Baseball is the greatest sport in existence and just one small reason why is that there is a game on just about every single day from Opening Day until the final pitch is thrown in the World Series. If you root for a team that didn’t make the playoffs, you still get to see 162 games. There is a downside to this. You might not necessarily remember moments that felt important and exciting at the time after just a few months have passed.
This post is for you and frankly, for me as well. These are individually amazing plays, awesome moments, or anything in between that just makes baseball worth watching because baseball sure makes us go through a lot in order to get to these moments. Losing streaks, blown leads, errors, offensive droughts, robbed hits, TOOTBLANs, devastating losses, boring games, frustrating managerial moves, stranded runners, extra inning losses, and the Cubs making the playoffs. Let’s take a look at some of those plays.
Pitcher Home Runs
Fun fact: the Cardinals pitchers led major league baseball with 1.1 fWAR with their bat. They hit six homers, one higher than the Reds, and four higher than every other team. They drove in 23 runs, four higher than the Reds again. Damn you Michael Lorenzo! The Cardinals’ pitchers had a .084 ISO, which was higher than 20 hitters with at least 200 PAs, including Greg Garcia, Jon Jay, Orlando Arcia, and Jarrod Dyson. Yes, there were 20 actual major league hitters who were less likely to hit an extra base hit than Cardinals pitchers’ combined.
Against the Brewers, Miles Mikolas hit a home run for his first major league hit against the Brewers. In a scoreless game the Cardinals eventually won 3-2, Carlos Martinez hit a solo home run on May 2. On August 14, John Gant got his first ever major league too with a home run against the Nationals. On August 24, Miles Mikolas hit a two-run shot at Coors Field for his second homer of the season. On August 30, Gant hit his second home run of the year too with a solo shot. Then on September 13, Tyson Ross hit a home run off Clayton freaking Kershaw in a game the Cards would lose.
Kolten Wong’s Defense
This could be an entire post just focusing on the amazing plays made by Kolten Wong. Unfortunately, MLB.com does not have a video of Kolten Wong’s defensive highlights for an easy link. But I’ll share a few. Here are some double play balls, which include tagging a runner and quickly throwing, an over-the shoulder catch and throw, and quick turns. Here’s a diving play when playing in, saving a run. Bases-loaded two outs, diving play to save a run here as well. And of course, I got to give you the two plays that seem to defy physics.
Matt Carpenter’s Run
Matt Carpenter became very hot for a very long time, beginning in the middle of May, with eight doubles and four homers to close out the month. He topped May with eight homers and eight doubles in June. He belted 3 HRs, 2 2Bs in one day against the Cubs. He homered six straight days. He won NL Player of the Month for June... and then won NL Player of the Week in the first week of August. He tied a big league record for 4 doubles in one game. He had multiple 5-5 games, and he hit 5 homers and three doubles in both games. His run really was absurd.
The Cardinals walked off a lot in 2018. I mean a lot. They had seven walk-off hits by June 2. It slowed down after that, but it was pretty awesome. Tyler O’Neill walked it off against the Giants, when it seemed like it would push the Cards to the playoffs. Paul DeJong hit a 2-run homer to send us home. Jose Martinez hit a two-run single to walk it off against the Rockies. A Marcell Ozuna solo homer in the 10th. And the other seven are in the video below.
Marcell Ozuna Moonshots
Ozuna had a disappointing season, power-wise, in some respects. Namely, that he didn’t hit as many homers as we thought he might. In other respects, he delivered. His first ever home run with the Cardinals went 479 feet. Here he is in Petco Park, a pitcher’s park, delivering a ball into the second balcony in the left field. Here is a grand slam that is essentially a line drive. This one goes behind the left field bullpen. Here is a home run hit almost 114 mph. Lastly, a 450 foot home run because I have to end this at some point.
Jordan Hicks Fastball
Jordan Hicks fastball is probably not something anybody will forget. Hicks threw the fastest pitch in baseball on May 1. It was 102. He reached 103.2 mph on May 19. Then he threw the five fastest pitches in baseball.... in the same outing. I don’t think he ever reached those heights again - just look at his accuracy in the 105 mph pitches. But he still did things like struck out back-to-back hitters with a 102 on the high-outside corner and then 101 sinking away from a lefty. But my favorite sequence from Jordan Hicks is to Ozzie Albies, which is just insanely unhittable.
2018 PitchingNinja Unfair At Bat Award (tie).— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 19, 2018
Jordan Hicks vs Ozzie Albies.
1. 101mph "Get me Over" Sinker on the Black
2. 88mph Back Foot Slider
3. 100mph Alien Sinker. pic.twitter.com/qnEdIwKglo
Harrison Bader’s Defense
I don’t want to make this post too long, so I am very, very happy that someone on Youtube decided to make a highlight reel of Harrison Bader catches. Thank you, sincerely. This video might be missing some catches, but they are six minutes of catches and I think whoever it is captured the essence of seeing Bader on defense.
Added bonus: Harrison Bader scoring from second on an infield single and no errors.
There are more of course. When Jose Martinez was on offensively, it was line drive after line drive, only interrupted by a line drive out. Yadier Molina still threw out runners and also hit six home runs in the first few weeks. Tyler O’Neill’s power was fun to watch. Miles Mikolas controlling a game with precision and strikes. Carlos Martinez whenever he was able to get in a groove. Paul DeJong’s play does not lend itself to a post like this - he makes good plays but they don’t necessarily look good - and he has power, but doesn’t hit home runs like Ozuna - but I enjoyed how much he improved his game and became a good all-around player.
With the exception of pitcher home runs and maybe walk-off hits, everything on this list returns for 2019. Hicks with his fastball, Ozuna’s power, Wong and Bader’s defense, and Matt Carpenter - well maybe his ridiculous run won’t return, but Carpenter himself will return. I feel a bit more optimistic about the Cards right now! This is my last post for 2018, so happy new year!