Halloween is coming on Monday. I hope you’ve made your annual pilgrimage to the pumpkin patch, stocked up on apple cider, and stopped by your local Spirit Halloween.
Costumes are required to read this article.
Me, I’m going as “40-something’ish office worker pretending to do real work while really looking up baseball stats”. New year, the same costume. It’s a real hit with the kids!
Speaking of kids, I’ve checked all the statistical candy from the 2022 Cardinals season and found a whole load of unexpected buried inside.
It’s a whole bag full of statistical tricks – bad stats – and treats – good stats – for your reading enjoyment on this very fall-like weekend Saturday.
These are the “very spooooooky stats of 202twoooooooooo!” (I’m hoping that the read-aloud computer generator can get those ooooooos right. I suspect it won’t.)
Nolan Arenado – 11.6% K rate
Nolan Arenado is a slugger. He finished the season with 30 homers and has 299 in his career. He’s tracking toward 500 or more by the time he retires. You expect a player like that in the modern age of baseball to rack up high strikeouts. Arenado doesn’t do that. His career K% is just 14.6%. This past season he had the lowest K rate of his career at just 11.6%.
Since 2000, only two Cardinals players have hit 20 or more homers and K’ed at a lower rate than Arenado did this season. Can you guess who they are? One’s obvious – Albert Pujols. The other? …… (I’ll give you a second to think about it) …… Yadier Molina! He did it in 2012, arguably the best statistical season of his career. Arenado is in rare company.
Tommy Edman – 3 CS
We know about Tommy Edman’s fWAR. It’s been one of the primary debating points all season. 5.8 fWAR from a player with just barely above-average offensive stats is pretty amazing! We know he gets a lot of his value from his defense. He has been an elite defender at 2b. No one expected him to be one of the best defenders in the game at shortstop. But he was. Still, there’s more to his impressive fWAR total than his glovework. He’s also an exceptional baserunner. He led the league this year in BsR – a baserunning runs stat. Edman had 32 steals on the season and was only caught 3 times. 3 TIMES! From what I can tell, that’s the highest rate of successful steals in Cardinals team history for players who stole 30 bases or more. Tommy Herr had 31 and 3 once, but other than that, it’s really not very close. The next best ratio is probably Willie McGree at 41 and 6. Impressive stuff from Edman, who just does all things baseball well.
Adam Wainwright – 2.8 fWAR at age 40
2.8 fWAR isn’t a very impressive production total from a pitcher. We see starters achieve that number just about every season. What’s unusual and special about 2.8 fWAR from Adam Wainwright, though, is the age at which he did it. I looked at qualified Cardinals pitchers – meaning they pitched all season – who produced 2.8 fWAR or higher at age 40 since 1990. Only one name was on the list – Adam Wainwright. Ok, let’s go back further. What about 1970? Adam Wainwright? Let’s get Bob Gibson in there. 1950? Adam Wainwright. Ok… hmmm… 1930? Adam Wainwright. Back through the deadball era, then. 1900? Ah, Grover Alexander pops in there, nephew of former US president *Grover Cleveland.
Ryan Helsley – 39.3% K rate
Helsley was a dominant reliever for the Cardinals this season. I made the case in an earlier article that he was having the best season from a Cards reliever in team history. That’s debatable, mostly because eras and usage change. Dominance over 60-something innings isn’t the same as dominance over 100+ innings. However, one thing is indisputable. Helsley’s K% of 39.3% is as good as any Cardinals pitcher has ever done. He ranks first all-time in the category among qualified relievers. He’s 5 percentage points ahead of second-place Trevor Rosenthal and 6 ahead of Giovanny Gallegos.
Albert Pujols – Albert Pujols
The final treat comes from Albert Pujols. It’s not so much a single statistic, though I am sure I could find plenty of them to choose from. He certainly set all kinds of team records based on age and production. But why do that? Why single out greatness? It’s just him.
Do you know those houses that leave the big bowl of candy out by their front door? That’s Albert Pujols! You can pick through it and take what you want! You can take the whole bowl if you’re feeling just that bold! Albert Pujols was a whole bowl full of king-sized candy bars just sitting out there for everyone to enjoy. Albert Pujols was the ultimate treat this season. We’ll never see anything like it.
Some houses have full-sized candy bars. Other houses give you a toothbrush, an apple, or a bag of candy corn. Halloween has its treats. And its tricks. Thankfully the 2022 Cardinals only provided a little bit of the latter.
Yadier Molina – 1.9% BB rate
The Cardinals’ retiring legend decided he was going to go out swinging! Yadi’s never been much of a walker. For his career, his walk rate is below-average at 6.3%. I thought that might have tanked out in his short, COVID-fueled 2020 season when he had just a 3.8% walk rate. Nope, he even beat that. His 1.9% walk rate this season was by far the lowest of his career. It’s also the lowest walk rate by any Cardinal with 250 or more plate appearances in a season since Art Hoelskoetter – what a great Halloween article name – in 1906.
But, hey, Yadi will walk his way into the Hall of Fame next and that’s the only walk that matters for his career.
Paul DeJong – 55 wRC+
I kind of hate picking on players that we’ve already picked on so much. That goes for the next two tricks. On Halloween, you take the good and the bad and give the bad to your baby sister later when you sort through your candy haul. 3 bags of circus peanuts is a fair trade for one large Snickers, right?
There are several stats that I could pick out from DeJong. His 33.3% K rate is certainly (not) worth noting. His .213 BABIP displays just how poor he was at making contact which can result in a productive ball in play. I just went ahead and chose a summary stat – his 55 wRC+. That’s not the worst production we’ve seen this century, but it fits in closely with names you’ll find in your horror-film-induced nightmares. Adam Kennedy had a 47 in 2007. Pete Kozma had a 49 in 2013. Mike Matheny is on the list. Molina is on there twice! DeJong sits tied for the 7th lowest wRC+ from a Cardinals player since 2000 with Brendan Ryan.
Dakota Hudson – 1.28 K/BB ratio
Our last one comes from Dakota Hudson. If you just look at his stats and didn’t watch him pitch, you might think he wasn’t that bad. He had an average-ish FIP of 4.34. His ERA was higher than his FIP at 4.45, which is unusual for a Cardinals starter. He only allowed a .58 HR rate. All of that is pretty serviceable. He even improved his BB rate from his career. Ok, not bad!
If you dig deeper, you find some real signs of trouble, which is one of the reasons he was removed from the rotation. Hudson’s K/BB ratio – a simple ratio comparing his K’s to his BB’s – was 1.28 overall in 2022. That’s tied for the lowest ratio from a Cardinals starter with 130 or more innings since 1990. Does anyone want to guess who he is tied with? It’s another sinkerballer with walk issues who frustrated the heck out of Cardinals fans. Yes, that’s Jason Marquis, who had a 1.28 in 2006. I thought that another Cards’ sinkerballer would lead this one but I set the innings floor too high. The worst I’ve seen while tracking Cardinals’ stats was Jake Westbrook with a .88 K/BB ratio. Yes, he had more BBs than he had Ks! So… never forget, friends, it could be worse!
Happy Halloween, Viva El Birdos! Have a great time with family and friends. Be safe out there.
* You know I made that up right? Right? Ok, good.