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:
- WAR (a mix of fangraphs" and baseball-reference's WAR statistics)
- WAR/PA*600 (600 plate appearances is a very near approximation to a complete season, so it's basically WAR/season
- batting average
- on base percentage
- slugging percentage
- on base plus slugging
- OPS+ (takes OPS and converts it to a comparison to league average for that season or career and adjusts for ballpark)
- % of hits that are extra base hits
- BB:K (I could not compare 3rd basemen, shortstops, or corner outfielders on this statistic due to lack of data)
- XBH:K (I could not compare 3rd basemen, shortstops, or corner outfielders on this statistic due to lack of data)
- SB/PA*600 - basically SB/season
- for catchers I looked at how many players were caught stealing or picked off compared to how many people stole bases off of them
- for outfielders I looked at how many outfield assists that they got per 600 plate appearances (or per season) as well
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' third basemen of ALL TIME!
Honorable Mention goes to: Pepper Martin, Arlie Latham, Todd Zeile, Milt Stock, Terry Pendleton, Mike Shannon, and Ken Reitz
3) Joe Torre, today, is much better known for his managerial abilities than his play on the field. However, he was a fantastic player in his own right. Torre is one of the few Cardinals who played the majority of his career elsewhere to be found on these lists. He was a Brave for 9 seasons, where he was primarily a catcher, but he saved his best seasons for his time in St. Louis. In his 6 years as a Cardinal, he was a 4-time All-Star and one time MVP winner. In his MVP season, he led the league in hits, RBI, batting average, and total bases. Torre will never have his number retired as a Cardinal, nor go down as a Cardinal Great, but the Cardinals got him for 6 of his best seasons in the big leagues.
2) Whitey Kurowski was a treat to learn about. I had rarely heard his name before this exercise. Kurowski played his entire 9 year career (more like 7 years, his first and last years combined to have 25 plate appearances) in St. Louis as the third baseman. Because of a disease called osteoyelitis, he was mssing part of a bone in his right forearm, yet he still was able to make it as a ballplayer. He happened to play third base for the Cards during one of their golden times - the 1940s. Kurowski was able to go to the post-season 4 times as a Cardinal and win the World Series three of those times. Kurowski was a 5 time all-star (not playing one season) and finished in the top ten of MVP voting twice. Kurowski was seen as a good defender (top 5 in range factor five times, top 5 in assists five time and led the league once, top 5 in putouts six times and led the league three times). Unlike Torre, Kurowski was never "the best" in any offensive area, despite his excelling on defense. Whitey got on base at a .366 clip for his career, including one year at .420. He slugged .455 for his career, only twice over .500. He had over 100 RBI twice, scored over 100 runs once, hit 24 or more doubles five times and 20 or more homers three times. Apparently, arm and elbow problems ended his career early, however. He went on to become a minor league manager for nearly two decades.
1) Kenny Boyer was always one of my father's favorites growing up. I had assumed this was partially because his favorite was Bob Gibson and Boyer made things a lot easier for Gibby over at the hot corner, being a 5 time Gold Glover. Then, I realized that Boyer did not really get a chance to help Gibby too much during Gibby's reign atop the leaderboards as a pitcher because Boyer: 1) got older and presumably slower; and 2) got traded. So, why did my dad enjoy Ken Boyer so much? Well, this Missouri native played his first 11 years as a Cardinal, came back to manage the team for 3 years later, and has his #14 retired by the team, as well. He was also known as "The Captain" on those early 1960's Cardinal ballclubs. Despite only leading the league in RBI once as a Cardinal (and that's it in terms of statistical leaderboard material), Boyer finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times (winning the award once) and was an All-Star 7 times. As I mentioned before, he was a great defensive player, especially early in his career. He was so athletic, that he was a key piece as a center fielder in his 3rd season with the club, and he played some there and at short later on as a Cardinal, as well. His 269 doubles and 61 triples, as a Cardinal third bagger, are second all-time. His 255 home runs more than double the second best Cardinal third baseman. Lastly, he is the only Cardinal third baseman to get over 1,000 RBI.
Congratulations to those 3 great Cardinal third basemen!
The next post in the series will be Cardinal short stops.
1) Kenny Boyer - 11.724
2) Whitey Kurowski - 10.485
3) Joe Torre - 10.317
4) Pepper Martin - 9.755
5) Arlie Latham - 8.795
6) Todd Zeile - 8.583
7) Milt Stock - 7.817
8) Terry Pendleton - 7.710
9) Mike Shannon - 7.567
10) Ken Reitz - 6.228
This series was originally researched in early August, so statistics of current players may be slightly off now.