The St. Louis Cardinals’ 50 greatest players

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#19 Keith Hernandez

Keith Hernandez anchored the Cardinals at first base from 1974 through mid-1983 when he was traded to the Mets for minor league pitcher Rick Ownbey and pitcher Neil Allen who won 9 games in 1984 and ended up being sold to the Yankees.

Hernandez was a Cardinal fan favorite as the league’s MVP in 1979, but a rift formed between Hernandez and Whitey Herzog who wanted him gone. Herzog maintains it was a good move to trade Hernandez despite his success as a member of the Mets as a later drug suspension proved Whitey’s point.

Until 1979, Hernandez posted respectable fWARs between 2.2 and 3.2, but the switch flipped as he posted a 7.4 fWAR in his MVP year – the highest in his career. Over the next 7 seasons (1980-1986) he posted fWARs primarily in the 5+ range, with a high of 6.9 and a low of 4.1.

With the St Louis Cardinals he hit .299 with a .385 on-base and .448 slugging percentage. Known for having a keen plate presence, Hernandez posted a career 12.5% walk rate (14.4% in 1982), and had a career wRC+ of 131.

Hernandez won six of his eleven gold gloves while a member of the Cardinals. 11 gold gloves is the most by any first baseman in MLB history. He won the silver slugger award in 1980 and 1984 and was a 5-time all-star.

In addition to his MVP selection in 1979, he also came in second in 1984. He also forced a rule change as he would squat in foul territory in order to make tags faster. Now all players other than the catcher must be positioned in fair territory when the pitch is delivered.

Paul Layton

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