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WAR Cards -- the hot corner

About a month ago, I began a series of comparing Cards’ players since 1955 by position in terms of their WAR as Cards. With the beginning of the season, I let it fade away but w/ the Cards playing so well right now, I decided to come back to it. After all, what more can be said? We’re pitching. We’re hitting. Defense is OK. So today I’m looking at the hot corner. I’m using Sean Smith’s fantastic historical WAR database as the basis for my information.

I didn’t realize really how much turnover there’s been at third base until looking into this. I figured I could easily rattle off about 6 names of players who’ve played there for several years and then realized a lot of guys were only there for a couple of years – Torre, Tatis, Polanco. But the hot corner’s been pretty good to Cards teams over the years and, recently, it’s enabled us to forget the Todd Zeile years. (I’d have figured he would have at least made the top 5 but would you believe he didn’t have 1 league average year at 3B for the Cards?) Anyway, w/o further ado, the top 5 Cards third basemen since 1955.

1. Ken Boyer

I would have put my money on Rolen being #1 but Boyer was much better than I realized. Not only did his tenure w/ the team enable him to pile up 52.2 WAR, but his top 5 years bests Rolen’s as well – averaging more than 6 WAR in those 5 years. He was also the 3B for the 1964 World Series champs. Truly an all-around baseball player, he got value from offense, his defense, and from playing nearly every game every year.

2. Scott Rolen

A fantastic player in his prime, it’s sad to see how far he’s fallen. Injuries have really taken their toll on him but, for 5+ years in a Cards’ uni, he was simply one of the best, if not the best, 3B in the game. A cornerstone of the 2004 MV3 group – along w/ Edmonds and Pujols, he also won a ring on the 2006 World Champs. Inexplicably denied the MVP of the Series, Rolen’s OPS during the 5 game series was 1.213. He hit one of the 2 homers hit by the Cards and had 3 doubles in the 5 games.

3. Terry Pendleton

A mainstay on the Cards’ World Series teams of 1985 and 1987, Pendleton is the 3rd best 3B of the last 55 years. He was up and down during his time as a Cardinal, but earned more than 2 wins playing half a season as a rookie, and was worth 3.4 and 4.1 WAR in 1987 and 1989, respectively. His game winning homer off the Mets in 1987 was huge in helping defeat our main competition for the NL East title.

4. Joe Torre

Joe was a third baseman for the Cards for just 2 years – in 1971 and 1972. He won the league MVP in 1971 by hitting .363 w/ 24 homers and 137 RBI. He was worth 6.7 WAR that season but just 2.7 in 1972.

5. Ken Oberkfell

Like Shannon, Zeile, Polanco, and Torre, Oberkfell is one Cards’ 3B who also earned significant WAR at another position. Oberkfell was the 5th best 2B for the Cards and he’s also the 5th best 3B of the last 55 years. He was a solid, if unspectacular player during his tenure in St. Louis, and was an above average 3B for the 3 years he played the hot corner w/ the Cards.

3rd Base Total WAR 5 year peak
Boyer 52.2 31.3
Rolen 25.3 24.1
Pendleton 13.3 12.7
Torre 9.4 9.4
Oberkfell 8.2 8.2

I’ll have a game thread up in a few hours as the Cards go for their 2nd consecutive sweep. It won’t be easy, however. Rich Harden’s on the hill for the Cubbies!