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The Cardinals Biggest Underachievers Last Season

MLB: NLCS-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Yadier Molina (.303 wOBA, .325 xwOBA)

While Yadi’s time as a key contributor in the lineup might be finished, he can still swing the bat as his average exit velocity (87.4 mph) was the third best among the team’s regular starters. He appears to have run into some poor batted ball luck last season that caused a major discrepancy between his actual slugging percentage and his expected slugging percentage. There was a 44 point gap between the two numbers, so while Molina’s slugging percentage of .399 was not great, his xSLG of .443 looked much better. While it makes sense that a 37 year old catcher would have lost a significant amount of power since the years of his prime, Molina still has some pop, he just dealt with some poor luck last season. This does not mean that Molina is going to be a strong hitter this season or see a restoration of power, it simply means that he may have actually hit the ball better than his normal statistics show.

Harrison Bader (.293 wOBA, .316 xwOBA)

Bader had the largest discrepancy between wOBA and xwOBA on the team with a 23 point difference. This makes sense as his 86.6 mph exit velocity was not great but it was just below Paul DeJong’s exit velocity (87.0) and notably higher than Kolten Wong’s (83.6). For a player with Bader’s speed, that should be enough to make him a decent hitter at least. Despite his struggles last season, the speedy centerfielder seems to have dealt with a tremendous amount of bad luck last season. His wOBACON (.351) and xwOBACON (.391) were separated by 40 points and his BABIP was just .268. He clearly struggled to hit breaking pitches last season, and at times he looked lost at the plate, but clearly his results on contact were not simply bad, but they were unlucky as well. Due to this, his batting average was 14 points lower than his xBA and his slugging was 42 points lower than his xSLG. Even if his numbers were the exact same as his expected numbers last season, they still would not have been great. However, they would have at least been more respectable, and they would have added more hitting value to a player who is already one of the best defensive players in the league.

Matt Carpenter (.315 wOBA, .332 xwOBA)

Similarly to Bader, Carpenter appears to have suffered from a good amount of bad luck at the plate, but even if he was luckier, his numbers still would not have looked great. The main reason for the discrepancy between his real numbers and expected numbers is an xwOBACON (.391) that is nearly 30 points higher than his wOBACON (.363). The most notable impact that this had was on his slugging percentage was 24 points below his xSLG. However, even his bad luck at the plate does not make things more encouraging for the third baseman. His actual numbers were not good last year and his expected numbers were better, but still not great. Additionally, there are some signs of decline at the plate for Carpenter as his strikeout rate has risen each of the past three years, going from 19.1% in 2016 to 26.2% last year. To compound his problems, his walk rate has also declined in consecutive years, going from 17.5% in 2017 to 12.8% in 2019. This is not a good sign for Carpenter. Not only are his results on contact declining, but his non-contact results are declining as well, which will make it even harder for him to provide production unless things change.

Paul Goldschmidt (.346 wOBA, .361 xwOBA)

Even without some of the bad luck that Goldschmidt experienced last year, he still had a successful season. His exit velocity (90.1 mph) was only behind Marcell Ozuna among the regular starters he posted a strong wRC+ of 116. However, 2019 was still the worst year of Goldschmidt’s career at the plate. It appears likely that the cause of this was largely due to poor batted ball luck as his BABIP of .302 was at least 50 points lower than his average in the previous five seasons. Additionally, his slugging percentage (.476) was 37 points lower than his xSLG (.513). Maybe last season was a sign that the first baseman is beginning to decline or maybe his lower production was due to a lack of batted ball luck. The latter seems probable, but it is also likely that Goldschmidt could be beginning to decline due to the fact that he is 32 years old. However, even with his age, if he had better batted ball luck, then his production would likely have been much closer to his career averages, meaning that improvement this season is likely.

Three of the Cardinals worst hitters last season appeared to suffer from bad luck at the plate as well as ineffectiveness. Additionally, three of the Cardinals oldest players also appeared to suffer from bad luck. This could be a sign that these players are simply declining, or it could be a sign of a coming bounce back season. It is likely a little bit of both for Goldschmidt, while for Molina and Carpenter, it seems more likely that age is taking a toll on them. There is still plenty of hope for Harrison Bader, though, as he is still young and very athletic. These players will be players to watch this season as any kind of improvement could be a big help to the Cardinals offense this year.