A Look at the St. Louis Cardinals' Offensive Production by Defensive Position

Bob Levey

Once again the Cardinals' potent offensive attack is based on excellent production up and down the lineup.

For the second season in a row, the St. Louis Cardinals offense was a prolific one. The Redbird hitters ranked second in the National League in runs scored, first in hits, second in batting average (BA), first in on-base percentage (OBP), fourth in slugging percentage (SLG), and third in on-base plus slugging (OPS). As in 2011, the 2012 Cards enjoyed offensive success due in large part to a balanced offense.

After last year's World Series championship run, we looked at the Cardinals' offensive production by defensive position, using sOPS+. The stat OPS is calculated by adding on-base percent and slugging percentage together. In order to help compare teams across eras and in the context of the ballparks they play in, OPS+ was developed. This stat is OPS adjusted for the offensive production in the league that year and for ballpark. It also scales the adjusted OPS to 100. An OPS+ of 100 is exactly average with a number greater than 100 being above-average and a number below 100 being below average. The higher an OPS+, the better it is.

In recent years, sOPS+ has also been developed. This stat is OPS+ for a given split relative the league's OPS for that given split. For this particular exercise, the splits are by defensive position. Simply put, in today's post, we are using sOPS+ to show how the Cardinals playing a certain defensive position hit relative to how the league as a whole hit when playing that same defensive position. Not all defensive positions hit at the same level. For example, a shortstop's offensive production is typically lower than a first baseman's. sOPS+ allows to see how well the Cardinals hit compared to their major league peers who play the same defensive position.

The following is a chart we looked at last year, updated with stats for the entirety of the 2012 season.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS sOPS+ BY DEFENSIVE POSITION (2001-2012)

Season

C

1B

2B

SS

3B

LF

CF

RF

2001

76

96

109

90

116

116

150

123

2002

90

89

88

119

105

119

148

97

2003

82

107

88

137

136

130

141

96

2004

78

165

88

97

148

82

163

97

2005

72

148

88

113

85

110

126

101

2006

63

146

89

94

130

91

95

95

2007

86

132

78

93

83

104

97

86

2008

100

148

103

78

115

98

122

123

2009

105

150

100

104

75

99

87

90

2010

95

146

87

74

79

134

122

101

2011

123

122

102

98

106

162

100

118

2012

132

113

92

104

124

129

102

119

As with last season, the Cardinals had a deep lineup that produced at an above-average level for nearly every position. Catcher, third base, and left field were most productive relative to their positional peers but first base and right field were also quite productive. Let's have a look at what players contributed to production the Cardinals received from each position.

CATCHER

Player

PA

% of PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

sOPS+

Molina

556

82.01%

.315

.373

.501

.874

142

Cruz

119

17.55%

.261

.277

.383

.660

83

Total

678

-

.305

.356

.480

.835

132

Looking at how well Yadier Molina hit in 2012 relative to his catching peers provides yet another reason why he was named a finalist for the National League Most Valuable Player award. Molina was a top offensive player overall in the NL and, compared to other catchers, he was even better--as evidenced by his 142 sOPS+. Tony Cruz hit like a backup catcher and drug the Cards' catcher sOPS+ down a bit. Even so, the number of PAs Molina totaled while posting an .874 OPS give the Cardinals catchers the highest sOPS+ of any position on the club.

FIRST BASE

Player

PA

% of PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

sOPS+

Craig

390

54.47%

.304

.349

.513

.861

120

Carpenter

135

18.85%

.297

.363

.500

.863

121

Adams

88

12.29%

.241

.284

.386

.670

72

Berkman

87

12.15%

.267

.368

.427

.794

106

Total

716

-

.293

.348

.485

.832

113

During the 2011 regular season, general manager John Mozeliak signed Lance Berkman to a one-year extension. Doing so gave the Cardinals an insurance policy in the event that Albert Pujols would leave via free agency. Pujols chose to sign with Anaheim last Hot Stove and Berkman became the primary first baseman. One of Mozeliak's best-laid plans as GM unraveled during the season. Berkman suffered a calf injury and then a significant knee injury. Allen Craig, the backup plan, also had early-seaosn injury troubles. These injuries caused the club to turn to first base prospect Matt Adams and utility man Matt Carpenter. Eventually, Craig asserted himself as the primary first baseman with an .861 OPS over 390 PAs. For the Angels, Pujols posted an .850 OPS and 128 sOPS+ over 670 PAs.

SECOND BASE

Player

PA

% of PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

sOPS+

Descalso

273

41.30%

.231

.315

.353

.668

91

Schumaker

208

31.47%

.280

.330

.370

.700

100

Greene

160

24.21%

.215

.272

.375

.647

83

Total

661

-

.240

.309

.363

.672

92

For the second consecutive season, second base in St. Louis resembled a game musical chairs. Three Cardinals took the vast majority of the PAs at the keystone, but no individual took more than 50 percent of the PAs. Descalso recevied a plurality of the PAs, taking 65 more than Skip Schumaker. Descalso's OPS of .668 while playing second base was so bad that it was well below average for his light-hitting peers at second. Schumaker, once lauded as a good hitter, only managed to post an OPS that was average for a big league second baseman.

THIRD BASE

Player

PA

% of PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

sOPS+

Freese

556

79.77%

.298

.372

.474

.846

125.

Carpenter

103

14.78%

.299

.398

.460

.858

129

Descalso

38

5.45%

.219

.324

.375

.699

87

Total

697

-

.294

.374

.467

.840

124

Entering the season, one of the many health question marks in the Cardinals lineup was David Freese. The hero of last year's October answered that question emphatically. Freese notched 556 PAs, which made up 79.77 percent of the team's PAs for third basemen. On top of being healthy, Freese was also productive. His .846 OPS was good for a 125 sOPS+. His primary backup was no slouch either. Carpenter posted an .858 OPS and 129 sOPS+, making third base a very productive position for the 2012 Redbirds.

SHORTSTOP

Player

PA

% of PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

sOPS+

Furcal

529

73.99%

.265

.326

.347

.674

97

Descalso

86

12.03%

.237

.298

.263

.561

66

Kozma

81

11.33%

.338

.388

.577

.965

178

Total

715

-

.273

.331

.367

.698

104

Veteran Rafael Furcal got off to a white-hot start in 2012, but then saw his production plummet back to earth. By time the time Frucal injured his ulnar collateral ligament, he had 529 PAs under his belt and a .674 OPS to his name. While nothing to write home about for a ballplayer, a .674 OPS is not bad for a shortstop, as evidenced by Furcal's 97 sOPS+. Manager Mike Matheny initially used Descalso to fill in for Furcal, but Descalso's limited defense at the more demanding position and awful bat forced Matheny to look elsewhere. Enter the warlock. Memphis utility man Pete Kozma took over and provided decent glove work and otherworldly offensive production. Indeed, the Cardinals shortstops managing to post an above-average 104 sOPS+ as a group is due to Kozma's .965 OPS, which equals a 178 sOPS+. RIP, Spilly.

LEFT FIELD

Player

PA

% of PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

sOPS+

Holliday

676

91.72%

.293

.377

.495

.872

130

Craig

22

2.99%

.286

.318

.571

.890

130

Carpenter

18

2.44%

.353

.389

.412

.801

115

Chambers

11

1.49%

.364

.364

.364

.727

96

Total

737

-

.294

.374

.494

.868

129

Matt Holliday is a tough player. The Cards' $120 million man dealt with injuries throughout the season; most prominently, a nagging back injury of undisclosed severity. He still managed to make 676 PAs; or, 91.72 percent of the PAs taken by Cardinals left fielders. No other Cardinal took more than 22 PAs at the position. Holliday posted an .872 OPS, which was excellent compared to the other sluggers who play the position, as evidenced by his sOPS+ of 130.

CENTER FIELD

Player

PA

% of PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

sOPS+

Jay

501

69.58%

.305

.374

.400

.774

109

Robinson

108

15.00%

.290

.333

.400

.733

97

Schumaker

52

7.22%

.304

.373

.413

.786

112

Chambers

27

3.75%

.217

.308

.304

.612

66

Beltran

26

3.61%

.231

.231

.385

.615

62

Total

720

-

.294

.357

.393

.750

102

In 2011, Cardinals center fielders posted a 100 sOPS+ as a group, meaning they were exactly average for their position. In 2012, the group posted a 102 sOPS+, which is just a tick above average for center fielders. Because of a shoulder injury, primary center fielder Jon Jay only totaled 501 PAs during the 2012 season. His production when healthy was quite good. Jay posted a .774 OPS, which was works out to an above-average sOPS+ of 109. Shane Robinson notched 108 PAs in center field and managed a .733 over those PAs, which equals a 97 sOPS+. I've included Schumaker and Beltran in this chart just to remind us that they saw time in center field during the 2012 season.

RIGHT FIELD

Player

PA

% of PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

sOPS+

Beltran

564

78.33%

.264

.345

.492

.837

119

Craig

90

12.50%

.346

.411

.580

.991

159

Carpenter

39

5.42%

.270

.308

.351

.659

75

Schumaker

13

1.81%

.273

.385

.364

.748

102

Chambers

10

1.39%

.143

.400

.429

.829

121

Total

729

-

.273

.350

.487

.837

119

One of the primary reasons the Cardinals were able to sign veteran Carlos Beltran to a club-friendly two-year deal was his health history. During the 2012 season, Beltran experienced problems with both of his knees as well as a hand injury. Nonetheless, the switch-hitter took 564 PAs in right field and posted an .837 OPS. His 119 sOPS+ while playing right field is the same as Cards right fielders as a group even though Craig, who has the second most PAs while playing right field, posted a .991 OPS and 159 sOPS+. As a group, Cards' right fielders posted an OPS of .837 in 2012 that was 18 points lower than the group's .855 OPS in 2011. That the Cards right fielders' sOPS+ in 2012 of 119 is a point higher than their sOPS+ of 118 in 2011 is evidence of how production at the position league-wide dipped from 2011 to 2012.

For the second straight season, the Cardinals received average or above-average production from the vast majority of positions on the field. This depth led to a potent offensive attack that helped lead the club to the league's second Wild Card berth. With the Cardinals returning all of their primary starters for 2013, the club is well-positioned to once again have a top offensive team even after the loss of hitting coach Mark McGwire.

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