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How Much of a Cardinal Were the Best Cardinals?

Or “Was Scott Rolen more Phillie or Cardinal, Albert Pujols more Cardinal or Angel, and is Keith Hernandez a Met or what?”

Washington Nationals vs St. Louis Cardinals Set Number: X156434 TK1 R1 F403

Bill James recently took a look at the importance of being associated with one team for Hall of Fame candidates. The idea is that players who accrue most of their value for one team, or mostly for one team, have an easier time making the Hall of Fame than players who accrue their value for multiple teams. If you’d like an imperfect example, Gary Sheffield had 62.1 career fWAR, but he had 12 or more for three different teams, and 6 or more for five different teams. By contrast, Willie Stargell had 62.9 fWAR, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates. James’ research compared those two types of players and all others in the gray area. James found that players with mutliple team associations had a much harder time getting into the Hall of Fame. That’s fascinating... and it’s also not what I want to talk about today. In his process, he developed a fun little tool to determine what percentage a player was associated with a specific team. I thought it would be fun to apply that process to various St. Louis Cardinals and determine how “Cardinal-y” they were.

First, here is James’ methodology:

Suppose that a player has 10 Win Shares (or 10 WAR, or 10 games played, or 10 RBI, or 10 homers; it doesn’t much matter.) Suppose he has 10, and all 10 are with one team. Then his “one team percentage” is 100%.

(10 ^ 2) / (10 ^ 2) = 100 / 100 = 1.000

Suppose that he plays for two teams and has five Win Shares for each team; then his “one team percentage” is 50%:

[(5 ^ 2) + (5 ^ 2)] / (10 ^ 2) = (25 + 25) / 100 = 50/100 = .500

Suppose that he plays for three teams, and has four Win Shares for each team; then is “one team percentage” is 33.33%:

[(4 ^ 2) + (4 ^ 2) + (4 ^ 2)] / (12 ^ 2) = (16 + 16 + 16) / 144 = 48/144 = .33333333

We can do this for all Cardinals, though I’m going to use FanGraphs WAR instead of Win Shares. I’ll include most Cardinals with 20 fWAR or more as a Cardinal, though I may not indulge in the pre-integration list. That means you won’t see huge stars who had brief dalliances in Cardinal red like Larry Walker and Lance Berkman. You will see the Matt Hollidays and Scott Rolens and Marty Marions of the world. I’ve also thrown in a few popular players from recent teams who didn’t reach the 20 fWAR threshold. Finally, you won’t see Bruce Sutter here- the machinations of reliever fWAR or WPA make things too complicated. That said, you should know that either of those analyses register Sutter as much more Cub than Cardinal.

The 100% Club

There are a few players who meet our criteria and never played for another organization. Here’s the 100% club. I’ve split the pre-1947 players into their own group, so there’s no Musial yet:

  • Bob Gibson
  • Yadier Molina
  • Adam Wainwright

You can also throw Matt Carpenter in there, although his free agency could put a small dent in that.

1982 World Series - Cardinals v Brewers Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The 85 Plus Club

There are a lot of players who aren’t technically in the 100% Club but are 85% Cardinal or more. These are players who played for other teams, but did so either a) briefly or b) much less effectively with other teams, enough that their “one team percentage” as Cardinals still comes in at 85% or higher. Some even reach 100% with rounding.

  • Curt Flood, 99.98%
  • Ray Lankford, 99.97%
  • Bob Forsch, 99.97%
  • Lou Brock, 99.85%
  • Ken Boyer, 99.59%
  • Albert Pujols, 99.57%
  • Ted Simmons, 98.45%
  • Ozzie Smith, 98.17%
  • Matt Morris, 97.14%
  • Bill White, 92.57%
  • Willie McGee, 92.53%
  • Joaquin Andujar, 89.19%
  • Chris Carpenter, 88.59%

Most of these make perfect sense, and it almost feels dirty to NOT count Lankford, Forsch, Flood, Boyer, McGee, and Brock in the 100% club. But do you see it? I’m referring to the big glaring name in the middle there- Albert Pujols- who is 99.57% associated with the Cardinals using this methodology. When it comes time to enter the Hall of Fame, there should be no question whose hat is on the plaque.

It’s slightly surprising to see Ozzie Smith this high, if only because he was quite established as a Padre before coming to St. Louis. That said, what he did in San Diego was a drop in the bucket compared to his Cardinal years.

NLCS - St Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

More Cardinal Than Not

We have a large group of players whose time elsewhere was moderately successful, enough to keep them below 85%, but still over 50% Cardinal. This is prime territory for players who either were successful Cardinals and then left via free agency, or who were approaching stardom when the Cardinals acquired them.

  • Jim Edmonds, 82.12%
  • Edgar Renteria, 76.27%
  • John Tudor, 74.59%
  • Larry Jackson, 71.80%
  • Matt Holliday, 63.10%
  • Keith Hernandez, 62.59%
  • Terry Pendleton, 54.37%
  • J.D. Drew, 51.99%

I find quite a few of these surprising. Pendleton won an MVP in Atlanta and was a key cog on multiple World Series participants, but apparently his Cardinal production outweighed what he did in Atlanta (and elsewhere). Four of J.D. Drew’s five best seasons happened after he left St. Louis, so I expected him to weigh more as something else. However, the second half of his career was spread out with similar effectiveness between the Dodgers, Braves, and Red Sox. The nomadic second half of his career watered things down enough for him to count as a Cardinal.

Hernandez is a Mets broadcaster, famously appeared on the New York-based Seinfeld, and won a World Series with the Mets. You’d be forgiven for thinking of him as a Met. However, he won an MVP and a World Series in St. Louis and spent 9.5 years as a Cardinal. Despite the connotation, he’s more Cardinal than Met.

Matt Holliday’s highest profile moments mostly happened in St. Louis and he was a Cardinal for about half of his career. I expected a higher one team percentage for him. He’s still clearly a Cardinal but he was a damn good Rockie too.

The biggest surprise is a name that’s missing from this category.

St. Louis Cardinals Scott Rolen SetNumber: X73487 TK1

More... Something Else

These players clearly had an impact as Cardinals- ergo their 20 fWAR in St. Louis- but had a bigger impact somewhere else. Most of these make sense, but one of them... well... it stings.

  • Scott Rolen, 43.40%
  • Joe Torre, 34.55%
  • Curt Simmons, 26.23%
  • Mark McGwire, 19.71%
  • Steve Carlton, 7.26%

That Carlton racked up 21.2 fWAR in St. Louis and only ended up as 7.26% a Cardinal speaks volumes about how amazing he was in Philadelphia. Torre spent 23 of his career outside of St. Louis, and most of his best seasons were as a Brave. It’s not a shock to see him here. Similarly, McGwire’s biggest moments were in St. Louis but he’d been with the A’s for more than a decade. He’s clearly an A’s-first guy. For those who didn’t know, Simmons was more Phillie than Cardinal and it wasn’t close (73.7% Phillie).

That leaves the one that stings. Scott Rolen was close but he had enough additional time with the Phillies- about 900 more plate appearances, at a comparable performace level- to outweigh his time as a Cardinal. He comes in at 51% Phillie, 43% Cardinal. If you want to cheat mentally and award him more weight as a Cardinal because of his MVP votes and World Series appearances- things that happened in St. Louis that didn’t in Philadelphia- I’m not going to stop you.

1951 All-Star Game: American League v National League Photo by The Stanley Weston Archive/Getty Images

Notable Pre-1947 Players

Obviously Stan Musial is the most Cardinal who ever Cardinaled, the King of the 100% Club. But there are a lot of other bigger names from before 1947 who register in a range of Cardinalness (Cardinalocity?).

  • Stan Musial, 100%
  • Marty Marion, 99.99%
  • Jim Bottomley, 99.79%
  • Enos Slaughter, 99.50%
  • Dizzy Dean, 99.01%
  • Red Schoendienst, 96.15%
  • Rogers Hornsby, 94.88%
  • Joe Medwick, 92.29%
  • Johnny Mize, 65.79%
  • Frankie Frisch, 45.72%

The lack of player mobility in the era before free agency really shines through here. All are very obviously most associated with the Cardinals and only Mize and Frisch are even close to having a different team association. Frisch comes in as a Giant. Granted, most on this list played for other teams. Marion, Dean, Bottomley, and Hornsby all ended up being St. Louis Browns at some point for a very small amount of time. Schoendienst was both a Brave and a Giant. Mize was both a Giant and a Yankee. Even Slaughter was a Yankee (and a member of the Kansas City A’s).

Given the other six or so decades that Red Schoendienst was associated with the Cardinals, it’s safe to restore him to 100%. Similarly, surely Dean’s time as a radio broadcaster for the Cardinals is worth the additional 1%.