout to walk ratio was far superior to all.

On the less positive side, note the very high walk rates by Miller, Leone and John Gant. Like Leone, Gant was not active in the NLDS and NLCS.

Relievers > 20 games ERA FIP BABIP LOB% GB%
Giovanny Gallegos 2.31 3.05 0.222 87% 34%
John Brebbia 3.59 3.13 0.293 72% 27%
Carlos Martinez 3.17 2.86 0.298 73% 57%
John Gant 3.66 3.73 0.275 71% 46%
Jordan Hicks 3.14 3.21 0.215 71% 67%
Tyler Webb 3.76 4.49 0.184 73% 41%
Ryan Helsley 2.95 4.22 0.279 85% 34%
Dominic Leone 5.53 5.45 0.291 68% 36%
Andrew Miller 4.45 5.19 0.283 74% 37%

Gallegos’ ERA was substantially lower than the others, and though several were closer in FIP, Fielding Independent Pitching, Gallegos was second in the pen to Martinez.

On a bit of a concerning point, Gallegos joined Hicks and Tyler Webb with a very low Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). That might balance out over time, leading to poorer overall results.

In another important stat, Gallegos again stands tallest in percentage of baserunners stranded, edging fellow rookie Ryan Helsley. Hicks was tops by far in inducing ground balls.

The next table provides further detail on the effectiveness of the relievers, underlining the choice of Gallegos.

Relievers > 20 games Sv SvO Sv% Hld FBF Ret FBR% IR Sco IRS%
Giovanny Gallegos 1 4 25% 19 66 53 80% 44 7 16%
John Brebbia 0 1 0% 12 66 48 73% 32 8 25%
Carlos Martinez 24 27 89% 3 48 35 73% 21 5 24%
John Gant 3 6 50% 18 63 44 70% 29 9 31%
Jordan Hicks 14 15 93% 3 29 22 76% 8 0 0%
Tyler Webb 1 1 100% 8 65 48 74% 30 10 33%
Ryan Helsley 0 1 0% 1 24 14 58% 13 8 62%
Dominic Leone 1 2 50% 0 40 26 65% 8 2 25%
Andrew Miller 6 11 55% 28 73 44 60% 44 12 27%
Team (all) 52 73 71% 97 542 376 69% 268 78 29%

Both Hicks and Martinez were very good when called upon to close down the opposition at the end of the game. Miller struggled in that role, however, as did Gallegos in the very rare chances given to him.

Not surprisingly given their roles, Miller, Gallegos and Gant were number one, two and three in holds. There is no “blown hold” stat.

Retiring the initial batter a pitcher faces often is an indicator of how his outing is going to go. Again, Gallegos was the best on the team in getting his first batter out, even topping Hicks. In fact, only Helsley, Miller and Leone came in below the team average of 69 percent, the identical mark to 2018. (Note that this is something Helsley needs to master to be considered a viable future closer candidate.)

The closer is often afforded the luxury of coming in to start the ninth inning clean. For example, in his 29 appearances, Hicks inherited just eight baserunners. (To his credit, he stranded them all.)

However, most relievers are asked fairly frequently to clean up a mess that someone else initiated. Most often in 2019, those assigned cleanup duty were Miller and Gallegos. Despite his high volume of inherited runners, Gallegos’ 84 percent success rate dominated all others (excepting Hicks).

Among the others, Martinez and Brebbia, along with the surprising pair of Miller and Leone, came in under the team average of inherited runners scoring of 29 percent.


The winner

I readily admit that when I began this exercise, I did not expect to see such strong numbers across the board from Gallegos. I knew the 28-year old native of Mexico had a good year, but not quite this good.

In just about every important measurement, whether inherited runners or his own, whether old stat or new stat, the right-hander is either on top or very close to it. Further, Gallegos compared very well to the best relievers in the National League.

Rather than repeat here many of Gallegos’ accomplishments and league rankings in his very successful 2019 season, I encourage you to check out the detail in our Rookie of the Year article.

Giovanny Gallegos

Had not Tommy Edman also arrived during the season as such a force, Gallegos would have been both our Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year. Still, this honor is quite an accomplishment for a player considered by some to have been little more than a throw-in from the Yankees in the July 2018 Luke Voit trade.

Now, Gallegos looks to be the plum of the deal. He clearly earned our top reliever honors in 2019, with a bright future ahead.

Though Gallegos has one minor league option year remaining, it seems unlikely it will be used. In fact, with Hicks out until at least mid-2020 and Martinez being aimed back toward the rotation, the Cardinals may decide to go with a committee of closers in the interim. If so, one would think Gallegos has earned a very prominent place in that group.


Prior year winners

Our top reliever honorees over the past decade-plus follow.

TCN Reliever of the Year
2019 Giovanny Gallegos
2018 John Brebbia
2017 Trevor Rosenthal
2016 Seung-hwan Oh
2015 Trevor Rosenthal
2014 Pat Neshek
2013 Edward Mujica
2012 Jason Motte
2011 Fernando Salas
2010 Ryan Franklin
2009 Ryan Franklin

These winners are also permanently recorded under “SEASON RECAPS/TOP PLAYERS,” located on the left red menu bar here at The Cardinal Nation.


For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up is our St. Louis Starting Pitcher of the Year.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


Not yet a member?

If you enjoyed this article and you want to unlock more, please consider joining The Cardinal Nation to receive the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN’s 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Rookie of the Year

photo: Tommy Edman (Jon Durr/Imagn)

The 2019 St. Louis Cardinals clearly benefited from the fruits of their farm system, including bringing up eight players who made their MLB debuts and deploying 13 rookies overall. Of the eight first-timers, five were homegrown Cardinals, two were acquired via trade and one was a free agent signing.

Selecting the top first-year player from among these ranks was relatively straight forward, as three especially stood out. A view of the numbers confirmed the top rookie.

Among pitchers, Dakota Hudson rebounded from a shaky start to hold down a rotation spot all season long and win a team-best 16 games. Giovanny Gallegos opened the season with Memphis, but quickly became a trusted member of the St. Louis relief corps.

The rate and pace at which Tommy Edman became a lineup sparkplug after his June promotion surprised us all. For his consistency and strong results, the infielder is our choice as the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Rookie of the Year.

We will review 2019 highlights of the three finalists, with our winner last.


Dakota Hudson

Hudson was among the National League’s best rookie pitchers in many categories, including ERA (3.35, 2nd), wins (16, 1st), starts (32, T1st), saves (1, T6th), innings (174 2/3, T3rd), strikeouts (136, 5th), win percentage (.696, 2nd), opponent BA (.245, 3rd).

Dakota Hudson

His 16 wins are the most by an MLB rookie since Justin Verlander won 17 for Detroit in 2006 and the most by a Cardinals rookie since Dick Hughes won 16 in 1964. His .696 win percentage was also the best by Cardinals rookie since Hughes in 1964 (.727, 16-6), while his 3.35 ERA was best by Cardinals rookie since Shelby Miller (3.06) in 2013.

Hudson’s 174 2/3 innings pitched in 2019 was the most by a St. Louis rookie in the regular season since Rick Ankiel threw 175 innings in 2000. Since ground ball percentage became a recorded stat in 1987, his 57.1 is the 10th-best single-season mark in Cardinals history and highest since 2016 – Jaime García (57.9) and Carlos Martínez (57.7).


Giovanny Gallegos

As noted above, Gallegos did not stick with St. Louis until into well into the month of April. When all was said and done, the right-hander finished second on the Cardinals with 66 appearances. He pitched more than one inning 25 times and as the season continued, pitched later and later in games.

Gallegos’ results improved over time as well. Following the All-Star break, he posted a 1.89 ERA in 31 games (33 1/3 innings), ranking fourth in the National League in the second half.

Giovanny Gallegos

Here are Gallegos’ National League rankings, not just among rookie relievers, but all relief pitchers: ERA (2.31, 4th), strikeouts (93, 7th), holds (19, T12th), opponent BA (.170, 2nd), opponent OBP (.226, 2nd), opponent SLG (.320, 12th), OPS (.546, 4th), hits/9 IP (5.35, 2nd), baserunners/9 IP (7.66, 1st), strikeout %/BF (33.3%, 9th), WHIP (0.81, 2nd), BB/9 IP (1.95, 6th), strikeouts/walks (5.81, 7th), inherited runners (44, T3rd), inherited runners scored (15.9%, 2nd).

In other words, it was an impressive year for the former Yankees prospect.


Tommy Edman

Edman was promoted to St. Louis on June 8 and over the rest of the season, he became a very important offensive performer. Since his arrival, the switch-hitter led the Cardinals in hits (99), triples (7) and stolen bases (15). Edman was second in runs (59), doubles (17), extra base hits (35) and total bases (163) and fifth in home runs (11) and RBI (36).

Tommy Edman

The former Stanford star was a versatile defender, starting 41 games at third base, 23 at second base and even 11 in right field. Notable was that he did not play an inning at shortstop.

Compared to all National League rookies in 2019, Edman stacked up very well, ranking among the top 10 in batting average (.304, 4th), multi-hit games (31, 7th), runs (59, 8th), hits (99, 10th), triples (7, 1st), stolen bases (15, T6th), slugging percentage (.500, 6th), on-base percentage (.350, 7th), game-winning RBI (7, 4th) and grand slams (1, T1st).

I will close with this – Edman’s seven triples tied for fourth among all National League players in 2019 – rookies or not. Full season or not.

It was an all-around impressive season by TCN’s 2019 Rookie of the Year – accomplished in just four months.

(Thanks to Cardinals media relations for the rankings in the above three player capsules.)


The data

Here are some of the key stats of our three finalists.

Rookie hitters – 2019 Debut G PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Tommy Edman 6/8 92 349 11 15 0.304 0.350 0.500 0.850
Rookie hitters – 2019 BB% K% BABIP wOBA wRC+ fWAR
Tommy Edman 4.6% 17.5% 0.346 0.357 123 3.2

Readers may recall Tommy Pham’s standout .300/.400/.500 season. Well, this Tommy, Edman, matched two-thirds of that in his rookie campaign. His .500 slugging may have been the biggest surprise, with his .350 on-base mark an area for potential improvement, driven by a walk rate that was under five percent, the lowest in his rookie class.

Edman’s double-digit totals in both home runs and stolen bases really stand out, as does his rookie-best 3.2 Wins Above Replacement (per Fangraphs). That was double Gallegos’ 1.6 fWAR contribution and over three-times that of Hudson (1.0), making this a relatively easy call.

Rookie pitchers – 2019 Debut W L SV G GS IP ERA
Giovanny Gallegos 5/12/17 (NYY) 3 2 1 66 0 74 2.31
Dakota Hudson 7/28/18 16 7 1 33 32 174 3.35
Rookie pitchers – 2019 K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP fWAR
Giovanny Gallegos 11.3 2.0 33.5% 2.31 3.05 1.6
Dakota Hudson 7.0 4.4 56.9% 3.35 4.93 1.0

Hudson’s clear edge is in generating ground balls. Gallegos’ logged much superior strikeout and walk rates. Further, the gap between the reliever’s ERA and his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was smaller.


Other Cardinals rookies

A number of other rookies contributed to the 2019 Cardinals, specifically the following 10 – five position players and five pitchers.

Here are their comparable numbers, starting with the hitters. All are listed in descending fWAR sequence.

Rookie hitters – 2019 Debut G PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Lane Thomas 4/17 34 44 4 1 0.316 0.409 0.684 1.093
Randy Arozarena 8/14 19 23 1 2 0.300 0.391 0.500 0.891
Edmundo Sosa 9/23/18 8 10 0 1 0.250 0.400 0.250 0.650
Rangel Ravelo 6/17 29 43 2 0 0.205 0.256 0.410 0.666
Andrew Knizner 6/2 18 58 2 2 0.226 0.293 0.377 0.670
Rookie hitters – 2019 BB% K% BABIP wOBA wRC+ fWAR
Lane Thomas 9.1% 18.2% 0.308 0.445 181 0.7
Randy Arozarena 8.7% 17.4% 0.333 0.380 138 0.2
Edmundo Sosa 10.0% 20.0% 0.333 0.315 95 0
Rangel Ravelo 7.0% 27.9% 0.231 0.276 70 -0.1
Andrew Knizner 6.9% 24.1% 0.270 0.289 78 -0.2

All totaled, these five hitters did not have as many plate appearances as Edman, so any counting stat comparison is useless. However, it is clear that in their limited action, first-year outfielders Lane Thomas and Randy Arozarena both excelled.

Arozarena just missed that high .300/.400/.500 bar and delivered a 138 weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), with 100 being MLB average. Thomas was even better, especially in the power department, approaching .300/.400/.700, bringing home 0.7 fWAR and a very strong wRC+ of 181.

Both of the outfielders’ wRC+ counts exceeded Edman’s 123, but again, the two in played far fewer games. An ability for all three to sustain those rates over the longer haul has yet to be proven, and honestly, seems unlikely.

Rookie pitchers – 2019 Debut W L SV G GS IP ERA
Daniel Ponce de Leon 7/23/18 1 2 0 13 8 48.2 3.70
Tyler Webb 6/24/17 (NYY) 2 1 1 65 0 55 3.76
Ryan Helsley 4/16 2 0 0 24 0 36.2 2.95
Genesis Cabrera 5/29 0 2 1 13 2 20.1 4.87
Junior Fernandez 8/11 0 1 0 13 0 11.2 5.40
Rookie pitchers – 2019 K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP fWAR
Daniel Ponce de Leon 9.6 4.8 45.1% 3.70 4.41 0.6
Tyler Webb 7.9 3.8 41.1% 3.76 4.49 0.1
Ryan Helsley 7.9 3.0 33.6% 2.95 4.22 0.1
Genesis Cabrera 8.4 4.9 36.4% 4.87 4.54 0.1
Junior Fernandez 12.3 4.6 50.0% 5.40 5.27 -0.1

From among the other rookie pitchers, Daniel Ponce de Leon’s 0.6 fWAR was clearly tops, but his walk rate approaching five per nine innings stands out for the wrong reason. While Genesis Cabrera’s free pass rate was slightly worse, and Junior Fernandez’ was only barely better, the pair are each five years younger than Ponce de Leon.

Fernandez struck out opposing batters at the highest rate – and it was not close – but he also posted the highest ERA and FIP.

This article might have passed without mention of Tyler Webb, but he deserves a nod for stabilizing the second left-hander role in the bullpen in 2019.


Prior year winners

Our honorees over the last six years follow.

St. Louis
TCN Rookie of the Year
2019 Tommy Edman
2018 Harrison Bader
2017 Paul DeJong
2016 Aledmys Diaz
2015 Randal Grichuk
2014 Kolten Wong

These winners are also permanently recorded under “SEASON RECAPS/TOP PLAYERS,” located on the left red menu bar here at The Cardinal Nation.


For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up is our St. Louis Relief Pitcher of the Year.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TCN’s 2019 Cardinals Minor League Manager of the Year

Just one St. Louis Cardinals farm club made its league playoffs in the down 2019 season. The Cardinal Nation Manager of the Year Roberto Espinoza’s Johnson City Cardinals went on to take the Appalachian League Championship. The accomplishments of two honorable mentions are also outlined.

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Making Gold Glove Award Finalists Count

photo: Billy Hurst/USA TODAY Sports

Brian Walton shares his proposal to evolve the Gold Glove Award process to announce finalists ahead of the actual voting and why it would benefit all involved – players, voters and fans.


“This time, it counts!”

Long time baseball fans will never forget former MLB commissioner Bud Selig administration’s well-intended, but fatally flawed plan to award home field advantage for the World Series to the league that won that July’s All-Star Game. The gimmick was summarized by their marketing slogan noted above.

Putting far too much importance on an exhibition game was exposed when extra innings led to a depletion of available players and an unsatisfying outcome. Ultimately, winning the All-Star Game was returned to bragging rights only, which is the way it should be – but it took over a decade and a change in regimes to get it undone. Now, the World Series advantage goes to the best regular-season team, as common sense should have dictated decades ago.

I have a proposal for a “reverse Selig”, making something that does not count today, matter in the future.

I am talking about annual Gold Glove Award finalists.

Those who follow my work know that I have a healthy dislike for all things contrived. Right near the top of my contrived list is the announcement of the top three award finishers at each position in each league as supposed “finalists”.

In reality, there are no finalists – just the top three finishers in no particular order.

Voting has been complete for weeks and the results have already been tabulated. But instead of just announcing the specifics, some marketing whiz came up with the idea of spoon-feeding the public with these supposed finalists, apparently to build suspense.

That would be understandable, perhaps, if the end result could still be influenced following the disclosure of the finalists. However, that is not the case. It is just forced.


A staged award example that works

An example of how this kind of two-stage process works well is the motion picture industry. Annual Academy Award nominees are disclosed weeks in advance of the announcement ceremony, which is a really big deal, by the way.

One reason for its effectiveness is that once nominees in the various categories are disclosed, the general public is made aware of good movies and strong performances that we may have missed the first time around.

There is not only a buzz, but also an implied call to action.

We can then head to the local theatre and catch these notable films. The result is that everyone wins. We get to see more examples of fine cinema and the filmmakers make more money.

Contrast that with the Gold Glove process. There is no tangible benefit to be gained during the time between when the finalists are identified and the actual announcements.

Fans cannot go to games and see the best fielders do their thing, since the regular season concluded weeks earlier. Any discussion and debate about the relative merits of the “finalists” is wasted breath and keystrokes, because the voting deadline has passed.


The Gold Glove Award process has evolved before

Before I get into my proposal, another brief history lesson is needed to help set the stage.

Baseball created a major credibility crisis for its Gold Glove Award selection process when designated hitter Rafael Palmeiro took home the award in 1999, ahead of deserving candidates who actually played at first base on a daily basis. The winner appeared in the field in just 28 games that season.

Rafael Palmeiro (Getty Images)

While this was perhaps the worst example, it was far from an exception.

Here is a summary of data which illustrates that over 60 percent of the Gold Glove Award winners from 1988 through 2012 were not among the top two defenders at their position, according to the metrics.

With no substantive fielding data to guide them other than errors and fielding percentage, the voting managers and coaches frequently selected players who had good offensive years. MLB already has a parallel process to reward top hitters, the Silver Slugger Award, but the Gold Gloves were too often being given to the wrong players for the wrong reasons.

As advanced defensive metrics were developed and refined, more information on player defensive performance became available to all.

That evolved to the point that the SABR Defensive Index (SDI) was created – with the blending of five metrics which were given the importance of a 25 percent weighting in the Gold Glove Award selection process. Elevating the SDI essentially diluted the voters’ impact in naming the winners correspondingly.

Interim SDI results are published and shared with the public periodically throughout each season. Of course, the SDIs are also available to the voters. Whether or not they are really used when ballots are cast, however, is unknown.


The current system still has limitations

Even with the SDI helping to reduce the mistakes detailed above, more can and should be done.

Javier Baez (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Voter prejudices still creep into the process. For example, at second base in the National League in 2018, Chicago’s Javier Baez was announced as a finalist – despite his SDI being a negative 0.5, placing him 10th of 14 qualifiers at the position.

In comparison, the top two NL second basemen in SDI, Colorado’s D.J. LeMahieu and St. Louis’ Kolten Wong, were first and second respectively in SDI at 19.5 and 13.8, respectively. Appropriately, they were also finalists. (Coming in third in SDI was Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies at 8.5, but he was a non-finalist.)

In reality, Baez was more of a utilityman that season, with a whopping 218 fewer chances at second base than the ultimate winner, LeMahieu. However, Baez’ reputation as a flashy defender, making regular highlight reel plays, clearly influenced voters.

Unfortunately, so must have the Cubs star’s prolific offense, as he drove in a league-leading 111 runs and finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting. That strong MVP showing and his Silver Slugger Award were the right ways to honor Baez’ standout 2018.

Making Baez a Gold Glove Award finalist was not appropriate, however. Yet, the voters’ bias overruled his poor showing in the 25 percent-weighted SDI.

Ultimately, LeMahieu edged runners-up Wong and Baez for the honor, his third. Detailed voting results are not announced, just SDIs, so we don’t know how close Baez came to winning ahead of the two more deserving finalists.


An improvement proposal

My idea is to make the finalist process actually count and do a better job selecting the winners – using the SDI to identify the finalists in advance of the voting.

The finalists would be disclosed to the public on or about September 1, using SDI data from the first five months of the season.

Fans who want to see these finalists in action would still have a month to head to the ballpark or tune in to do so. More importantly, media and fan dialogue about the merits of the various defenders might actually matter – potentially influencing the voters, who would still cast their ballots at season’s end.

In this process, the winners would return to being entirely selected by the voters’ results, like it used to be. The key difference is that the SDI would do its screening work up front, narrowing the voters’ choices to those fielders most deserving per the metrics. A Palmeiro would never make it as far as voter consideration.

A footnote is that there is not a wide variation in the ranking of the top SDI defenders during the season, especially in the latter stages. So, choosing the finalists a month early should not leave a deserving potential winner behind. However, if this became a concern, one response could be to expand the finalists to the top five in SDI, for example, rather than three.


Conclusion

I believe this proposal would utilize the SDI more effectively, strengthen the Gold Glove Award voting process, increase fan engagement, and yes, make the finalist process count!


Weigh in

Stop by The Cardinal Nation’s free forum to offer your opinion on this, and any other baseball topics.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Montero Making Up for Lost Injury Time in the AFL


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