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Context for the Cardinals’ new corner infield duo

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How Goldschmidt and Arenado stack up against great 1B/3B combos

Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Good morning, all. Less than one week to go until the Spring Training schedule gets underway and we have actual games to talk about.

I imagine the Cardinals will have fairly conventional storylines developing throughout camp. Who will win a spot in the back of the rotation? How will the bench fill out? These, of course, are the type of questions that most teams ask themselves every spring. What most teams don’t have in a given year, however, is one of the best players in baseball joining their club. Since the beginning of 2015, Nolan Arenado’s 27.9 fWAR is tied for 7th most among all position players. Right behind him is Paul Goldschmidt at 27.6. In that timespan, 16 players have eclipsed the 25-win mark. Those 16 individuals will begin this season spread out across 14 teams, the only teammates being Arenado and Goldschmidt with the Cardinals and Mike Trout (1st, 46.4) and Anthony Rendon (T-7th, 27.9) with the Angels.

If we confine our search to corner infield pairs, Goldynado—is that the name we’ve settled on?—sport a combined WAR of 55.5 since 2015. Unsurprisingly, that’s an MLB best. Also unsurprising is that the second-place finisher at 50.6 wins is Bryzzo from the team that shall remain unnamed.

Side-by-side: Goldynado vs. Bryzzo

Year Goldschmidt WAR Arenado WAR Goldynado WAR Rizzo WAR Bryant WAR Bryzzo WAR
Year Goldschmidt WAR Arenado WAR Goldynado WAR Rizzo WAR Bryant WAR Bryzzo WAR
2015 7.2 4.5 11.7 5.2 6.1 11.3
2016 4.9 5.0 9.9 4.9 7.9 12.8
2017 5.3 5.7 11.0 4.1 6.7 10.8
2018 5.2 5.8 11.0 2.9 2.4 5.3
2019 2.9 6.0 8.9 4.0 4.8 8.8
2020 2.1 0.9 3.0 1.1 0.5 1.6
Total 27.6 27.9 55.5 22.2 28.4 50.6

We know that Arenado and Goldschmidt are both extremely good baseball players. We always knew that. If we want some context for how they compare to other great corner infield duos in recent history, I compiled a list of the best single-season 1B/3B combos since 2000.

Best 1B/3B combos since 2000

Year Team 1B (WAR) 3B (WAR) Combined WAR
Year Team 1B (WAR) 3B (WAR) Combined WAR
2004 Cardinals Albert Pujols (7.8) Scott Rolen (9.0) 16.8
2003 Cardinals Albert Pujols (9.5) Scott Rolen (6.2) 15.7
2001 Athletics Jason Giambi (9.2) Eric Chavez (5.5) 14.7
2006 Cardinals Albert Pujols (8.1) Scott Rolen (5.5) 13.6
2008 Cardinals Albert Pujols (8.7) Troy Glaus (4.8) 13.5
2005 Yankees Jason Giambi (4.2) Alex Rodriguez (9.1) 13.3
2015 Blue Jays Edwin Encarnacion (4.5) Josh Donaldson (8.7) 13.2
2016 Cubs Anthony Rizzo (4.9) Kris Bryant (7.9) 12.8
2012 Tigers Prince Fielder (5.0) Miguel Cabrera (7.3) 12.3
2013 Orioles Chris Davis (7.1) Manny Machado (5.0) 12.1

A few takeaways from this:

  • The best Goldschmidt and Arenado have achieved is 11.7 WAR in 2015, about a half-win short of the cutoff to break into the top 10 leaderboards.
  • Even if we combined both of their best individual seasons (7.2 WAR for Goldschmidt in 2015; 6.0 WAR for Arenado in 2019), the highest we could get them is tied for 7th. That’s in large part because of a string of monster seasons from none other than...
  • Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen, who, in a stunning turn of events, destroy the competition to the tune of three of the top four spots. Meanwhile, Pujols and Troy Glaus occupy 5th place.
  • This is your obligatory reminder that Scott Rolen should be in the Hall of Fame.

But what matters the most isn’t what Arenado and Goldschmidt have already done, but what they will do going forward. Below is a table with FanGraphs’ depth charts projections for each team with regards to their corner infield. (Note: this looks at each club’s expected production from that position as a whole, not just the anticipated starter’s numbers. I still believe this serves as a decent proxy.)

2021 corner infield projections by team

Team 1B WAR 3B WAR Total
Team 1B WAR 3B WAR Total
Athletics 3.2 5.2 8.4
Cardinals 2.5 4.7 7.2
Indians 1.0 5.8 6.8
Astros 0.8 5.9 6.7
Blue Jays 2.9 3.4 6.3
Twins 2.1 4.1 6.2
Angels 0.7 5.4 6.1
Dodgers 2.9 3.2 6.1
Cubs 3.1 3.0 6.1
Braves 4.4 1.4 5.8
Yankees 2.6 2.9 5.5
Phillies 2.5 2.9 5.4
Padres 0.5 4.4 4.9
White Sox 1.6 3.2 4.8
Mets 2.7 2.0 4.7
Red Sox 0.8 3.8 4.6
Marlins 1.0 2.8 3.8
Rays 1.7 1.9 3.6
Royals 1.6 1.8 3.4
Tigers 1.2 2.2 3.4
Reds 0.5 2.9 3.4
Giants 1.9 1.5 3.4
Pirates -0.1 3.0 2.9
Diamondbacks 0.9 1.5 2.4
Mariners -0.1 2.4 2.3
Brewers 0.8 1.4 2.2
Nationals 0.9 1.2 2.1
Orioles 0.5 1.6 2.1
Rockies 0.2 0.5 0.7
Rangers 0.9 -0.3 0.6

St. Louis trails only Oakland, who boasts the second-highest 1B projection (Matt Olson carries an individual projection of 3.1 WAR) and the fourth-highest 3B projection (FanGraphs has Matt Chapman down for 5.1 WAR). If you’re wondering what the Cardinals would look like without Arenado, their projected corner infield WAR drops to about 3.5, which would put them in the high-teens to low-twenties on this list.

In conclusion, having elite baseball players on your favorite baseball team makes being a fan more fun. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for baseball to be back.