2015 ended with the St. Louis Cardinals posting a 100-win season despite a lackluster offense. Cardinal catchers combined to post semi-sub-par offensive numbers last year. Should fans worry about the group in 2016?
I am very excited to spend the following articles examining the St. Louis Cardinals position by position in comparison fashion in an effort to find trends. What is at stake is whether or not the 2015 Cardinals were a reality, an anomaly, on par with everyone else, better than everyone else, or worse than everyone else.
As a reminder, this article series will examine the 2015 offensive statistics in comparison to the MLB average one position at a time. Also, each post will examine the aggregate statistics of each position as projected for 2016 to look for increases or decreases in light of concern or celebration.
Next up: catchers.
The following was the MLB overall offensive statistics:
Now let’s look at the MLB average for catchers:
Now let’s look at the Cardinals 2015 team average for players appearing at catcher:
The above statistics illustrate why I used the term “semi-sub-par” at the start of this article. It is clear from these stats that the likes of Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz were a veritable rollercoaster when it came to production in 2015.
To dig into it, let me illustrate the areas of weakness. Cardinal catchers combined to post sub-par numbers in home runs, walks (walked fewer than their counterparts), OBP, SLG, and WAR. This said, the Cardinal catchers posted better numbers in RBI, stolen bases, a lower strikeout percentage, ISO, BABIP, and better batting average.
A quick caveat to the above statements: many of the weaknesses or better statistics mentioned are quite borderline- being off only a few hundredths of points- which forces me to notes that I make the statements with caution. In short, these statements with only a few additional at-bats could well go the other way or become a wash.
Ignoring all the mitigating statements, the statistics do show that employing Molina and Cruz provided for an up-and-down offensive year in 2015. A personal note here, I celebrated the loudest this offseason when GM Mozeliak traded Tony Cruz. I have said it multiple times before that I am not a fan of Cruz. I just don’t like his approach at the plate and am consistently confused on his catching abilities.
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Let’s turn to projections to see if 2016, now with the addition of Brayan Pena as the season-start-starter-then-backup will provide any areas of excitement for the Cardinals.
MLB second base Steamer projections:
Now, how about Steamer projections for the 2016 Cardinals:
Let’s break it down… If all goes as projected, the Cardinals (Molina and Pena) are projected to better almost all of the statistical fields! That said, while most of the stats better those of the MLB projected average, the home run and RBI totals are still below average. Let’s look a little deeper.
The projected increase accounts for 2.7 fewer home runs than the MLB average, 3 fewer RBI than the average, and a slight dip in SLG. All of these “negatives” come while posting a better batting average, OBP, OPS, and a better overall WAR (1 vs. 0.8). So based on these, it seems safe to say that the Cardinals may not wow as much from balls in flight but the basics of team contribution will certainly climb and assist more in 2016 than they did in 2015.
Based on the projections, I feel that Cardinal fans should be grateful to GM Mozeliak and his wise decision to shuffle-off Cruz and add Pena. We know that 2016 could be a down year for Molina coming off another surgery so it is relieving to see the projected stats showing this mitigated.
In case you are interested, Yadi is predicted to hit 7 home runs, post 45 RBI, post a slash line of .278/.326/.397 according to steamer.
I am very excited about this series and hope that you will follow along as I examine each position on the Cardinals when comparing 2015 stats against the stats of the rest of the league as well as looking at each positions projections. Follow me on Twitter and let’s discuss each position as we progress through spring training and beyond!