How disappointing is Harrison Bader?

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  • #119254
    AvatarBob Reed
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    Presented without comment, here are the career WAR averages per 600 plate appearances for various Cardinals, and some other prominent names. I arrived at the WAR numbers by averaging the Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.com values. I’m open to any and all suggestions, but I can’t think of a more objective or thorough methodology than that. (Just for kicks I also included each player’s highest Baseball America prospect ranking from their minor league days.)

    Scott Rolen 4.9 WAR per 600 PAs, highest ranking 13th
    Tommy Pham 4.3 WAR, never in a Baseball America top 100
    Paul DeJong 4.0 WAR, never in a Baseball America top 100
    Yadi Molina 3.7 WAR, never in a BA top 100
    Harrison Bader 3.7 WAR, never in a BA top 100
    Matt Carpenter 3.5 WAR, never in a BA top 100
    Derek Jeter 3.4 WAR, highest ranking 4th
    Marcell Ozuna 3.1 WAR, highest ranking 75th
    Omar Vizquel 2.2 WAR, minors career pre-dated BA rankings
    Dexter Fowler 2.1 WAR, highest ranking 15th
    Nick Castellanos 1.5 WAR, highest ranking 21st

    Okay, I lied. I do want to make just one comment. A list like this forces me to confront my own preconceptions about certain players and their careers, whether full careers or merely partial ones. I trust my fellow Redbird fans will do the same, and I look forward to your thoughts.

    #119258
    stlcard25stlcard25
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    Here’s my fear about Bader, Bob. I fear that his career averages there are overstated due to his great 2018 debut. Once his bat cooled as the league figured him out, the 2019 version just might be the guy he is going forward. Unfortunately, it’s a story we’ve seen before from Grichuk, Piscotty, etc.

    Now, I’m not saying he has no place on this team because even as a 2 WAR/season platoon/defensive sub, he can still provide the team a lot. I’m just worried that he will be the starter going forward and block a guy like Thomas or O’Neill from getting their own shot.

    Can you talk me off this ledge, Bob? What makes Harrison different?

    #119259
    AvatarGameCard
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    It is all about production. No one knows if he can correct his problems until he plays.

    #119262
    AvatarBob Reed
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    “No one knows if he can correct his problems until he plays.”

    Exactly, GC. The best managers know they have to play the great fielders even when they’re slumping at the plate, so the bat can develop. And even in the seasons when those bats are wet noodles — which naturally leads to a LOT of frustration from fans — the players still nevertheless contribute at an average-or-better overall rate, thanks to tremendous glovework.

    In 2019 Shildt to his credit stuck with Wong when he had a dreadful sub-600 OPS for a two-month stretch. LaRussa stuck by Yadi when he didn’t hit as a young player, and Herzog did the same with Ozzie, not unlike Earl Weaver with Mark Belanger. There were no precisely calibrated “advanced metrics” needed to tell those latter managers how valuable their glovemen were. They just knew it.

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    “Once his bat cooled as the league figured him out, the 2019 version just might be the guy he is going forward. Unfortunately, it’s a story we’ve seen before from Grichuk, Piscotty, etc.
    Can you talk me off this ledge, Bob? What makes Harrison different?”

    Since you specifically referenced Grichuk & Piscotty, stl25, let’s look at them, and see what we see. As I’m sure everyone here recalls, they were both terrific hitters as rookies in 2015, then drastically declined afterwards. So we don’t want Bader to be like them. Right?

    Well, maybe not right. Because Grichuk and Piscotty, taking only their seasons after 2015, have actually come pretty darn close in MLB to their upper minors hitting performances.

    Grichuk in AA and AAA combined to post an average wRC+ of 109. From 2016-2019 in over 2,000 plate appearances he has an even 100 wRC+. Not a huge dropoff, from 109 to 100.

    Piscotty in AA and AAA combined to post an average wRC+ of 115. From 2016-2019, also in just over 2,000 trips to the plate, Piscotty has a 110 wRC+. So the performance has been fine, really. Our expectations were skewed by the crazy 2015 seasons — just like Tommy Edman’s fluky 2019 at the major league level, after a mere 108 wRC+ in both AAA in 2019 and AA in 2018.

    So again, Grichuk & Piscotty, not including their fluke 2015 debuts, have performed just a little worse at the plate than they did across Double-A and Triple-A. You know what Harry Bader did in AA/AAA? A combined wRC+ of 127. If he comes within 25 points of that he’s Lorenzo Cain, i.e., a star.

    —————————-

    If Bader does become an annual 80 wRC+ guy I would be shocked and very disappointed. But the thing is, and this is the hard part to accept as a fan, right now his defense and baserunning are of such surpassing quality that even at that dismal level of batting he’d still be a 2.5 to 3 WAR player if given 140-145 starts.

    #119268
    jj-cf-stljj-cf-stl
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    I’d point at Baders BAbip difference from 2018 to 2019, when he dropped .090 pts overall. His .358 in 18′ was likely unsustainable, even for a rabbit like him, but to drop to .268 in 19’…..

    He’s a .312 BAbip for his career and a .330 could be within reach yearly with his speed. Ground balls just can’t be consistently at defenders like they were in 19′. His ground ball BA was .393 in 18′ and fell to .218 in 19′. Since we know he can frequently turn singles into doubles with his baserunning, that ground ball BA took a big portion of his slash line away from him.

    #119270
    Avatar1982 willie
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    bader is not disappointing at all. sure id like a little more contact but im not sure they even teach that anymore. his hustle, effort, and great defense is sufficient for me. its up to ownership to get other players like Arenado around him so he doesn’t have to be the hero on offense.

    #119271
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    GC said:

    It is all about production. No one knows if he can correct his problems until he plays.

    Bader has already been given 925 career MLB plate appearances, or approaching two full seasons for an average starter. That is three times more MLB playing time than the other outfield candidates totaled together.

    Bader was demoted to Triple-A last August. He hit well there for about three weeks. He continued to hit well for a week when he returned to St. Louis and then returned to his old ways. By the post-season, he started just three of nine games.

    These are facts.

    #119273
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    Bob Reed said:

    …right now his defense and baserunning are of such surpassing quality that even at that dismal level of batting he’d still be a 2.5 to 3 WAR player if given 140-145 starts.

    Perhaps, but who is to say that one of the other candidates cannot deliver as much or more WAR while being a better balanced player? They are the ones who have yet to get an extended chance. Bader could deliver a fair part of that WAR by being a regular pinch runner-defensive replacement, as he was later in the season. We could call him a multi-positional defensive replacement specialist. 😉

    #119278
    Avatargscottar
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    There is a fine line between giving a young player enough playing time to establish himself vs not hurting the team in the W/L column. John Mozeliak once said that the big leagues is not a development league, it is a performance league. I agree with that.

    Bader has been given ample opportunity. His glove is obviously elite but his bat will determine if he remains a starter or not. 2020 is pivotal in the arc of his career.

    #119285
    Avataratripleshyofthecycle
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    We have a lot of people who would have preferred Templeton to Ozzie.

    #119288
    Avatargscottar
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    Maybe until he gave the fans the middle finger. That changed things.

    #119289
    jj-cf-stljj-cf-stl
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    Wong was given 1880 PA’s (13′-2017) before he put up a br3.00+ WAR season. Did his elite D warrant that playing time? Or was there just less depth pushing him from the farm?

    Many times I’ve read that Shildt’s commitment to Wongs playing time has helped him raise his level of production.

    #119296
    kscardfankscardfan
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    Bader is what he is. Billy Hamilton with power and defense is a pretty handy player to have around. Elite bench player, and injury replacement. Bader / Edman a start to a good bench.

    #119472
    bicyclemikebicyclemike
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    Bottom line – Bader’s defense and speed will give him opportunities, as he plays a position where strong defense is important. Not as important as middle infield or catcher, but more important than most other stations.

    How much more rope he gets will depend on the offense he brings, and what other guys are doing.

    #119481
    Avatarforsch31
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    Another thing that may affect Bader’s playing time is how the rest of the offense is performing. The more others are hitting, the less the Cardinals need Bader to hit. The less the Cardinal offense is doing, the more likely the Cardinals are to put someone who is hitting better in CF.

    #119486
    Avatarmspaid
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    Bader is a bust like most prospects. Only a handful make it big (Pujols, Molina, Flaherty and a very few others). He’s just another flop.

    #119487
    AvatarLACardFan
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    Perhaps, but who is to say that one of the other candidates cannot deliver as much or more WAR while being a better balanced player?

    Well, we know Dexter Fowler and Jose Martinez cannot, yet last year, Fowler was given more playing time, and down the stretch, they were putting Martinez in RF and Fowler in CF.

    I’ll take my chances with Bader in CF and Fowler on the bench.

    #119489
    AvatarBob Reed
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    “Bader is a bust like most prospects. Only a handful make it big (Pujols, Molina, Flaherty and a very few others). He’s just another flop.”

    Excerpted from the top of the thread:

    Paul DeJong 4.0 WAR per 600 plate appearances for his career so far.
    Yadi Molina 3.7 WAR
    Harrison Bader 3.7 WAR
    Matt Carpenter 3.5 WAR
    Derek Jeter 3.4 WAR

    I have neither the energy nor inclination to try and distinguish which people on the internet are sincere in their statements and which ones are not. So this post exists mostly to reiterate blandly & succinctly the initial point, i.e., that Bader so far for his MLB career as a whole has been much nearer a borderline star than a bust.

    —————————

    “…who is to say that one of the other candidates cannot deliver as much or more WAR while being a better balanced player?”

    That’s a good question, Brain, and raises another one. Is a “balanced” 3-WAR player more valuable than an imbalanced one? I think the answer is: only under very specific circumstances. Like, say the Cardinals had a pair of corner outfielders with really excellent range. Then Bader’s defensive value in center might be slightly diminished.

    Similarly, if the Birds had a seriously groundball-centric rotation, then infield defense becomes more important than outfield range, and thus Bader is less valuable. Makes perfect sense, right?
    But here’s the thing. Bader’s defensive numbers have been fantastic so far for his career despite the Cards having the most groundball-heavy rotation in the majors over the past two years. Link: https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=sta&lg=all&qual=0&type=8&season=2019&month=0&season1=2018&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2018-01-01&enddate=2019-12-31&sort=13,d

    Given my druthers, I want the best up-the-middle defenders I can get — as long as the player’s overall value doesn’t dip below 2.5 – 3 WAR per full season. I can’t help feeling that it’s better for the pitching staff, both effectiveness and morale. So get the bigger boppers for the corners, hopefully without sacrificing too much glovework either. (By the way, “Brain” was an intentional typo. In honor of the late Harry Dean Stanton.)

    #119497
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    I see it differently. The offense was the weakest part of the 2019 Cardinals and now Ozuna is gone.

    If Thomas, for example, is a lesser defender, but a much better hitter than Bader, I would be willing to make that tradeoff. At least, I would be willing to give Thomas a shot, as we pretty much know Bader is what he is.

    As I said before, I believe some of his WAR value could still be realized as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. I don’t see it as an all or nothing matter for Bader.

    #119696
    jj-cf-stljj-cf-stl
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    Who’s in LF? If it’s Carpenter, Ozuna or Castellanos, I need Bader in CF because we’ve already made the “bat over glove” tradeoff in LF.

    If we put O’Neill, Thomas, Edman or Marte in LF, CF can then become “show me the hot bat”.

    #121029
    BlackHillsCardBlackHillsCard
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    Brian, is it your impression that Tommy Pham’s comments in the SI article played at least some role in him getting traded?

    #121030
    Avatarbccran
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    There was a pitcher one time in the Cardinal system who was from New York and felt he knew better than the coaches. He wanted to stay with “what got him there”. He started failing. They finally had to trade him. Rasmus had some of the same attitude, fueled by his father. There’s a bit of that attitude with Bader, who has the same degree of stubbornness. If he doesn’t change, he’ll be gone.

    #121032
    Avatarbccran
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    BHC – The article was bad, but only a surface indication of the deep seething, boiling unrest and anger of the player. When that happens with an employee in any organization, the employee has to be removed.

    #121033
    AvatarNigel T
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    Bader has spent the off season training his brain to ignore breaking pitches off the plate. It is an interesting approach. Jorge Soler saw amazing results doing that kineticly.
    Bader’s results against fastballs are amazing. If he improves on going to right, he could easily hit enough that it becomes a point of positive focus.

    #121040
    Avatar858booyah
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    It didn’t help Bader last season that he was virtually unplayable vs. Lefties. That has to change or he’ll play himself out of a role. Doesn’t matter how good that D is. Regardless he needs to step his game up at the plate regardless in 2020.

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