How disappointing is Harrison Bader?

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  • #121041
    AvatarBob Reed
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    I’d like to put Harry Bader’s sub-mediocre hitting into a context, alongside some other well-known centerfield flycatchers.

    Entering his age 25 season, Harrison Bader has a career wRC+ of 92, in 925 plate appearances.

    Entering his age 25 season, Curt Flood had a career wRC+ of 91 across 2,215 plate appearances.

    Entering his age 25 season, Terry Moore had a career wRC+ of just 81, in 1,607 PA’s.

    And lastly, late bloomer Lorenzo Cain, entering his age 28 season, had a career wRC+ of 90.

    —————————————–

    Yeah, it’s frustrating to watch a guy fail at the plate. But in general the smart managers stick with the great defenders, and hope the hitting comes around.

    Or think of it this way. (Digression Alert!) As everyone here knows, the highly successful 1980’s Cardinals are being celebrated with a documentary on the MLB Network right now. Let’s take a quick look at exactly how successful they were, and maybe more importantly how their success was achieved.

    From 1982-1987, the Cards led the N.L. in regular season victories (4th overall in MLB), and of course captured a trio of pennants. Pretty dominant, right? But they averaged a surprisingly modest 88 wins over those exciting six seasons. On the other hand they’ve averaged 89 wins in the 24 years of DeWitt ownership, which is 2nd in the N.L. to the Braves, and also 4th in all of MLB. So in terms of regular season success, the entire 24 years of DeWitt ownership matches almost precisely the best 6-year stretch of Whiteyball. Yeah, it surprised me too.

    Let’s dig into the details. Last year the mucho-maligned Cardinal batters had a cumulative 95 wRC+, which was ranked 15th in the majors. Well, from 1982-1987 they posted a 92 wRC+. Only four MLB teams were worse.

    But of course, what made the ’82-’87 team so successful was they had the best defense and best baserunning in the sport. And whaddayaknow, the current iteration excels in both also, albeit not quite to the same degree. (In 2019, per Fangraphs the Birds had the 4th-best defense and 2nd-best baserunning in all of baseball.)

    So the Cards right now are winning now in much the same way that they did in the Whiteyball Era! The problem with the current Cards, is the same as the problem for pretty much all teams. Which is that batting averages are so low now, and doubles & triples so minimized, that the game is — to many fans, sometimes even those of winning teams — less aesthetically pleasing than in some seasons past. Like the Birds in the 1980’s.

    Anyway, anyone who waxes rhapsodic about the 1980’s Redbirds, or fondly recalls Curt Flood or Terry Moore, should be embracing Harry Bader. Because he’s exactly that kind of player.

    #121047
    Avatargscottar
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    In the 1980’s the Cards were stealing 200-300 bases per year. We may never see that again.

    #121048
    stlcard25stlcard25
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    So in terms of regular season success, the entire 24 years of DeWitt ownership matches almost precisely the best 6-year stretch of Whiteyball. Yeah, it surprised me too.

    I was flipping through my DVR last night and read the info on my NLDS Game 5 recording and one statement caught my eye…”the Cardinals are attempting to make their 9th league championship series since the Braves last appearance in 2001.”

    I had to step back and think about it for a second. The Cards have indeed been in the “final four” half the time in the last 18 years and even 10 of 20 years if you go back to 2000. That’s a pretty astounding run of postseason success.

    #121051
    thejagerthejager
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    My disappointment isnt really with Abder, it is that he was put up on a pedestal last offseason, as some kind of face fo the franchise after 2018, with little to really back it up. We all knew his glove was elite, but he was so overhyped by the organization in media last offseason that after his offense last year how can you not feel disappointed.

    It is the same feeling i have right now for Carlson, Thomas, Oneill, and even Bader again…they are being billed as the saviors of the offense…the reason why we shouldnt spend money or look elsewhere to fix the offense.

    I never needed or really felt it was necessary for Bader to hit well…sames goes for Wong and Yadi to be honest…i loved their gloves and defense…i was fine with thinking 1 of the three of them would have a hit or two a night between the three.

    But that was only ok when you had a competent and strong core of 5 other players. A Batman and a Robin in the middle with some super friends filling out the other positions and one that can lead off.

    Instead we are depending on Bader, Wong, Yadi’s bat…because we don’t have anyone to depend on.

    It isnt wrong to have star players who you pay a lot to be consistently great. Fowler, Carp, Goldy, DeJong, Ozuna all have failed pretty miserably in their auditions for stepping up and being the star…maybe there is a Robin and Super friend in there…but we don’t have a lead off man, and definitely no Batman

    So i am not really disappointed in Bader at all…as the thing that i loved about him was his glove and it has been fantastic

    #121053
    Avatar14NyquisT
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    In my mind, Bader is in the top three of all the question marks for’20 along with Martinez and Matt. Is he replaceable? His bat surely is. What MLB pitchers know about him and how he is going about dealing with that in this off-season will likely determine if he is a AAAA player or not.

    The FO would love to see him being respectable at the plate because he offers the best solution to cover up for Fowler in RF.

    It was tough to watch his stock decline so much last season and I don’t think he should be put in ink in CF for ’20 until he can show that he can lay off pitches out of the zone.

    Having him plus O’Neill in the lineup could be a pitcher’s delight.

    #121086
    Avatarbccran
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    Never seen such a “green” OF with the Cards. Anyone remember one just as green? Big risk.

    #121092
    bicyclemikebicyclemike
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    Let’s hope the reward justifies the risk, Cranny. One era comes to mind where the Cardinals were thought to have their future outfield be Luis Melendez, Jose Cruz, and Jorge Roque. They had a nickname even, although I do not remember what it was. Had the movie been around before that time they would have likely been called “The Three Amigos”.

    And of course in true Cardinal fashion for that era, they kept the two guys who never did much, and basically gave away the guy who ended up with over 2000 hits in his career.

    #121093
    Avatarbccran
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    Let’s hope our near future OF experiment works out better than the Grichuk/Piscotty/Fowler risk.

    #121134
    AvatarPadsFS
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    bccran

    Never seen such a “green” OF with the Cards. Anyone remember one just as green? Big risk.

    1991 would be the closest imo.

    We basically had rookies Ray Lankford (24), and Bernard Gilkey (24) out there with 2nd-year Felix Jose (26). Then they had Milt Thompson as Gilkey’s platoon buddy and Hudler as the 5th outfielder.

    #121136
    AvatarPadsFS
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    Now we have 3rd-year Bader (26), 2nd-year O’Neill (25), and Fowler, with 1st-year Thomas (25), 2nd-year Edman (25), and 1st-year Carlson (21) as the backups. Fowler being the Milt Thompson of this year’s outfield.

    #121154
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    Do not forget Justin Williams, Austin Dean and Rangel Ravelo…

    #121158
    Avatarbccran
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    So the bottom line is we have one experienced outfielder.

    #121159
    Avatarmudville
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    There’s another conversation with another bottom line. We have eight hungry, young, highly talented outfielders looking at two, maybe three openings depending on how Bader’s spot is viewed, on the Cardinals’ 26 man roster.

    #121179
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    Was thinking about the comparison of Bader to players from the past like Terry Moore and Curt Flood. The game has changed over time with a much greater dependence on offense from all eight spots (or nine) in a lineup.

    For example, I question whether a Dal Maxvill would have nearly the same chance today as he did in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I suspect in today’s game, he would be a Pete Kozma journeyman type. (Note their career OPS+ marks are identical, 57.)

    #121203
    Avatargscottar
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    I think some of it is dependent on how much firepower is on the team at the time. Maxvill was surrounded by all stars and future HOFers so they didn’t need his bat. The 2013 team had plenty of thunder with Carp, Craig, Holliday, and Beltran so they didn’t need Kozma to hit much.

    #121204
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    OK, but which MLB playoff-contending teams TODAY thrive with a 78 OPS+ player in the starting lineup?

    And in comparison to the two former Cardinals teams you cite, how does the 2020 team stack up offensively?

    #121209
    Avatargscottar
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    The 2020 team doesn’t resemble the team from 2013 or the teams from the 1960’s at all which is why a glove first player like Bader will have a difficult time staying in the lineup in my opinion.

    #121211
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    We saw it in the playoffs. When it mattered most, a healthy Bader started just three of nine games.

    He will get a chance to show his off-season work paid off, but if he continues to hit poorly and the team is not playing well, his spot will be at risk. He has had almost 1,000 MLB career plate appearances already to prove himself and others are nipping at his heels.

    #121216
    Avatarmspaid
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    He will definitely have to win a spot and perform to keep it. He’s a minimum salary guy or close to it. They’ll never bench Fowler or Carpenter because of their contracts but Bader doesn’t have that protection. He’s roller skating in the middle of the rink and he doesn’t have the railing in case he stumbles. Good luck Harrison…you’ll need it.

    #121230
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    nate said:

    They’ll never bench Fowler or Carpenter because of their contracts…

    Other than when Carpenter sat more often than not during September and in the playoffs? You often get in trouble when you start throwing “never” and “always” around indiscriminately.

    A valid statement would be to wonder how long they would stick with struggling veterans. The answer may be different depending on the player and the situation. Longer and larger contracts mean the players had a better history to hope they can return to. Common sense stuff, I know…

    FWIW, I agree with you that Bader is in a different place because he doesn’t have the offensive track record.

    #121231
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    Just happened to stumble across this article at MLB.com. Using the Outs Above Average measure, Bader’s defense was down last year and DeJong’s was up, to the point the two tied as the Cardinals’ best defender.

    https://www.mlb.com/cardinals/news/best-defensive-player-outs-above-average-every-team

    #121235
    BlackHillsCardBlackHillsCard
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    Gotta think DeJong’s defense didn’t really improve so much as it was he actually had a good defensive first baseman to throw the ball to. JMart was literally a black hole at 1B.

    #121238
    Brian WaltonBrian Walton
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    Good point. Goldschmidt made the entire infield defense better.

    #121248
    AvatarSoonerinNC
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    I saw a lot of improvement in DeJong’s coverage to his right and even more improvement in the acuracy of his throws, even considering the help from Goldschmidt.

    As for Bader, my question is why do some players swing at so many breaking pitches out of the zone. Is it experience? Is it lack of ability to pick up the spin on the ball? Is it lack of reflexes needed to adjust to the pitch? Or is it lack of willingness to change to correct the flaw. Maybe trying to hit for too much power.

    I think some of the above are correctable. But some are probably not.

    Who knows what it is with Bader and O’Niell. And who knows how willing are they to make the necessary adjustment?

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 4 weeks ago by AvatarSoonerinNC.
    #121252
    Euro DandyEuro Dandy
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    why do some players swing at so many breaking pitches out of the zone. Is it lack of ability to pick up the spin on the ball? Is it lack of reflexes needed to adjust to the pitch?

    Those are two big reasons. It’s often not a simple matter of plate discipline. It’s a talent/skill some will never develop to overcome the physics. A fastball takes about 0.4 seconds from release to reach the plate, while a curve takes about 0.5 seconds. Assuming a batter can recognize the pitch in a quarter of second to make any necessary adjustments, that leaves about 0.15 seconds for the fastball and 0.25 seconds for the curve. Percentage-wise, that’s a relatively huge difference. There’s no way most hitters are catching up to the fastball if they were sitting on the curve, and many will look foolish on the curve if they were expecting the heater.

    Banging on trash cans was such a good idea!

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