This year was interesting for the Cardinals Outfield. Here is a look into the performance of the Outfield unit both individually and as a whole.
At the beginning, the Cardinals seemed that they would have a very respectable core outfield group of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty. However, things did not go according to plan as 2016 saw an interesting experiment with Kolten Wong’s positional reassignment. For the sake of truly looking at outfield performance, the statistics shown are when the player was playing outfield without accounting for the other positions. For example, Wong recorded a season average of .240 compared to his .291 average when listed as an outfielder for his at-bat.
I plead for you not to get excited at the .291 average as it was only in 41 at-bats. Kolten Wong did not really have much time in the outfield. Additionally, most of it came in a short 3 week span in June, so he did not have a large impact on the production of the outfield. That being said, his stint as an outfielder brought forth an interesting way to give Wong a better opportunity for playing time. Such a stint could very well change the way the outfield looks in the future. Provided he can return to be a serviceable hitter next season, Wong could become a sort of Brock Holt play anywhere type player. A transformation into a super utility player could give Wong more of an outfield presence in the future.
With 507.1 innings, Moss played more in the outfield than he did at first base. When talking about Brandon Moss, no one really cares about what he does on defense. Therefore, I will just leave it at “Needs Improvement” and focus on what he can do at the plate. In 228 ABs, Moss amassed 35RBI and 20HR while posting a slash of .224/.285/.544. The Cardinals would have benefited from a higher average, but he still managed a WRC+ of 115. So, he above average in production which helped the Cardinals to be one of the better offenses in the game.
Pham performed essentially at average this season. In 377.2 innings, Pham amassed a WAR of 0.1 with a WRC+ of 105 but a DRS of -4. Pham’s main offensive problem this season was his inability to put the ball in play with 71 SO in 159AB. However, when he was able to put the ball in play, he had nothing but success with a .342 BABIP. This is a long leap away from the measly .226 average. He was a decent option for a bench outfielder, but did not make a huge impact positively or negatively.
If you asked at the end of April who would you want to start everyday in the outfield, I would say Hazelbaker. Now, he is a good bench option. Hazelbaker took part in the beginning of the Cardinals rookie explosion with a .296 batting average and 141 WRC+ in April. However, he drastically declined the rest of the year and finished at .226. This decline landed him a more suitable role as a bench player. He had more playing time in April and May than he had for the rest of the season. Like Pham, Hazelbaker’s WAR was incredibly average at 0.0. All in all, Hazelbaker was a hot start but a very cold finish.
At 994.1 innings, Grichuk is the only outfielder outside of Piscotty that I would call a starting outfielder. This year has been a struggle for him compared to the successes he saw last year. However, Grichuk is still young and bound to hit struggles, so his future is still bright. This season, we saw him break out as a serious power threat with 23 HR and 82 RBI. However, his average dipped to .234 as he posted a much lower BABIP of .294. Another factor for his loss of production was that he still strikes out at a much higher than MLB average rate 29% vs 21%. On the bright side, the Cardinals were given a glimer of hope for Grichuk’s improvement as he finished strong in August and September. In this time frame, he posted a .271 AVG and a WRC+ of 125. If Grichuk had hat level of performance the whole year, the outfield might have raised a letter grade.
Piscotty has become the staple of the Cardinal outfield with a very productive slash line of .273/.343/.457. In his first full season in the big leagues, he hit 21 HR and drove in 82. Piscotty has proven to be a force in the order at the young age of 25. The most exciting thing about Piscotty is his ability to get hits when they are needed the most. With runners in scoring position, Piscotty hit to the tune of .363/.417./600. This is no fluke as last year, he hit .393 in the same situation. in future batting orders, fans may see him hit 4th more often. The Cardinals will benefit greatly from a steady improvement in production from him next year and years to come.
Describing Matt Holliday as the fan favorite without the fan favorite production is a terrible truth. With so many good years with the Cardinals, his time has come to an end. In 308AB, he only managed to hit for a .219 average while only hitting 11 HR. His most memorable one coming in his final at-bat as a Cardinal. Otherwise, he had a WRC+ of 85 and a WAR of 0.5. He struggled to produce throughout the year, and the Cardinals outfield suffered for it.
MLB Ranks by position; LF: 28th avg, 23rd OBP, 9th SLG, 2nd HR, 8th RBI, 4th SO, 7th BB CF: 28th AVG, 29th OBP, 9th SLG, 5th HR, 8th RBI, 2nd SO, 21st BB RF:11th AVG, 10th OBP, 7th SLG, 6th HR, 7th RBI, 9th SO, 17th BB
As you can see by the overall rankings, the Cardinals were either very good or very bad which comes out to about average. Although they were around average in the hitting department as a squad, they were below average defenders. They may have been flashy with the large amount of home runs, but defense is an important part of the game as well. This is why they do not deserve a grade above average but at average.
Photo by Scott Rovak USA Today: Stats by FanGraphs