How Do the St. Louis Cardinals Batters Compare to MLB Positional Averages?

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Almost all of the St. Louis Cardinals position players were above-average batters during the 2013 regular season when compared to the MLB averages for their respective positions.

With the World Series coming to a heart-breaking close at Fenway Park last week, baseball's offseason stove is heating up. In the days since Matt Carpenter's strikeout ended the St. Louis Cardinals' season, Tom, Dan and Azru have laid the groundwork for cold-weather musings on St. Louis's roster construction. Cardinals rosterbation has so far focused on Carlos Beltran and a qualifying offer, shortstop, and--somewhat surprisingly--David Freese as well as Jon Jay.

I thought we could use some more perspective on the Redbirds' roster, as currently constructed. I put together some charts which compare the Cardinals position players' batting to the MLB average for their respective positions. Each chart contains batting average (BA), on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), on-base plus slugging (OPS), isolated power (ISO), weighted on-base average (wOBA), and weighted runs created plus (wRC+).

CATCHER

Catcher

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.245

.310

.388

.698

.143

.307

92

Molina

.319

.359

.477

.836

.158

.362

134

Diff.

+ .074

+ .049

+ 0.89

+ .138

+ .015

+ .055

+ 42

Sometimes I find myself taking Yadier Molina for granted. Molina's disabled list stint this season went a long way toward curing this tendency. Nonetheless, it's easy to get used to Molina insane bat control and uncanny contact skill. When one compares Molina to the MLB catcher batting averages, his elite batting talents jump off the page. (Then you remember how great he is at defense and just grin.)

In 2013, seven catchers posted a league-average wRC+ of 100 or better. Four catchers batted for a wRC+ of 133 or better. At 34% above league-average, Molina's offensive output last year was amazing--especially for someone who makes his living donning the tools of ignorance.

FIRST BASE

First Base

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.254

.332

.430

.762

.176

.333

110

Craig

.315

.373

.457

.830

.142

.363

135

Diff.

+ .061

+ .041

+ .027

+ .068

- .034

+ .030

+ 25

Allen Craig put together an excellent offensive season before suffering a nasty Lisfranc injury. Craig put together his second consecutive injury-shortened season with a wRC+ in the 130s (2012, 138). In posted a 135 wRC+, Craig's 2013 offensive profile was quite different from 2012, even if the overall value of his batting was similar.

In 2012, Craig showed impressive power. He clubbed 22 homers and 35 doubles in 119 games. Craig managed just 13 round-trippers and 29 doubles in 134 games this season. The lack of pop in 2013 represents the only below-average aspect of Craig's 2013 batting profile. Craig's .142 ISO was not only below the first-base average but the overall MLB average of .146.

The Cardinals' other first baseman did not suffer from such a power outage in 2013.

First Base

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.254

.332

.430

.762

.176

.333

110

Adams

.284

.335

.503

.839

.220

.365

136

Diff.

+ .030

+ .003

+ .073

+ .077

+ .044

+ .032

+ 26

Adams hit for a lower average than Craig, but his BA was stiller higher than the average for first baseman. Adams also got on base at a lower rate than Craig. Adams's power-hitting allowed him to just barely surpass Craig in overall offensive production (by wOBA and wRC+). Adams posted a SLG of .503 despite his .284 average. Big Mayo's .220 ISO led the team, was well above the average for MLB first baseman, and placed him just behind Mike Napoli and Adam Dunn (.223 each).

SECOND BASE

Second Base

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.257

.316

.376

.692

.119

.305

91

Carpenter

.318

.392

.481

.873

.163

.381

147

Diff.

+ .061

+ 0.76

+ .105

+ .181

+ .044

+ .076

+ 56


Matt Carpenter's offensive production during the 2013 season was absurd. Carpenter was head and shoulders above the MLB second-base averages. Here are his ranks amongst qualified second baseman:
  • BA - 1st
  • OBP - 1st
  • SLG - 2nd (Cano, .516)
  • OPS - 2nd (Cano, .899)
  • ISO - 8th
  • wOBA - 2nd (Cano, .384)
  • wRC+ - 1st
There were rumblings last month that Robinson Cano was seeking a $300 million contract. While Carpenter has put up just one elite offensive season as a regular and Cano many, this nonetheless gives one an idea of just how good Carpenter's batting was in 2013. Carpenter put up an eight-figure season.

SHORTSTOP

Shortstop

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.254

.308

.367

.675

.113

.298

85

Kozma

.217

.275

.273

.548

.056

.241

50

Diff.

- .037

- .033

- .094

- .127

- .057

- .057

- 35


Pete Kozma's 2013 batting line will go down as one of the worst offensive seasons for a Cardinal in franchise history. Shortstop is a light-hitting position, with teams putting emphasis on glovework at the position. Even by the low offensive standards of the shortstop position, Kozma was a horrible batter in 2013. Kozma's ISO of .056 was actually closer to zero than it was MLB's shortstop average. The former first-round pick could not make contact, get on the basepaths, or hit for power. Kozma brought nothing to the table offensively.

Shortstop

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.254

.308

.367

.675

.113

.298

85

Descalso

.238

.290

.366

.656

.128

.284

80

Diff.

- .016

- .018

- .010

- .019

+ .015

- .014

- 5


As the desolateness of the black hole that Kozma represented to the lineup became clear, manager Mike Matheny began starting lefthanded-batting Daniel Descalso at short more and more. Descalso does not have very good range at shortstop but was a less-terrible bat than Kozma. Descalso's solid start with the bat gave way to Kozma-esque out-making in the season's final months. By the end of the year, Descalso was also below average offensively when compared to the MLB shortstop average.

Kozma and Descalso's batting numbers make crystal clear why the club's No. 1 offseason priority should be upgrading at shortstop.

THIRD BASE

Third Base

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.256

.317

.398

.715

.142

.314

97

Freese

.262

.340

.381

.721

.119

.322

106

Diff.

+ .06

+ .023

- .017

+ .006

- .023

+ .008

+ 9


David Freese had a rough year at the plate, but it wasn't bad. The man who made 2011 World Series Game 6 an everlasting memory for Cardinals fans never looked like himself at the plate in 2013. Freese's average sagged and power-hitting disappeared. After clubbing 20 homers in 2012, Freese managed just nine long-balls in 2013. As a result, Freese's ISO fell 55 points, from .174 to .119. Nonetheless, Freese still managed an above-average wRC+ when compared to either the MLB overall average or the MLB third-baseman average.

Third Base

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.256

.317

.398

.715

.142

.314

97

Carpenter

.318

.392

.481

.873

.163

.381

147

Diff.

+ .062

+ .072

+ .083

+ .158

+ .021

+ .067

+ 50


Carpenter's 2013 number stack up pretty nicely with the MLB third-baseman average, too. If Carpenter hits like he did in 2013, he can play anywhere in the field. Given that Carpenter came up as a third baseman, it's no wonder that some are looking to the perceived greener pastures of an infield featuring Kolten Wong at second base, Carpenter at third, and Freese somewhere else.

LEFT FIELD

Left Field

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.252

.320

.399

.719

.147

.317

99

Holliday

.300

.389

.490

.879

.190

.383

148

Diff.

+ .048

+ .079

+ 0.91

+ .160

+ .043

+ .066

+ 49


Matt Holliday is really good at hitting a baseball. I feel like a broken record. Every year, I write about how good Holliday is. Then, Holliday hits really well again and I write about how good he is again. Tick tock, Holliday is like the metronome of the Cardinals' lineup. The club is fortunate to have him manning left field.

CENTER FIELD

Center Field

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.258

.324

.395

.719

.137

.317

99

Jay

.276

.351

.370

.721

.095

.319

104

Diff.

+ .018

+ .027

- .025

+ .002

- .042

+ .002

+ 5


Jay is a player who hits for a solid average and reaches base at a rate well above average. While Jay doesn't have much pop and probably never will, he's a slightly above-average batsman for a center fielder. Jay posted 1.9 fWAR in 2013; Carlos Beltran posted 2.0. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how long the Cardinals wait to call up top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras if Jay's subpar defense continues into next season.

RIGHT FIELD

Right Field

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.261

.324

.419

.743

.158

.325

105

Beltran

.296

.339

.491

.830

.195

.359

132

Diff.

+ .035

+ .015

+ .072

+ .087

+ .037

+ .034

+ 27


Beltran put up very good offensive numbers in 2013. Even though the aging veteran has clearly lost a step or seven in the outfield when compared to his prime, it's easy to see why folks are hopeful that the switch-hitting slugger will return in 2014. The question is whether the combination of Adams at first and Craig in right can produce as much power as Craig at first and Adams Beltran in right.

Right Field

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB

.261

.324

.419

.743

.158

.325

105

Craig

.315

.373

.457

.830

.142

.363

135

Diff.

+ .054

+ .049

+ .038

+ .087

- .016

+ .038

+ 30


Craig's 2013 offensive profile fits right field a bit better than first base. The problem is that Craig's throwing arm and injury-sapped defensive range are more suited for first base than right field. No matter what, the Cardinals appear poised to choose offense over defense in right field for the fourth straight season. It's just a question of whether the offense is primarily produced by Craig or Beltran.

###

As the Hot Stove begins, it's important to keep in mind what the Cardinals need as opposed to what would be nice. The Cardinals' National League pennant is proof that having average players man a position or two is fine. A club can even create a black hole in one lineup spot and compete for a World Series title. With the wonderful 2013 season in the rear view mirror, it's clear what the Cardinals need. Shortstop--and not third base or center field--should be the club's primary focus during the offseason.
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