Matt Carpenter (© Benny Sieu / USA TODAY Sports Images)

Evaluating the results of St. Louis Cardinals position players in 2016 leads to a repeat winner as our Player of the Year.

Matt Carpenter edged out Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz as our top position player on the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals.

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.

http://www.scout.com/player/133107-matt-carpenter?s=321

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.

Basic stats

  G PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Matt Carpenter 129 566 21 81 68 0 0.271 0.380 0.505 0.885
Aledmys Diaz 111 460 17 71 65 4 0.300 0.369 0.510 0.879
Jedd Gyorko 128 438 30 58 59 0 0.243 0.306 0.495 0.801
Stephen Piscotty 153 649 22 86 85 7 0.273 0.343 0.457 0.800
Yadier Molina 147 581 8 56 58 3 0.307 0.360 0.427 0.787
Randal Grichuk 132 478 24 66 68 5 0.240 0.289 0.480 0.769

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.

http://www.scout.com/player/140971-stephen-piscotty?s=321

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.)

http://www.scout.com/player/187201-aledmys-diaz?s=321

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.

http://www.scout.com/player/67461-yadier-molina?s=321

Even though Yadier Molina caught a career-high number of games at age 33, his .307 batting average led all Cardinals.

 

Other measures

  BB% K% ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+ fWAR
Matt Carpenter 14.3% 19.1% 0.235 0.307 0.375 135 3.2
Aledmys Diaz 8.9% 13.0% 0.210 0.312 0.370 132 2.7
Jedd Gyorko 8.4% 21.9% 0.253 0.244 0.339 111 2.3
Stephen Piscotty 7.9% 20.5% 0.184 0.319 0.345 115 2.8
Yadier Molina 6.7% 10.8% 0.120 0.335 0.342 113 2.4
Randal Grichuk 5.9% 29.5% 0.240 0.294 0.325 102 2.2

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.

http://www.scout.com/player/142090-randal-grichuk?s=321

Gyorko led the way in isolated power (ISO) despite being unluckiest with a .244 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).

http://www.scout.com/player/144526-jedd-gyorko?s=321

In our final three measures, intended to assess overall offensive value, Carpenter comes out on top, with Diaz very close – Weighted OBA (wOBA), Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) and finally, WAR.

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
2016 Matt Carpenter
2015 Matt Carpenter
2014 Jhonny Peralta
2013 Yadier Molina
2012 Yadier Molina
2011 Lance Berkman
2010 Albert Pujols
2009 Albert Pujols

Click here to review the prior decade’s annual award winners in all categories.

 

For more

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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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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