The St. Louis Cardinals’ 50 greatest players

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#22 Max Lanier

Lanier pitched for some great teams from 1938-1950 with the Cardinals. He pitched alongside some fellow list members and posted some similar numbers with the club. He like many pitchers in that era pitched both out of the bullpen and as a starter.

In his career Lanier was 101-69 with a 2.84 ERA and 3.06 FIP, and while his numbers are a bit lower than his teammate who follows him on this list, he pitched in less games and totaled a lesser fWAR at 29.0.

Still Lanier was extremely valuable for the Cardinals during his career, as from 1938-1944 Lanier posted a fWAR of 19.3. His best seasons came in 1943-1944 when he led the league in ERA one year (1943) and won a total of 32 games, totaling 10.1 fWAR.

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, after appearing in just four games in 1945 (due to military service) and six games in 1946, Lanier defected to play for the Mexican League for more money in 1946, missing the rest of the ’46 season.

According to SABR, after spending 1946 and 1947 in Mexico, Lanier attempted to come back in 1948, but wasn’t allowed due to a rule that suspended players who jumped ship for five years. Lanier challenged this in court and was reinstated in 1949, when he went 5-4 in 15 starts and posting a 3.82 ERA.

Lanier would finish his career with the Cardinals posting a fWAR of 7.4 in 1949-1951. Had Lanier not struggled with injuries and not jumped ship in the prime of his career, we could be talking about this lefty a lot higher. He is definitely a perplexing case for one of the best players to ever wear a Cardinals’ uniform.

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