Many have questioned the priorities of Cardinals’ players who have signed up to participate in the 2017 World Baseball classic, and have effectively eschewed up to six weeks of Spring Training. While our own Jack Besser has already attempted to put everyone at ease, lets take a look to see if the statistics support that point of view.
We’ll take a look at every Cardinal who participated in a WBC tournament, and later appeared in the majors in the following season. Hopefully for future WBC participants like Alex Reyes, Carlos Martinez, and Yadier Molina, we won’t see a huge drop in production as a result of ramping it up in early March for the tournament as opposed to April for opening day.
2013 WBC Participants
Yadier Molina – Puerto Rico
2012 MLB Stats: .315/.373/.501 22 HR 76 RBI 137 OPS+ (138 G)
2013 MLB Stats: .319/.359/.477 12 HR 80 RBI 129 OPS+ (136 G)
Nothing to see here. Yadi’s latest stint with Puerto Rico had pretty much no impact on his 2013 season. He suffered a bit of a drop in power, but it’s nearly impossible to connect that to a few harmless games in March.
Carlos Beltran – Puerto Rico
2012 MLB Stats: .269/.346/.495 32 HR 97 RBI 128 OPS+ (151 G)
2013 MLB Stats: .296/.339/.491 24 HR 84 RBI 127 OPS+ (145 G)
Beltran, too, posted an equally productive season post-WBC as he did pre-WBC. Despite being known as injury-prone, the Puerto-Rican center fielder sandwiched 296 MLB regular season games around his WBC appearance.
Fernando Salas – Mexico
2012 MLB Stats: 1-4 4.30 ERA (65 G, 58.2 IP)
2013 MLB Stats: 0-3 4.50 ERA (27 G, 28.0 IP)
Salas is our first example of a WBC participant suffering an injury in the season after, but taking a look at his monthly splits, there doesn’t seem to be anything suspicious here. Salas posted a 3.86 ERA in the first two months of the season before landing on the disabled list for two months with shoulder inflammation.
Mitchell Boggs – USA
2012 MLB Stats: 4-1 2.21 ERA (78 G, 73.1 IP)
2013 MLB Stats: 0-3 8.10 ERA (27 G, 23.1 IP)
Boggs left for the 2013 WBC known as one of the premier middle relievers in baseball, and his 2013 post-WBC season was his last in the bigs. He posted an unsightly 12.66 ERA with the Cardinals before a minor league demotion and was later dealt to the Rockies in July.
2009 WBC Participants
Dennys Reyes – Mexico
2008 MLB Stats: 3-0 2.33 ERA (75 G, 46.1 IP) w/ MIN
2009 MLB Stats: 0-2 3.29 ERA (75 G, 41 IP) w/ STL
On the surface, Reyes’ ERA jumped almost a full run in between his time with the Mexican national team. Not to worry though, because his FIP only made a modest jump from 3.67 in 2008 to 3.89 in 2009, an increase that isn’t all that unusual for a 32-year-old reliever.
Yadier Molina – Puerto Rico
2008 MLB Stats: .304/.349/.392 7 HR 56 RBI 96 OPS+ (124 G)
2009 MLB Stats: .293/.366/.383 6 HR 54 RBI 100 OPS+ (140 G)
Looking at Molina’s year over year stats really make you appreciate the kind of consistency he provides to this organization. It’s clear at this point that the WBC has no impact on Molina when the games become meaningful.
2006 WBC Participants
Albert Pujols – Dominican Republic
2005 MLB Stats: .330/.430/.609 41 HR 117 RBI 168 OPS+ (161 G)
2006 MLB Stats: .331/.431/.679 49 HR 137 RBI 178 OPS+ (143 G)
Pujols won the MVP in ’05, but didn’t win in ’06, see?! The WBC is EVIL!! I kid, I kid. Pujols followed up his first MVP campaign with an even more ridiculous 2006 season, but somehow lost out in the MVP voting to Ryan Howard despite trouncing him in the bWAR category (8.2 to 5.4).
Juan Encarnacion – Dominican Republic
2005 MLB Stats: .287/.349/.447 16 HR 76 RBI 113 OPS+ (141 G) w/ FLA
2006 MLB Stats: .278/.317/.443 19 HR 79 RBI 93 OPS+ (153 G) w/ STL
Encarnacion’s St. Louis spring debut may have been delayed by his own desire to represent the Dominican Republic in the inaugural WBC, but there weren’t any significant consequences that stemmed from the decision.
Ricardo Rincón – Mexico
2005 MLB Stats: 1-1 4.34 ERA (67 G 37.1 IP) w/ OAK
2006 MLB Stats: 0-0 10.80 ERA (5 G 3.1 IP) w/ STL
Aha, here we have a pretty serious injury for a guy who had been incredibly durable for his entire career. Rincón had failed to eclipse 35 innings only once, yet in the season following his WBC appearance, Rincón suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder, and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery. He never again pitched for the Cards, and only briefly even played in the bigs again with the Mets in 2008 before retirement.
Yadier Molina – Puerto Rico
2005 MLB Stats: .252/.295/.358 8 HR 49 RBI 70 OPS+ (114 G)
2006 MLB Stats: .216/.274/.321 6 HR 49 RBI 53 OPS+ (129 G)
Ok, so maybe early in his career, Molina wasn’t the knight in shining armor we’ve all become so accustomed to these days. Maybe, coming off of his first full season catching in the majors, he should have taken a nice leisurely spring training to prepare for another strenuous season. Luck, though, may have played a role in Molina’s down year. His BABIP dropped from .254 to .226 between ’05 and ’06, which may help to explain his career-low .216 batting average.
All in all, it seems like most players take a couple weeks off, have a fantastic time representing their country, and return back to proceed for their team like business as usual. There were a couple of outliers in this group, but the truth it that injuries happen, and it’s not entirely fair to blame their participation in the WBC for an injury that may have been caused by a wide variety of factors that are simply out of the control of the player. That being said, good luck to Yadi, Carlos Martinez, and Alex Reyes in the latest and greatest edition of the WBC in March.
Photo by Kyle Terada – USA TODAY Sports