The St. Louis Cardinals have signed their new center fielder and now things will change.
The news of the Dexter Fowler signing had the twittersphere abuzz all Thursday night and into Friday morning. Now that we know the details, we can begin to anticipate the potential impacts to the St. Louis Cardinals outfield and batting lineup.
We should all admit, at this point, that Fowler makes the team better. He might not have been exactly who or what many fans wanted and he might cost more cash than some would have liked. Those things said, it isn’t my money so I don’t care, and I trust Mozeliak to have grabbed the best that he can get.
Moving past personal feelings- I should admit that I’m happy with this pick for many reasons including not having to lose prospects and like Fowler’s abilities- we should look at the impact of this addition. From the start, we need to note that Fowler ended 2016 with a WAR of 4.2 which is great and would have been the best WAR on the Cardinals if he were a teammate in 2016.
Let’s look first at the outfield. With Fowler patroling center, Randal Grichuk can move to left field. In his career, Grichuk carries a 3.2 UZR when playing center and a 6.8 UZR in left (Matt Holliday carried a career -6.0 UZR in left). Verdict: improvement immediately.
How about range? I believe the addition of Fowler makes the St. Louis Cardinals outfield one of the greatest at covering ground. Let’s look at the numbers.
Grichuk owns a RF/9 (range factor per nine innings: (putouts + assists) * 9/innings played) in left field of 1.68 across his career. Fowler owns a RF/9 in center of 2.30 across his career. Stephen Piscotty owns a RF/9 in right field of 1.92 across his career. It should be difficult to land balls in no-man’s land in 2017’s outfield.
How about the lineup? Writers on twitter have suggested the following lineup with Fowler. I’ll add the 2016 slash lines and WAR for our examination.
Fowler – Switch Hitter – CF – .276/.393/.447 – 4.2 WAR
Aledmys Diaz – Right-handed – SS – .300/.369/.510 – 3.5 WAR
Matt Carpenter – Left-handed – 1B – .271/.380/.505 – 3.4 WAR
Piscotty – Right-handed – RF – .273/.343/.457 – 2.9 WAR
Yadier Molina – Right-handed – C – .307/.360/.427 – 2.9 WAR
Grichuk – Right-handed – LF – .240/.289/.480 – 2.7 WAR
Johnny Peralta – Right-handed – 3B – .260/.307/.408 – -0.4 WAR
(Jedd Gyorko – Right-handed – 3B/2B – .243/.306/.495 – 2.9 WAR)
Kolten Wong – Left-handed – 2B – .240/.327/.355 – 1.5 WAR
Gyorko is listed in the lineup above in parenthesis as he is the St. Louis Cardinals’ utility infielder who would spell relief for Peralta and Wong. Just look at that lineup! I’d take that lineup any day and will be glad to watch it every day in 2017.
It jumps out to me that a lineup with Fowler at the top, or simply with Fowler in it, has added a greater amount of OBP. Fowler’s .393 OBP leads the team and replaces Holliday’s .322 OBP. This will immediately impact the team.
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How about steals? The 2017 Cardinals need to be better on the pads and Fowler stole thirteen bases in 2016. The 2016 Cardinals stole only thirty-five bases in 2017 which was second-to-last in all of MLB. Holliday stole zero bases in 2016, so if we added in Fowler’s thirteen, the Cardinals would have stolen forty-eight bags which would have moved them out of the cellar in the rankings last season.
Okay, so to cut to the chase, I believe that adding Fowler is a GREAT move for the St. Louis Cardinals. Do I believe they are finished this offseason? No. I think the team has some decisions to make as they relate to Harrison Bader, Peralta, and Matt Adams. I guess we will learn of these in the coming weeks (if at all).
Now that the dust has settled, I think the St. Louis Cardinals are in a great position thanks to the addition of Fowler and I believe so thanks to the data shown above. Stay with us at Redbird Rants as we will continue to keep our finger on the pulse of the Cardinals in case more moves are coming. Thanks for reading!