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' short stops of ALL TIME!
Honorable Mention goes to: Marty Marion, Bill Gleason, and Dal Maxvill
3) Garry Templeton has the rap of being a high talent, low brain type of short stop. My dad was a batting practice pitcher while Templeton was in St. Louis. His politically correct take on Templeton is that he was consistently the last person onto the field and the first person to leave the field; all the while, leading the league in errors three straight seasons as a Cardinal. His talent level was enough to land him, not only on the list of shortstops with 3,000+ plate appearances as a Redbird but also, in the top 3 of Cardinal short stops of all time. He comes in at #3 on the list and extremely close to #2 (forty-three thousandths away from our #2, to be precise). The Cardinals got the first 6 seasons of Templeton's career and they were his best - at least in the batter's box. Templeton was a 2 time all-star, one time silver slugger, and twice got votes for MVP while in St. Louis. He led the league in hits once and triples three times, but got caught stealing the most in 1977 and led the league in errors the next three seasons. To be fair, he also led the league in putouts and range factor per game all three of those seasons, so he got to more balls than anyone else.
2) Edgar Renteria was a beloved Cardinal while he was here, and the talent level places him at #2 on the list. I believe a lot of people soured on Renteria because of the way he departed St. Louis (taking the Red Sox's offer, which was less than a million dollars more than the Cardinals' reported offer, just months after the Red Sox beat the Cardinals in the World Series). While Edgar Renteria never led the league in any offensive categories during his time as a Cardinal, he put up numbers that were about league average, while playing a very good shortstop - earning two Gold Gloves. His .420 SLG and .768 OPS as a Cardinal top the list of Cardinals' short stops during their STL careers, as does his 29.5% XBH. Quite amazingly, Renteria never stole less than 17 bases with the Cardinals, averaging 25 a season - amazing because Tony LaRussa hardly ever gives the green light to anybody. (Since Renteria's departure, the clubhouse leader has totaled 16, 11, 10, 24, 16, and 14 steals. Cesar Izturis was the only one to get to 17, Renteria's low.) In addition to Renteria's 2 Gold Gloves he earned as a Cardinal, he also got MVP votes twice, made 3 All-Star teams, and earned 3 Silver Sluggers. His best season, in the 2003 season right before the boom of 2004 and 2005 and the World Series of 2006, looked reminiscent of "the glory days" of baseball - a .330 average with 61 extra base hits, only 13 of them homers, 96 runs and 100 RBI and a 34-7 SB record, all the while walking more than striking out (for the only time in his career.)
1) Ozzie Smith started his career with the San Diego Padres. Many people forget that nowadays. His first four years were spent in SD, but his last 15 years were spent as a Cardinal. Like so many of the others finishing #1 on their respective lists, Ozzie is truly a Cardinal great. Young Osborne Earl "Ozzie" Smith showed glimpses of his potential in San Diego, making possibly the best play defensively that I have ever seen, as a rookie. Diving up the middle for a scorched ground ball off the bat of Jeff Burroughs, the ball hit a rock and took a bad hop, so bad that the ball caromed over and behind his head. Ozzie throws up his bare hand (since his glove hand has absolutely zero chance of getting it), and grabs on while plummeting quickly to the ground. Then, he gets up and is able to still throw out the runner, Burroughs, from well behind second base, still on the short stop side of the bag. (*link below) That play in just his tenth game as a big league baseball player was just a glimpse into the athleticism and the future of one Ozzie Smith. In the offseason between the 1981 and 1982 seasons, the Cardinals had a still young, All-Star short stop that was seen as someone not giving them enough effort. Ozzie had already won two (of his thirteen straight) Gold Gloves and was an All-Star in 1981 as well. However, San Diego wanted some pop in their lineup, and the Cardinals wanted a fair return, so San Diego agreed to acquire (#3 on this list) Garry Templeton from the Cardinals in exchange for the man who would come to be known as "The Wizard." Never known for his bat (an OPS+ of just 66 in SD - and 87 for his career, Ozzie was able to become serviceable with the bat - he had a 9 year stretch where 8 of the seasons were at least a 95 OPS+. He was also quite the speedster, averaging 35 steals with only 8 caught during his first dozen years as a Cardinal. He had a high of 57 steals in 1988 (also getting 57 once in SD). Besides the 13 straight Gold Gloves, Ozzie was a 15 time All-Star, the 1985 NLCS MVP (more on this later), 2nd in MVP voting in 1987, and earned MVP votes in a total of 6 seasons. As a Card, he never once struck out more than he walked, having a Cards career total of 2.07 BB for every K. In fact, while not earning a ton of extra base hits in his career, Ozzie had nearly one XBH per strikeout; he was so adept at making contact. Lastly - not so much about Ozzie himself but in speaking of him - his home run to help the Cardinals to the 1985 World Series and win him 1985 NLCS MVP was called by Jack Buck and is one of my favorite calls of all time - "Go crazy folks, go crazy!" (**Also linked to later)
Congratulations to those 3 great Cardinal short stops!
The next post in the series will be Cardinal center fielders.
1) Ozzie Smith - 11.851
2) Edgar Renteria - 10.556
3) Garry Templeton - 10.513
4) Marty Marion - 9.293
5) Bill Gleason - 8.222
6) Dal Maxvill - 5.897
Just missing out: Solly Hemus (2494 PAs, but 22.0 gWAR), Dick Groat (2055 PAs, but 12.0 gWAR), Bobby Wallace (1873 PAs, but 13.25 fWAR), and Charlie Gelbert (2653 PAs, but 10.5 gWAR).