Well, this is something I've been wanting to do for a while, and the day is finally here. I'm going to try my hand at writing about this team for which I've had the pleasure of rooting for most of my 21 years of life. As a forewarning, I should say that I am not a writer. I generally don't even particularly enjoy writing. I'm also well aware of the high standard that is upheld by you lovely users here at VEB. So hopefully this piece is insightful and approaches the quality we at VEB are accustomed to. With that said, let's get into this.
I will break this down by position, rather than player. I'll also give a brief future outlook for each position. All data is as of 9/12/22.
I won't spend long here. I don't know the first thing about defense data for pitchers, but I want to put something in writing. Cards' pitchers this season have accumulated a total of 226 defensive chances, making three errors on those 226 chances. One of those errors was committed by Steven Matz, while the other two were committed by Jack Flaherty. Flaherty has those two errors on five defensive chances, resulting in an abysmal small sample size Fielding% of .600.Future Outlook:
It's pitcher defense. Unless Greg Maddux intends to tutor the whole pitching system on defense at the pitcher position, there's nothing to note here.
Andrew Knizner (581.0 inn.), Yadier Molina (547.2), Austin Romine (63.0), Ivan Herrera (59.0)
Andrew Knizner has outpaced Yadi in innings behind the plate this season and finds himself in the negative in Fangraphs' Def (-1.0), DRS (-6), and FRM, Fangraphs' framing metric (-5.9). He's been fine, but his numbers still don't compare to #4. Molina, now 40, has once again put up plus defensive numbers in Def (10.7), DRS (6), and FRM (6.0). Yadi is no longer at the top of fielding metric leaderboards, but his defense is still good enough to bouy his atrocious hitting and baserunning, as evidenced by his 0.3 fWAR. Austin Romine and Ivan Herrera each saw a handful time behind the dish this year, with Herrera posting slightly positive defensive numbers and Romine slightly negative numbers.Future Outlook:
Catcher may be the Birds' largest question mark as we approach the offseason. Yadier Molina, for the first time since 2004, will not be anchoring the position. Whether the primary backstop in 2023 is Knizner, Herrera, Willson Contreras, Sean Murphy, or someone else, we ought to prepare for a downgrade in catcher defense.
Paul Goldschmidt (979.2), Albert Pujols (138.0), Juan Yepez (67.0), Brendan Donovan (58.0), Andrew Knizner (7.0), Yadier Molina (1.0)
Defensive metrics are fickle, aren't they? Fangraphs' Def metric notoriously hates 1B defense. While UZR and DRS give Paul Goldschmidt's performance positive scores of 4.3 and 1, respectively, Def has Goldy pegged at -12.5. In fact, the only 1B with a positive Def, minimum 500 innings, is Arizona's Christian Walker. If you're a Cards fan, you know the eye test speaks volumes about Goldschmidt's defense. A 42* year-old Albert Pujols has actually provided serviceable 1B defense when spelling Goldy, accumulating 1.1 UZR and 0 DRS.Future Outlook:
Paul Goldschmidt is the present and the future at 1B. Expect to see more excellent defense from Goldy, whether the numbers agree or not.
Tommy Edman (566.2), Nolan Gorman (529.2), Brendan Donovan (153.1), Edmundo Sosa (1.0)
Second base is truly the duality of 2022 Cardinal defense. Reigning Gold Glover Tommy Edman has been spectacular, putting up 6.6 Def (6th among 2B), 3.6 UZR (3rd), 14 DRS (2nd) and 9 OAA (5th) while splitting time at SS. Nolan Gorman's performance, however, couldn't be more different from Edman's. Gorman has played to the tune of -6.3 Def, -0.6 UZR, -5 DRS, and -11 OAA, which is the lowest figure among all 2B. Gorman gets a little grace due to his offensive output and his relative unfamiliarity with the position, but those numbers need to improve if he wants to stick at 2B. In limited action, Brendan Donovan has put up -2.0 Def, 0.5 UZR, 0 DRS, and -3 OAA.Future Outlook:
The future of 2B appears to be, in some fashion, Tommy Edman and Nolan Gorman. Will the club choose to keep giving reps to Gorman at 2B? Will he find himself as the everyday DH? How does the eventual arrival of Masyn Winn to SS affect 2B? Only time will tell.
Nolan Arenado (998.2), Brendan Donovan (160.0), Edmundo Sosa (65.0), Tommy Edman (26.0), Cory Spangenberg (1.0)
Nolan Arenado. Need I say anything else? Nolan has had an average defensive season, which is to say he's been absolutely elite. 13.9 Def (2nd among 3B), 10.7 UZR (1st), 17 DRS (T1st), and 14 OAA (T1st) are par for the course for Arenado. I'm also going to shout-out Ke'Bryan Hayes, who continues to quietly put up elite defensive numbers. He ranks 1st in Def, 6th in UZR, and is tied for 1st with Arenado for the league lead in DRS and OAA. That's just about as good of a defensive season you can have without winning a Gold Glove, which will likely be Hayes' fate. Brendan Donovan's 3B numbers are actually quite good. 1.7 Def, 2.8 UZR, 7 DRS, and 1 OAA, albeit in a small sample size, is encouraging. It's unfortunate that his best defensive numbers come at the same position that a certain five time Platinum Glover plays.Future Outlook:
Nolan Arenado. Hopefully.
Tommy Edman (532.0), Paul DeJong (442.0), Edmundo Sosa (219.2), Brendan Donovan (56.0), Kramer Robertson (1.0)
Shortstop has been a position of fluidity all season. Paul DeJong was given his chance, demoted, then later promoted and given another chance. Tommy Edman transitioned to SS in lieu of DeJong's demotion and didn't miss a beat. Edman has put up 9.4 Def (7th among SS), 4.0 UZR (5th), 6 DRS (11th), and 9 OAA (T4th) at SS while playing hundreds fewer innings than his peers. The fact that Edman finds himself in the top 10 in defensive metrics at both 2B and SS is astounding. While his bat is non-existent, Paul DeJong has continued to produce solid defensive numbers at SS. DeJong has put up 5.2 Def, 4.2 UZR (4th among SS), 4 DRS, and 5 OAA while Sosa churned out 3.3 Def, 0.2 UZR, 5 DRS, and 4 OAA.Future Outlook:
Paul DeJong looks permanently broken, so barring a move outside the organization, shortstop is Tommy Edman's until the eventual arrival of Masyn Winn. I don't know if you've heard, but that kid is pretty good at defense too.
Tyler O'Neill (607.0), Corey Dickerson (331.0), Juan Yepez (142.0), Brendan Donovan (137.0), Lars Nootbaar (26.0), Conner Capel (7.0), Nolan Gorman (0.2)
Tyler O'Neill has not been able to recreate the season he had in 2021, neither at the plate nor in the field. Coming off a second straight Gold Glove season, his left field numbers have been much more pedestrian in 2022. O'Neill has played to the tune of -2.3 Def, -2.2 UZR, 1 DRS, and 2 OAA. These are well down from his 2021 figures: 3.3 Def, 6.7 UZR, 11 DRS, 4 OAA. I'm willing to give Tyler the benefit of the doubt here due to past performance, injuries, and the general lack of OF structure this season. Dickerson, Yepez, and Donovan have been mediocre to bad in their time in LF. See their numbers below:
Corey Dickerson: -1.7 Def, 0.8 UZR, -1 DRS, 0 OAA
Juan Yepez: -4.6 Def, -1.3 UZR, -3 DRS, -5 OAA
Brendan Donovan: -1.0 Def, -0.2 UZR, 1 DRS, -1 OAA
It's almost impressive that Juan Yepez put up those numbers in just 142 LF innings. Let's not play him in LF anymore, or anywhere else in the OF for that matter.Future Outlook:
Tyler O'Neill figures to be the starting LF in 2023, but he needs a bounce back year. I have faith that his defense will rebound. His performance should help dictate his future in St Louis. Jordan Walker might have a say in that.
Harrison Bader (588.2), Dylan Carlson (462.0), Tyler O'Neill (142.0), Lars Nootbaar (39.0), Ben DeLuzio (14.0), Tommy Edman (5.0)
Center field looks much different than it did on Opening Day. Harrison Bader is now a New York Yankee, much to my chagrin. Dylan Carlson took over the CF job, but recently has been plagued by poor performance and injury. Tyler O'Neill has seen lots of time in CF as of late. Let's see how they've performed and make an inference on what the future might look like for CF in St Louis.
Harrison Bader: 3.0 Def, 3.8 UZR, -2 DRS, 6 OAA
Dylan Carlson: 5.6 Def, 3.2 UZR, 8 DRS, 4 OAA
Tyler O'Neill: -0.6 Def, -0.4 UZR, 0 DRS, 0 OAA
The results here surprised me. We all know how good Bader can be in CF when healthy. Carlson's numbers in CF are stellar and actually rival Bader's from this 2022 season. Granted, Harrison may not have been playing fully healthy, but it's something to keep an eye on. O'Neill seems average in CF, and the eye test backs this up in my opinion. Once Carlson returns from his thumb ailment, I'd like to see O'Neill starting in LF where he's proven he can be elite.Future Outlook:
The club appeared to commit to Dylan Carlson as the CF of the future when Harrison Bader was shipped to the Bronx at this year's deadline. I expect him to start in center on Opening Day 2023. Hopefully his offense can take a step forward to go with his stellar CF defense.
Lars Nootbaar (509.0), Dylan Carlson (402.0), Brendan Donovan (140.0), Juan Yepez (112.2), Corey Dickerson (41.0), Conner Capel (35.0), Alec Burleson (9.0), Tommy Edman (3.0)
The final OF position has been just as chaotic as the other two, if not more. Dylan Carlson was the everyday RF until Harrison Bader's injury. After Carlson transitioned to CF to replace Bader, Lars Nootbaar identified his opportunity and ran with it. He's been the everyday RF for a good part of the second half. Finally we'll take a look at how Nootbaar and Co have performed in RF for 2022.
Lars Nootbaar: -1.1 Def, 1.7 UZR, 3 DRS, 0 OAA
Dylan Carlson: -2.7 Def, -0.1 UZR, -6 DRS, -2 OAA
Brendan Donovan: -2.0 Def, 0.0 UZR, 1 DRS, -4 OAA
Juan Yepez: -2.5 Def, -0.4 UZR, -1 DRS, -2 OAA
What jumps out to me here is how much worse Dylan Carlson has been in RF compared to CF. Let's take a quick look back at his CF numbers: 5.6 Def, 3.2 UZR, 8 DRS, 4 OAA. He's been notably worse across the board in RF for some unexplainable reason. Maybe this is small sample size silliness, maybe not. Meanwhile, Lars Nootbaar has proven to be a solid defensive RF. Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez have performed about as expected.Future Outlook:
At this point it would seem that Lars Taylor-Tatsuji Nootbaar will get a shot to be the everyday RF in 2023. Fortunately, Alec Burleson and Jordan Walker are waiting in the wings if things were to go poorly.
Excellent defense has been a key to the Cardinals' success in recent years. Even with the absence of stellar defenders Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong from the lineup, the Cards' defense looks to be in good shape. Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Lars Nootbaar left to right is a very good defensive outfield. Jordan Walker appears to have defensive upside in the OF. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are probably the best defensive corner infield tandem in the game. Tommy Edman can play an elite 2B or SS. The only real defensive question marks this team has for 2023 are catcher and 2B/SS. The latter could eventually be solved with the arrival of Masyn Winn. As it stands now, the Cardinals should be a great defensive team for the foreseeable future.