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.
Since "corner outfielders" encompasses two positions - left field and right field - there will be a Top 6 today. Without further ado, your top 6 St. Louis Cardinals' corner outfielders of ALL TIME!
Honorable Mention goes to: Jack Smith, Vince Coleman, and Tommy Dowd
I'm not gonna lie to ya - this list did not turn out at all like I had expected.
6) George Hendrick was the #1 overall pick in the 1968 entry draft - by the Oakland Athletics. He moved fairly quickly through their system before playing 100 MLB games over the 1971 and 1972 seasons with the A's. He was then traded (along with Dave Duncan - current pitching coach for the St. Louis Cardinals) to Cleveland. Four years later he was traded again to San Diego. He eventually ended up being traded to the Cardinals in 1978 with just over 100 games to play in the season. He stayed in St. Louis until the end of the 1984 season. Those 7 seasons were the longest he stayed on any of his 6 franchises that he played for. While in St. Louis he was not spectacular, but always solidly above average. He made two All-Star teams, garnering Silver SluggerAwards and top 11 MVP votes both of those seasons. He also finished with MVP votes in two other seasons. Sometimes called "Silent George," because he rarely talked to the media (if at all), he could have been named so because he was nearly silent on the basepaths and had a nearly silent arm - ranking dead last in SB/600 PAs and Outfield Assists/600 PAs on my list. Another bit of trivia: George was the first player to wear his pant legs down to his ankles - so we can blame him for the sloppiness in uniforms we see today! Despite not standing out in any one offensive statistic, he averaged a .345 OBP and .470 SLG with the club - good for an OPS+ of 125 as a Cardinal. His 33.2 XBH% ranks 3rd among Cardinal COFs. Lastly, George did drive in runs well, averaging over 85 RBI per season with the Cardinals, topping 100 twice in his 6+ seasons here.
5) With #5, we move into the most ballyhooed of all Cardinal corner outfielders. These five all have tremendous resumes, starting with Lou Brock. Lou Brock holds a special place in most Cards' fans hearts. Whether it is because we stole him from the Cubs for Ernie Broglio or because he had 888 stolen bases as a Cardinal or because he's a Hall of Famer or because his number is retired as a Cardinal Great - Brock's name is synonymous with Cardinal Baseball, much like others on these lists before him. Lou Brock had 50 steals in his career (3+ years) with the Cubs before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. He ended up getting 33 more in the 103 games the season he was traded here. He then bested 50 stolen bases for 12 straight seasons, getting 118 as a 35-year old in 1974. However, Brock was not just a slap hitting stolen base threat - like a Vince Coleman - in his first 1044 games as a Cardinal, he also ripped 95 home runs along with 290 doubles and triples! Brock scored the 2nd most runs in Cardinal history - leading the league twice in that category in individual seasons and scoring over 100 runs seven times. In 1968, he led the league in doubles AND triples - yet somehow led the league in steals! Think about this, Brock reached base 233 times that year. He hit 6 home runs and 14 triples. That takes him down to 213 times on first base or second base. He stole 62 bases. That's not nearly as amazing as 1974, when he was on first or second base about 220 times and stole 118 bases! Brock led the league in stolen bases 8 times in his career and was the MLB career leader in stolen bases until Rickey Henderson broke Brock's mark later on. Brock was also a 6 time All-Star and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting 4 times - finishing 2nd in 1974.
4) Enos "Country" Slaughter was a good ol' suthen' boy from North Carolina. Another of the Cardinal Greats who has his name etched everywhere the Cardinals place their best of the best, Slaughter was known for his tremenous hustle on every play. He would have been a Tony LaRussa favorite today, with much more talent than most TLR favorites. It is even said that "Charlie Hustle" (Pete Rose) took his cue to run out every single play no matter what from Enos Slaughter. Slaughter is said to have gotten it from his minor league coach, Eddie Dyer. Dyer caught him walking off the field and confronted him. ''(He) said, 'Son, if you're tired, I'll get somebody else.'" - from that day on, nobody in MLB could ever say that they saw Enos walking anywhere on a baseball field. "Country" played his first 13 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, and unfortunately lost 3 years to WWII. The year before leaving, he finished 2nd in MVP voting and the year he got back he finished 3rd. Those three years (his age 27-29 years) could have easily added another 555 hits, 300 runs, 330 RBI, and 30 SB to his resume. As it was, however, Slaughter settled to get just over 2,000 hits with the Cardinals, leading the league in 1942, the year he left for the war. He also led the league in triples that year and one other. He led the league in doubles, with 52, in his second season and RBI in the season he came back from the war. He was a 10 time (straight) All-Star, 5 times finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting. He is the all time leader in WAR by a Cardinal corner outfielder and has the most walks per strikeout as well. And even though I never got to see him play, as he retired 21 years before I was born, my guess is he never "walked" down to first base.
3) Charles "Chick" Hafey is another former Cardinal who is enshrined in the halls of Cooperstown, NY's Baseball Hall of Fame. While he did not have the longevity of a Enos Slaughter or Lou Brock, Hafey was much better than his peers of the 1920s and 30s. Hafey's first three years in Cardinals' red only saw him play a total of 195 games. Once he became a full-time starter in 1927, though, his next 5 seasons are nearly unparalleled. In those 5 years, his last 5 in St. Louis, he averaged an OPS of 1.009 and an OPS+ of 151! He averaged 93 runs, 39 doubles, 8 triples, 23 homers, and 100 RBI - all the while hitting .338 and slugging over .600. He led the NL is batting average once and slugging once. A similar player in today's game would probably be none other than the Cardinals' own, Matt Holliday.
2) James "Tip" O'Neill was one of those early greats, playing in pre-modern era baseball. He was a Cardinal (actually a Brown) from 1884 to 1889, then again for the 1891 season. As a Cardinal, he AVERAGED a 158 OPS+ for his career here - 58% better than his contemporaries. O'Neill led the league in hits, RBI, and batting average twice. However, in 1887, he led the league in nearly every offensive category - having what people nowadays call a "video game season." Here it is: In 1887, Tip led the league with:
167 runs, 225 hits, 52 doubles, 19 triples, 14 homers, 123 RBI, a .435 batting average, .490 OBP, .691 SLG, 1.180 OPS, 211 OPS+, and 357 total bases.
He also stole 30 bases that season, which did not lead the league. If you combine what EVERYONE ELSE did in the league and only look at the second best totals in each category, here's that line:
163 runs (his teammate, Arlie Latham), 220 hits,43 doubles, 19 triples (he actually tied 5 others for first in that category), 10 home runs,118 RBI, .402 avg, .464 OBP, .547 SLG, 1.011 OPS, 177 OPS+, and 299 total bases
Lastly, O'Neill was not great with the glove, but he led all Cardinal COFers with over 20 assists per/600 PAs. In an era where 100+ stolen bases was common to lead the league, there was a lot of running going on. The numbers are probably up because of that, but it's still nearly double most of his competitors in the category.
1) And the #1 Cardinal corner outfielder of all time by my formula is Joe "Ducky" Medwick. Ducky is another Cardinal Hall of Famer. He played in the 30s and 40s ('32-'40 with the Red birds before coming back to finish his career in STL in '47 and '48). Joe Medwick (in 1937) is the answer to the trivia question: Who is the last National League player to hit for the Triple Crown? Like Tip O'Neill before him, Medwick led nearly every offensive category that year, but the Triple Crown stat line was .374, with 31 homers and 154 RBI. Medwick won his one and only MVP that year, although he finished 4 times in the top 10. He also was an All-Star that year, making one of his 7 trips as a Cardinal and one of his 10 overall trips. Medwick led the league in at bats, runs, batting average, slugging, OPS, OPS+, triples, and homers once; hits twice; and doubles, RBI, and total bases three times. Medwick was also a very good defender, save for his 1934 campaign in which he led the league in errors. Medwick was top 5 in assists twice, to go along with leading the league in LF fielding % 3 times and range factor once.
Congratulations to those 6 great Cardinal corner outfielders!
Truly, the top four on this list could have gone in any direction. I wanted to uphold the integrity of my formula I had used for the rest of the lists, so I did. I personally would have Slaughter higher - probably 1st - 3rd, along with Medwick and Brock. O'Neill and Hafey were both great, but did not play here as long, so I would have had them as 4 and 5. In any case, have fun learning about or reminiscing on these players and let your debate begin!
1) Joe Medwick - 11.523
2) Tip O'Neill - 11.385
3) Chick Hafey - 11.245
4) Enos Slaughter - 10.885
5) Lou Brock - 9.566
6) George Hendrick - 9.049
This series was originally researched in early August, so statistics of current players may be slightly off now.