This is the next piece in a series of posts in which I will look at the BEST St. Louis Cardinals of all time. I will do so by position. As always, I will be following a set of criteria. The criteria that affects this the most is that I only took a look at players with 3,000 or more plate appearances AS A CARDINAL. (So, Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen, Darryl Porter, Mike Matheny, and others - sorry, you're out!) From there, I used a very complicated formula involving:
I then took this data and ranked the players at each position against each other, accounting for small or large differences in each statistic in able to see who the best of the best was.
Without further ado, your top 3 St. Louis Cardinals' second basemen of ALL TIME!
Honorable Mention goes to: Miller Huggins, Jimmy Brown, Tom Herr, and Jose "The Secret Weapon!" Oquendo
3) Albert "Red" Schoendienst is quite simply a Cardinal Great. His #2 is retired and displayed on the left field wall and in the backdrop of center field, quite proudly. Red is still with the organization as a special assistant to the General Manager, but let me start at the beginning. Red came to the Cardinals in 1945 to fill in for "The Man" as Stan was serving duty in the US Army. Red played most of his career in STL, spending a year in LF, a little time at 3B and SS, but mainly becoming a good second baseman. He left for a short time, being traded, before coming back as a free agent 5 seasons later. Red then became the then-longest tenured manager for the St. Louis Cardinals (for 12 years). As a manager he led the Cardinals to one World Series title and a .521 win %. He came back twice later to fill in during managerial vacancies, piling up another 31 wins and 30 losses in 61 games. As a player, Schoendienst did a lot of things right, however he did not do things at an incredible level like others on the list. The switch-hitter led the league in at bats twice, doubles once, and steals once - as a Cardinal. He played on 10 all-star teams, winning the 1950 All-Star game with his first ever right-handed home run, a walkoff winner in extra innings. He was a quite competant defender, finishing in the top 10 in dWAR 7 times and finishing first in fielding percentage 5 times, as a Cardinal. While his playing statistics alone did not earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame, he was eventually voted into the Hall of Fame in 1989 by the Veteran's Committee as a player/manager.
2) Frankie Frisch not only is the 2nd best Cardinal second baseman of all time, he may have the best nickname on this list. "The Fordham Flash" (he went to Fordham University before entering the majors) played the final 11 years of his 19 year career with the Cardinals. Many of you will be familiar with the name Tom Herr. Frisch was an excellent version of Tom Herr, playing 50 years earlier. Both Frisch and Herr stole around 21 bases per 600 plate appearances as a Cardinal, Herr was caught 25.1% of the time, no data on how often Frisch was caught. They both walked more times than they struck out, but Frisch was better (3.37 K:BB to 1.13 K:BB). They both hit more than 20% extra bases, but Frisch was better (25.2% to 22.4%). They both got on base at a good clip, but Frisch was better (.370 to .349). The Cardinals missed out on a few of Frisch's better seasons with the Giants, but still were able to get an MVP season out of him and a second-place finish in the MVP race out of him. He led the league in steals twice as a Cardinal. Frisch was also a 3 time all-star with the Cardinals. The reason he goes ahead of Schoendienst in my book - even though I think Schoendienst would be placed higher the Frisch as a "Cardinal Great" is that Frisch had 782 less plate appearances (more than one full season's worth) and still was able to finish with a higher cumulative WAR than Frisch.
1) The obvious choice at #1 in Rogers Hornsby. Aside from his ridiculous stats for a typically defense-first position, which we'll get to in a moment, Hornsby had some great quotes:
On to Hornsby's statistcal greatness. The 1920's was a great time to be hitting a baseball. In the American League, everyone has heard of Murderer's Row and the Bronx Bombers - the Yankees with Ruth, Gehrig, and more sluggers. However, Rogers Hornsby owned the National League during this time. Playing on the Cardinals for the first 12 years of his big league career, Hornsby had a 178 OPS+. That's 8 points higher than the best Cardinal ever - Stan Musial. Think about that. Hornsby led the league in games played once, runs three times, hits four times, doubles four times, triples twice, home runs twice, RBI four times, walks once, batting average six straight times, on base percentage AND slugging percentage seven times (six straight), OPS 8 times (six straight), and total bases six times. A third of his hits as a Cardinal went for extra bases. In the six years from 1920 to 1925 he led the league in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. He earned exactly 1 MVP and finished 2nd once. That'd be a travesty, but the NL was not handing out the award until 1924, when he finished 2nd. Hornsby led the league in WAR 7 times as a Cardinal. This is how far ahead of his competitors he was:
1917 - Hornsby 9.2 WAR (next best 7.2)
1919 - Hornsby 6.5 WAR (next best 6.2)
1920 - Hornsby 9.4 WAR (next best 7.0)
1921 - Hornsby 11.7 WAR (next best 8.1)
1922 - Hornsby 10.7 WAR (next best 5.9)
1924 - Hornsby 13.0 WAR (next best 8.0 - this was Frankie Frisch, #2 on this list, who beat him in WAR in 1923)
1925 - Hornsby 10.0 WAR (next best 6.9)
In summation, Hornsby was easily the best second baseman as a Cardinal, and is quite possibly the best second baseman ever to play that position - at least from a purely hitting standpoint.
Congratulations to those 3 great Cardinal second basemen!
The next post in the series will be Cardinal third basemen.
1) Rogers Hornsby - 14.139
2) Frankie Frisch - 12.298
3) Red Schoendienst - 9.292
4) Miller Huggins - 8.820
5) Jimmy Brown - 8.286
6) Tom Herr - 8.180
7) Jose Oquendo - 7.144
8) Julian Javier - 6.366
This series was originally researched in early August, so statistics of current players may be slightly off now.