St. Louis Cardinals: Examining the role of power

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How important is power to the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals?

One of the biggest names in free agency this offseason is Chris Davis, we have written about this several times this offsesaon. I firmly have said all offseason, that Davis simply isn’t worth it and the Cardinals have essentially said that themselves with John Mozeliak coming out and saying that the interest in him was “overblown”. My thoughts of Davis’ power being overvalued have been confirmed recently with two high power and low average sluggers being non tendered by their team today in Pedro Alvarez and Chris Carter.

Yesterday, I was listening to the “The Turn” on my way home from work as I usually do, and I actually caught them talking about baseball for once. They were discussing the value of Jason Heyward, which started out good and then ended up in Anthony Stalter being unable to convince co-host Chris Duncan (who is a former player) that HR and RBI weren’t more important than defense and base running. As you can imagine, I was voicing my opinion right along with them, only I could not be heard.

Unfortunately, many fans are like Duncan and are bent out of shape that the Cardinals want to spend money on Jason Heyward. However, let’s examine something here. Maybe power isn’t as valuable as we all think?

Let me preface this by telling you that I absolutely love having power hitters on my team, and there’s nothing more exciting than going to a game and seeing players hit home runs. However, something I have been thinking about this offseason, is that power is way overvalued.

For example, this season 24 of Chris Davis’ home runs came with nobody on base, meaning that they accounted for no more runs than a measly sacrifice fly would. Now, for a guy who mashes 47 taters in a season, one would think that he would have a better shot at driving in more when he hit them.

Granted it is not Davis’ fault that the Orioles didn’t always clog the bases for him. This has nothing against his ability to come through in the clutch it simply shows that maybe the home run isn’t what it’s cracked up to be in some situations.

Looking at another power hitter in Chris Carter, almost shows the same thing. Carter had 14 homers with nobody on base and just 10 of his 24 homers with men on. Carter also had 16 of his homers come in what Fangraphs describes as “low leverage” situations. For Davis, only seven of his home runs came in what Fangraphs describes as “high leverage” situations. 

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These two things led to Carter adding -.57 Win Probability to his team’s games this season. Davis on the other hand was worth just 3.71 WPA to his team this season. While a player like Jason Heyward was less than a point behind him at 2.77, hitting 34 less home runs.

Looking at the team aspect of power shows us a similar theme, the teams with the most power aren’t always the most successful. Look at Toronto, they were mashing balls all season long and it really wasn’t until they traded for David Price that they were truly a great team, and they eventually lost to the Royals, a team that doesn’t hit home runs with regularity.

Then, you had the Mets who relied on the luck of Cespedes’ second half power surge to surge them into the top 10 in the league in homers, and then rode the hot bat of Daniel Murphy into the playoffs. While you may think that Murphy singlehandedly won those two series’ for the Mets, the Mets’ pitching largely had the most to do with their playoff success.

When looking at the playoff teams, it shows that there was a good mix of power teams and non power teams. You had the Astros and Blue Jays who of course led the league in homers, with the 4th place Yankees making it as well. But, you then had the 23rd, 24th, and 25th teams in the Pirates, Royals, and Cardinals, who non-coincidentally all play in pitcher’s parks. With one of those teams ultimately winning the World Series.

While the Cardinals may have finished in the bottom half of the league (25th) in homers, they were ninth overall in doubles (5th in the NL) this past year. Which, shows that the Cardinals had no problem hitting the ball with authority, they simply didn’t have the guys to bop the ball out of the ballpark with consistency like the Blue Jays and Astros.

Which while you may be thinking, “That’s exactly why the Cardinals need a power hitter”, your thinking is flawed. If you remember right the Cardinals got by fine without the big power this year, and didn’t have guys like Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty, Tommy Pham, and Randal Grichuk at different parts of the season. Then if you remember right when everyone came back it wasn’t power that was the Cardinals’ problem in the playoffs, it was their untimely pitching that did them in.

The lack of power on this team shows the need for a Jason Heyward. No he is not going to hit 40 bombs and drive in a lot of meaningless RBI, but what he is going to do is provide great defense that unbeknownst to Chris Duncan is not teachable.

Next: Five tempting non tendered free agents

He is going to get on base at an above average clip and he is going to provide the consistency that this team needs on the bases and at the plate. So, call me crazy, but I am not all that worried about the Cardinals and their quest for power in 2016.

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