After a long wait, you finally get MLB the Show 20 shipped to you. You are excited to see what the new game has to offer. As you scroll through the teams in the exhibition mode, you begin to notice that there seems to be a new feature. Rangers ‘10s, Cardinals ‘10s, Reds ‘10s. Of course, being a Cardinals fan, you click on the Cardinals’ 10s to see the team. And...
Well, that’s the idea behind this post anyway. What would a well-constructed 25 man roster look like for the decade of the 2010s for the St. Louis Cardinals? The players picked would only be represented in the years they played for the Cardinals in this current decade. For example, Cole Hamels for the Cubs would only count in the latter half of 2018 and 2019, not any of his Phillie or Ranger years. Also every year counts. I am not picking the individual best years. So Chris Davis of the Orioles gets his whole Orioles career, not just his two great years.
So without further ado, let’s get to the starting lineup. We start with an extremely easy pick, Yadier Molina. He’s also the only pick. Combined the rest of the catchers the Cardinals used at catcher had 46.3 less fWAR than Yadier Molina. Which is remarkable since Molina had 40.5 fWAR in that span. I have no idea who I’m going to pick at backup.
First base is both tricky and not tricky at all. The Cardinals haven’t really had a lot of stability at the position. For the first two years, there was Albert Pujols. Then some names that have led the team in 1B appearances since then: Allen Crag, Matt Adams, Mark Reynolds, and Matt Carpenter. A good number of starts from Brandon Moss and Jose Martinez as well. For the decade, Matt Carpenter actually played less 1B than Pujols did in just two years, and 10.7 fWAR is enough to best him.
Also easy? 2B. Kolten Wong has been the starter or mostly starter for six of the ten years and his 14 fWAR easily outpaces his competition. In fact, second place is Matt Carpenter, because his best ever season came at 2B. Matt Carpenter however does win the 3B starting job. Rounding out the infield is Paul DeJong, who played in 33 less games than Jhonny Peralta with 4 more fWAR. So another easy one.
In the outfield, Matt Holliday is far and way the WAR leader. The second outfielder isn’t particularly difficult either. In his short time here, Tommy Pham was the 2nd place WAR leader in the CF. The third OF spot is a bit trickier. Jon Jay is third place and 4th place isn’t that close, but the Cardinals had a few RF options who were better than Jay while they were here. They just weren’t here long.
There’s Jason Heyward, Lance Berkman, and Carlos Beltran, all of whom had at least one year better than Jay’s best year. Berkman, as a starter at least, is out though, because he was here in 2012 too and that counts. Carlos Beltran’s second best season, 2.7 fWAR, was narrowly below Jay’s best (2.9) so I think it’s fair to place him over Jay. But then there’s Heyward. I got to give it to Heyward. He had slightly less total fWAR with the Cardinals, but he did it in one less year. Starting OF of Matt Holliday, Tommy Pham, and Jason Heyward.
The Cardinals pitcher of the decade is Adam Wainwright. Second and third are close together, with Carlos Martinez and Lance Lynn. The 4th and 5th place finishers are trickier, because neither was a reliable bet to pitch a full season. Sixth place certainly wasn’t either, but the 4th spot in the rotation goes to Chris Carpenter, with 7.5 fWAR in his two full seasons and a couple starts of the third. And the 5th spot will go to Jack Flaherty. If you were wondering, the 4th and 5th place pitchers were Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha.
For the bullpen, I’m going to stick with full-time relievers if possible. The closer is Trevor Rosenthal, who leads the rest of the relievers-only squad by 4.5 WAR. Sueng-Hwan Oh did most of his work in one season, but he’s in second place if you don’t count Carlos Martinez. Here’s where the volatility of reliever seasons really becomes obvious, but my next two picks are one season guys: Pat Neshek and Giovanny Gallegos. I’m also choosing the half season version of Octavio Dotel. And that leaves two more spots open, which I’m giving to Kevin Siegrist and Jason Motte.
For the bench, I’m not going to pick necessarily the best players. Between Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman, I can really only choose one of the two, due to the all bat, no defense aspect and Berkman was the better bat with a 158 wRC+. I would rather the other outfielder be defense-oriented. And while Jon Jay is underrated defensively by the Cardinals fanbase, you know I got to go with Harrison Bader here. Although I believe Bader’s 3.6 WAR per 600 PAs would in fact lead the rest of the guys anyway, so I probably did end up picking the best players.
In the infield, with Berkman being able to play 1B, I’ll focus more on the rest of the positions. And David Freese makes a pretty perfect bench bat. He had a 119 wRC+ with the Cardinals and also mashes lefties, which is pretty helpful with Carpenter and Wong both being lefties. The other infield spot can go to Tommy Edman, due to his switch hitting and ability to play all three positions.
That leaves catcher and honestly just pick a name out of a hat here. Tony Cruz was worth -2 WAR in his time here, so I can’t honestly pick him. I can’t pick Carson Kelly because his Cardinals career was not good. I got to go with Matt Wieters. He has the highest wRC+ of anybody with 100+ PAs. He’s also a switch hitter and hit a few homers, which seems more useful than anybody gave.
Now the fun part. How many games would this team win? For this exercise, I’m just going to give them their average WAR as a Cardinal, and account for plate appearances appropriately. With Wieters dragging him down - how appropriate for an all-2010 decade team honestly - Molina provides all of the 3.8 fWAR at catcher. First base gives 675 plate appearances to Pujols with 5.5 WAR thanks to minor contributions from Berkman as well.
A combination of Carpenter, Wong, and Edman provides 4.3 WAR at 2B, while the combination of Edman and DeJong provides a ridiculous 5 WAR at SS. Carpenter plus Freese is a respectable 4.1 WAR. I’ve been using the average PA while a Cardinal for the previous guys, but since Pham carries injury risk plus, I’ll simply combine his major and minor league PA for the years he was in the majors and give him full credit for the half year he was here, so he gets 472 PAs, Holliday gets 550 PAs, and Heyward gets 610 PAs. That leaves 478 PAs to split between Berkman and Bader for the OF.
Bader needs at least 228 PA since I’d rather he play CF if Pham cannot. Plus there’s 300 extra plate appearances, accounting for pinch-hitting and the DH spot. Berkman is definitely starting every DH game and the first pinch-hitter off the bench, so I’m giving him half of those. Which leaves 311 PAs for Bader , while Berkman gets 342 PAs (which is what he averaged in his two seasons). That gives the OF a total of 16.8 WAR. The other 150 PAs will go to Freese, so there’s another 0.6 WAR.
For the pitching staff, the Cardinals come very close to achieving the 883 innings the starters put up in 2019, with a combined 816. Considering this is taking into account Wainwright’s history, Chris Carpenter missing most of a year, Lynn’s Tommy John surgery, and Carlos moving to the bullpen, I cannot believe they still managed a normal SP workload here. Anyway, this would have ranked 18th last year, so I’m not inclined to add innings, even though the average amount of starts from this group is certainly not 162. That is a rotation that combines for 13.9 WAR.
Bullpen-wise, we get 1.4 WAR from Rosenthal, 2 WAR from Neshek, 1.6 from Gallegos, and 1.3 WAR from Oh. Motte has one season dragging him down, so he’s only at 0.5 WAR, while Siegrist has one really good season keeping him up at 0.4 WAR. That leaves Dotel, who leaves his mark with 0.9 WAR in just 24.2 IP. That gives the bullpen 8.1 WAR in a lot less innings than a bullpen usually throws, but I’m trying to keep this simple. For what it’s worth the 13.9 rotation WAR would rank 10th, and the bullpen WAR would rank first. The 22 WAR would rank 5th. I’m missing about 200 innings here and that’s a lot, so hell I’ll give 100 each to Michael Wacha and Jaime, because it feels weird to not have them on this team. That’s another 2.8 WAR.
In total, that’s 64.9 WAR (which would narrowly be the best in 2019, barely beating the Astros). A replacement level team is expected to win about 47 games, so the this all-2010 team is expected to win 112 games. I would like to see the Cardinals to win 112 games in a season. Anyway, my special apologies to Jon Jay not being on this list, because he has the 5th most PAs of the decade, and 6th place has 800 less. He also has the eighth highest WAR among hitters. That’s a guy who should be on a list like this, but Cards had a weirdly high amount of great RFs who were here for a minute and no longer, so he gets screwed. With my late inclusion of Wacha and Garcia, he’s the only one I wish I could have squeezed on the roster.