Who was the Cardinals 2019 MVP?
This poll is closed
MLB will announce its league MVP winners on November 14. A Cardinal player is not among the finalists for this award. While the season ended in agonizing fashion at the hands of the eventual World Series Champion Nationals, a division title and a trip to the NLCS doesn’t happen without some standout performances. Who was the MVP of the Cardinals in 2019?
These kinds of things are always subjective. That’s why I’m presenting you, the fan base of Viva El Birdos, with six candidates to choose from – two pitchers and four hitters. I’ll provide you with the starting ammunition – stats I feel are relevant and noteworthy for each player – but then I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself. Vote in the poll above! Maybe I missed a player that should be included? Make your own argument in the comments section below!
.233/.318/.444, 4.1 WAR
11.4 UZR, best among NL SS’s
Paul DeJong’s season was one of extremes. He was a legitimate league MVP candidate through May before wearing down in the second half. He finished the season providing the Cardinals with their best overall production (4.1 WAR) from a non-pitcher, and that production came from both excellent defense and home run power, a combination that has proven historic among Cardinal shortstops. Dejong’s UZR was the second-best defensive performance by a Cardinals shortstop since the stat has existed. His 30 HR’s are by far the most by a short stop in team history and his WAR was the third best since 2000. While homers, UZR and defense are all cumulative stats, an argument can be made that DeJong was hurt by playing too much. He started 156 games this season and appeared in 159. By season’s end, DeJong seemed gassed at the plate, and fan optimism had dwindled with each mounting strikeout. The big picture is what matters. How can a Gold Glove-caliber defender at SS who also smashed 30 home runs NOT be a leading candidate for team MVP?
.304/.350/.500, 3.2 WAR
Team high 123 wRC+
With a nod to Giovanny Gallegos, Tommy Edman is the most surprising name to end up on this list. As he worked his way through the minors, Edman carried a Daniel Descalso-like offensive profile – good contact ability with almost no real power – to go along with solid if unspectacular defense at second and third. That made Edman a useful system player, but he entered 2019 well behind Jedd Gyorko and Yairo Munoz on the major league roster, and in a battle with a host of others in the minor league infield depth chart. Then Spring Training happened. Edman saw action in 22 games while putting up a 900 OPS and earning praise from the Cardinals brass. The surge continued through half a season with AAA Memphis. With Matt Carpenter scuffling and the Cards growing desperate, the Cards went looking for a spark plug. Edman was called up in early June and quickly jumped past Munoz as Shildt’s favorite play-anywhere utility man. Edman logged time at second, third, and all three outfield positions, and regardless of where he played, he hit. His .304 batting average and 123 wRC+ led the team among player with over 50 PA’s, and he managed 11 HR’s to go along with 15 steals. The Cardinals entered the season expecting 3+ WAR at third base. They got it from Tommy Edman, not Matt Carpenter, and in just half a season.
2.75 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 4.7 WAR
.91 era in the second half
The hype surrounding Flaherty during Spring Training was palpable. An excellent rookie season and obviously electric stuff had caused more than a few national commentators to prop Flaherty up as a Cy Young contender. The ridiculously high expectations probably fed the disappointment fans felt at the All-Star break when Flaherty had stumbled to a 4.64 ERA. After Tyler Skaggs’ tragic passing on July 1, something flipped in the 23-year-old starter. Flaherty went off in the second half, producing a .91 era over 99 innings. After allowing 2 runs in six innings on July 26 to Houston, Flaherty only allowed 7 runs for the rest of the season. Brilliance followed him into the postseason. While the offense busted the game open in the first inning of Game 5 of the NLDS, Flaherty also did his job, pitching a gem to secure the Cards first postseason series win since 2014. Flaherty ended up in the Cy Young conversation by the end of the season; his 4.7 WAR topped the Cardinals and was 7th best in the NL. While the Cards should look for pitching this offseason, its clear they already have their ace.
2.31 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 1.6 WAR
1.59 WPA, 23rd best among relievers
Gallegos is a dark-horse inclusion on this list. Acquired in the Luke Voit trade, Gallegos broke onto the roster in a move that was at least partially motivated by PR. Facing an early season series in Mexico, the club was in need of an extra arm and they gave Gallegos a trial run in front of his home-nation fans. This callup proved to be one of the best moves the front office made all season. Gallegos led all Cardinals relievers in WAR and, after Hicks was lost to Tommy John surgery, he emerged as the Cards most dominant reliever, serving as Shildt’s fireman. Gallegos’ strength — and the reason he could get some nods as team-MVP — came from getting outs over multiple innings, often against the opponent’s best hitters. Gallegos pitched more than an inning in 25 of his 66 appearances. His success hinged on his ability to generate K’s without giving up BB’s. His K/BB ratio was third highest by any Cardinal reliever with over 50 ip’s since 2000. Team MVP? Maybe not. But, late-inning, high-pressure relief is as volatile a role on a roster as there is, and Gallegos was among the better performers in the league when wins were on the line.
.260/.346/.476, 2.9 WAR
161 games, 688 PA’s
Goldschmidt almost did not make this list. That’s noteworthy since the Cardinals entered this season hoping he would compete not only for club MVP but league MVP. It’s impossible to describe Goldschmidt’s 2.9 WAR performance as anything other than a disappointment. He only hit .260 and his walk rate decreased from his career. Still, the unflappable first baseman cracked 33 home runs and drove in 97. When the club needed a surge to climb back into contention after a May collapse, Goldschmidt came through. He produced a .271 ISO in the second half, good for an OPS of .886. Clearly missing the hitter-friendly confines of Chase Field, Goldy was among the Cardinals most productive regulars. His wRC+ was second to Tommy Edman and he offered that production for 161 games – all but three as a starter – and nearly 700 plate appearances. If his high-end performance was lacking, he could be counted on for quality at the plate and in the field every single day. That matters.
.285/.361/.423, 3.7 WAR
5.2 UZR, best in the league
Kolten Wong was finally able to put his offensive potential together with his best-in-the-league defensive abilities and then stay (relatively) healthy. It’s about time! Cardinals fans have expected this type of season from Wong since he first arrived as a heralded rookie in 2011. Wong’s 3.7 WAR in 2019 was the best of his career and second best among Cardinals offensive players. In Wong’s case, it seems like when he produced mattered as much or more than how much he produced. In July and August, Wong combined to hit .366/446/.517. That’s good for a 964 OPS. The Cardinals rode Wong’s electric bat and eye-popping defense to a 34-18 record during that stretch. Do the Cardinals win the division without Wong’s surge at that exact time? Almost certainly not. Can Kolten Wong repeat his career performance? While other players on this list are likely to fall back (looking at you, Tommy Edman), 2019 might just be the start of a new normal for Kolten Wong.