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The 21 (+6) Best Articles of 2021 at Viva El Birdos

VEB writers came through in 2021. Here’s my 21 (+6) favorite articles from this past year.

I’m back from a lengthy break over Christmas and New Years! That means you’re back to reading my innane drivel every Wednesday and Saturday.

Thanks for that!

It’s been a fun year of writing here at Viva El Birdos. This was actually the first time I got to cover a full season of the Cardinals at the site. I started in November of 2019. That means I’ve had to write about one normal offseason, a long COVID layoff, a 58-game season, a post-COVID offseason (that was anything but normal), and finally the ups and downs of 2021.

Now we’re deep into my third offseason here and this might be the lowest point yet. There has been no Cardinals news and won’t be for months. The only MLB news is the reality that there is no news. MLB owners and the union are not currently meeting and have no plans to meet anytime soon. It seems to me that Manfred’s plan is to kick the proverbial can of negotiations down the road as far as possible so that the threat of lost paychecks forces the union to desperation.

Prepare yourself now for missed games. And more than a few of them.

In the meantime, we still have content to create and writing deadlines to meet. The writing must go on. You must be entertained!

So, while the last year has been somewhat tumultuous and occasionally angsty, I feel like your favorite Cardinals website has delivered.

Today I want to highlight some of my favorite articles from here at VEB over the past year. We’ll easily get to 21 of them, several for each of the writers here (past and present), including myself. I’ll try to pick ones that are maybe somewhat still relevant so you can go back and read them and still glean something from the piece. We’re not ranking these; you can offer rankings if you’re just that bored. Instead, I’ll just list them by when they were published.

Willie Wells Should Be Honored at Busch Stadium – Ben Godar

Godar is no longer with us here at VEB but this article represents the best kind of work that Godar did. It’s a history piece, wonderfully composed, and packed full of things you probably didn’t know.

Johnny Wholestaff Will be the Most Important Cardinal Pitcher in 2021 – John LaRue

JL always provides excellent analysis. The whole “Johnny Wholestaff” concept that John introduced here caught on pretty well and we found it referenced in many other articles (including several by yours truly) throughout the offseason. His take is still dead on.

The Arenado Paradox, or: a Clever Article I’ll Never Write – A. E. Schafer

The Red Baron illustrates here why VEB has been the Cardinals’ best blog for a long time. It’s not just a piece about the Cardinals’ acquisition of Nolan Arenado, but about the longtime relationship that Cardinals fans had with the possibility of an Arenado trade, and the ups and downs that come along with covering and coveting that kind of player. It’s still a relevant read.

Evaluating Mike Maddux’s Impact – J.P. Hill

Here’s another analysis piece, this time by me, that hung around for a while and impacted the way we talked about the Cardinals all season. That became especially true with the pitching staff started to fall apart mid-season and more and more fans began questioning Maddux. This subject looks like something we’ll need to revisit here in a few weeks.

TA 2/1: Cards Officially Acquire Arenado from Rockies in Complex Deal – Skyricesq

Skyric is not just the official transaction expert of VEB but all of Cardinals baseball. Seriously. You’re not going to find anyone else out there who does this as well as Skyric. Or Sky Rice SQ, as I prefer to read his name. The Arenado trade is still providing confusion to baseball writers throughout the game.

2021 Cardinals: Best DEF Team of the Last 50 Years? – J.P. Hill

Back in February, I opined that the 2021 Cardinals might be the best defensive Cardinals team of the last half-century. This piece looks back through 5 decades of amazing defense to set a high standard. In the end, this club fell short using this method but they still brought home 5 Gold Gloves!

Kolten Wong Pens Touching Goodbye to St. Louis and NO, YOU’RE CRYING – A Hunt and Peck – lil_scooter93

Heather’s “A Hunt and Peck” are a daily staple around here as she scours the internet searching for the content you all might want to read. Kolten Wong might be a Brewer now, but he’ll always be a Cardinal.

It’s a Good Thing the Cardinals Have Rotation Depth – Blake Newberry

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about this piece from Blake. It’s from early March when there were definite warning signs from players like Mikolas, Kim, and Martinez, but with a strong undercurrent of Spring Training optimism. Oh, the innocence of spring! Little did we know that things would only get worse from there for the pitching staff.

It’s Opening Day! – stlcardsfan4

Gabe has had more significant pieces up to this point, but I really enjoyed this Opening Day article. It’s simple, fun, happy, and full of very intentional optimism. Here’s hoping that we get an Opening Day on time in 2022.

Did Jake Woodford hit Nick Castellanos on Purpose: A VeRY SciEnTiFiC Analysis (and Hunt and Peck) – lil_scooter93

Scooter captures an important early season moment so well. Where did all that Reds swagger lead? To nowhere, as usual. This was a great read at the time and still is.

2021 Season Predictions and Polls – J.P. Hill

I should have bumped this at the end of the season but I forgot about it until now. Here’s a series of polls and predictions for the 2021 season. See where we were right and wrong!

On Matt Carpenter and the Statcast Mirage – John LaRue

Remember all that early-season talk about how hard Matt Carpenter was hitting the ball with no results? That dominated Cardinals’ talk for a few months. John LaRue was all over it then with graphics and videos. This was one of the best pieces of analysis done in Cardinalsdom all season.

Revising Comps for Dylan Carlson – J.P. Hill

Here’s another article that made the rounds and has stayed in the Cardinals’ consciousness. I still get asked about Dylan Carlson comps as much as I do about anything else. There are a couple of versions of this, but here’s the first. I still stand by my Reggie Smith comp and what we saw this season only further’s my belief that Carlson will reach Smith’s levels soon.

Bader’s Beautiful Batting Approach – stlcardsfan4

Gabe took note early of something that became an important part of the season – Harrison Bader’s offensive improvement, specifically in the area of strikeouts. Bader ended up holding his K rate down for most of the season and provided an impressive 3.4 fWAR in just 103 games played.

Doctored Balls, Confiscated Hats, and Notable Changes in Spin Rate – J.P. Hill

One of the biggest stories of 2021 was MLB’s crackdown on doctored balls. In this piece, I explain the issue and take a look at spin rate changes for the Cardinals, hunting for (and finding) evidence of potential use of illegal substances.

The Cards’ Emerging Class of Bats – A.E. Schafer

Here, Schafer provides a mid-season look at the emerging hitters within the Cardinals’ organization. This article is still highly relevant and somewhat prophetic as now several of these names are serious contenders for starting roles with the team this coming season.

(Not) Making Sense of the Cardinals’ Trade Deadline – J.P. Hill

I cover the very confusing trade deadline for the Cardinals and the acquisition of Lester and Happ. Did the trades work? Sort of. The club did have their massive winning streak and reach the playoffs. So, I guess the moves make more sense in retrospect than at the time.

Why is Tyler O’Neill Walking More – stlcardsfan4

Bader’s K rate was an important part of his offensive production throughout the season – Gabe covered that above. For O’Neill, it was walk rate, and against Gabe comes through with some great data on TON’s Swing/Take rate. Still a good read.

The Uniqueness of J.A. Happ – Blake Newberry

Did any of our young writers grow as much as Blake did this season? This somewhat random article from the middle of August shows the kind of improvement Blake made. Solid writing and analysis over a small sample size. It was worth highlighting here.

An Update on Cardinal True Hard Hit Percentages – John LaRue

JL is back with more hard-hitting analysis. Literally. Hard hit rate was one of the most important stories of the 2021 season. It mattered in the wrong way for Matt Carpenter and the right way for Tyler O’Neill’s huge surge. John covers it perfectly.

The “Lars Nootbaar” Nootbar – J.P. Hill

This one was one of my personal favorites. A few weeks after this one hit word came down that Lars had indeed signed a contract to produce his own version of athlete-friendly health bars. Are we talking credit for the idea? Absolutely! No word if he’ll take our suggestions but I’m looking forward to eating one.

Well, that’s 21 favorites… but we’re having so much fun, let’s keep going!

I’m Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy, asking Him Why He Intentionally Walked the Bases Loaded – A Hunt and Peck – lil_scooter93

Seriously, Shildt. This is one thing that I won’t miss about Mike Shildt.

Run of ’21 Ends at 17 with 4-0 Loss to Brewers – Derek Barthels

I wanted to get more of Derek’s game posts in here, but the number of good analysis pieces limited that. So, here’s a HUGE SHOUTOUT to Derek for consistently providing great game posts all season. It’s a huge job and he knocked it out of the park this season.

Mike Shannon Has Signed Off (¡Viva el Moon Man!) – lil_scooter93

Scooter gets the last words on Mike Shannon’s last words, with plenty of video and info. Thanks for the memories, Moon Man!

St. Louis’ Season Ends with 3-1 Loss in Wild Card Game – Derek Barthels

The final game post of the 2021 season and the final Cardinals game of the season. You might not want to go and re-read this one. But Derek deserves the recognition.

Saturday SOC: Philosophical Differences, Consistency, and Cohesion – J.P. Hill

This one got you all talking. 318 comments on a Saturday. Mike Shildt was out. We still don’t know why. But we do know that the organization is committed to consistency and cohesion. It’s no surprise, then, that Oliver Marmol was Mozeliak’s next choice.

Meet Newest Cardinal Steven Matz – stlcardsfan4

VEB covered the Cardinals’ acquisition of Steven Matz so well. This article by Gabe is a nice summary piece for his career and expectations.

Merry Lockoutmas Eve! – J.P. Hill

The final piece of news that needs to be covered here is the lockout. VEB had several good pieces on the work stoppage, but this one was the most commented (and one of the most viewed non-game thread articles on the site this season.) The real content here is in the comments where several posters turned favorite Christmas songs into lockout carols. VEB never disappoints.

There you go, folks! So much great content this season from VEB! I ended up with 27 articles on my list and that’s after cutting about 15 that I still feel like should be on there.

To my fellow writers – thanks so much for providing material that I love to read!

To all of our readers – thanks so much for reading, discussing, and generally making this place such an enjoyable community!

To MLB – end this lockout already so we have things to talk about!