The general perception of the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals is that the offense improved while the pitching and defense digressed compared to 2015.
Certainly in terms of the basic measures such as offensive runs scored and pitching staff ERA, that is the case.
It is also true among individuals. A year after just four position players posted fWAR (Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement) values over 2.0, six Cardinals hitters cleared that bar in 2016. (As an aside, free agent-to-be Brandon Moss is not among them, coming in eighth among the club’s offensive performers with 1.4 WAR.)
However, the high-water mark on the club is down considerably. The 2014 team leader with a WAR of 5.7 was shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Last season, fueled by his exceptional defense, outfielder Jason Heyward led the way at 6.0.
Matt Carpenter, announced here as The Cardinal Nation’s 2016 Player of the Year, is first among St. Louis hitters with 3.2 WAR. The infielder had a fine season, though a late-season slump after a 24-game disabled list stint with an oblique strain in July brought his WAR down from 3.8 in 2015.
No matter where he is placed in the lineup, the 30-year-old is St. Louis’ most valuable hitter and his ability to play defensively at first, second and third base gives manager Mike Matheny positional flexibility.
As the table above indicates, though Carpenter had the highest on-base percentage and OPS on the team, a case could also be made by multiple Cardinals hitters.
Outfielder Stephen Piscotty led the club in total bases, runs scored and RBI.
Infielder Jedd Gyorko paced the Cardinals with 30 home runs, though his 59 RBI co-established a new low for a 30-home run hitter in MLB history. (Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson had identical totals in 2016.)
Rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz batted .300 and outslugged all other Cardinals with a very impressive .510 mark, despite spending the entire first quarter of the season at the bottom of the batting order and being limited to 111 games due to a fractured thumb. The Cuban’s OPS was only .006 behind Carpenter.
Even though Yadier Molina caught a career-high number of games at age 33, his .307 batting average led all Cardinals.
Carpenter’s high walk rate of 14.3 percent fueled his team-leading OBP.
Among our six finalists, Molina and Diaz were toughest to strike out. At almost 30 percent, only Randal Grichuk’s whiff rate remains concerning.
Gyorko led the way in isolated power (ISO) despite being unluckiest with a .244 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
Among categories not already noted, though Carpenter is not considered a speed guy or exceptional on the bases, his potent line drive bat still enabled him to finish second on the team with 36 doubles and six triples. They were just two and one off a share of the team lead, respectively. That helped place him first on the Cardinals with 63 extra-base hits.
This summer, Carpenter earned his third career National League All-Star berth. The only Cardinal originally selected could not play in the Midsummer Classic due to injury and was replaced by Diaz.
Together, this is more than enough to seal Carpenter’s repeat selection as TCN’s Player of the Year.
Prior TCN St. Louis Players of the Year
Carpenter joins Molina and Albert Pujols as two-time winners of this award since its 2009 introduction.
|TCN Player of the Year|
Click here to review the prior decade’s annual award winners in all categories.
Link to master article with all 2016 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. The series will conclude with our selections as St. Louis Rookie of the Year, followed by a season recap.
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