St. Louis Cardinals: Cubs vs. Cardinals in the Outfield

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Part two of the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Chicago Cubs takes a look at the outfield. Which team has the advantage?

Last week, I looked at the infield for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. I gave the advantage, 4-1, to the Cubs for many reasons. If you missed my assessment of the infield, check it out here. Now, it’s the outfield’s turn.

Left Field: Randal Grichuk or Ben Zobrist

On one hand you have the youth, speed, and the power of Grichuk. On the other hand, you have experience, versatility, and the clutch hitting of Zobrist.

Defensively, Randal Grichuk is a good, if not great, outfielder. He was above league fielding percentage in the outfield and recorded eight assists in CF. He is also worth eight defensive runs. Now that the Cardinals have Dexter Fowler slotted into CF and Grichuk in LF, he becomes an instant contender for a Gold Glove next season.

Although, Zobrist played a majority of his games at 2B last year, he did play some outfield last year and in previous seasons as well. His track record in LF suggests that he worth right around zero defensive runs and will be around the league average fielding percentage. Will his age (35) play a factor in his ability to play outfield?

Offensively, both Zobrist and Grichuk offer different things.

Many people were riding high on Grichuk after his excellent 2015 season. His display of power and  ability to hit for average certainly made it seem like the Cardinals had a reliable outfielder other than Matt Holiday. However, 2016 was a slight step backwards.

Although 2016 was a hit or miss season, literally, Grichuk showed just how much potential is there for him as a main cog in the Cardinals lineup. In 132 games, Grichuk batted .240, hit twenty-four HR, and drove in sixty-eight RBI. His Slugging Percentage, .480, and On Base Percentage, .289, combined for an OPS of .769.

His offensive problems, as I alluded to earlier, was his hit or miss approach. Grichuk wound up striking out 141 times of the course of the season and only drew twenty-eight walks. If Grichuk is able to increase his average and work the count better, there is no telling the number he could put up.

In his first season as a Cub, Zobrist quietly put together a great year. He batted .272, with eighteen HR, and seventy-six RBI in 147 games. His ability to hit for average and moderate power makes him a reliable threat in the lineup.

Zobrist’s biggest asset, that Grichuk does not have, is his ability to switch hit. His versatility at the plate, and defensively at different positions, is a huge benefit for the Cubs lineup. Joe Maddon can place Zobrist in different spots in the lineup and still receive a quality at bat. Speaking of quality at bats, Zobrist is as clutch a hitter as they come.

So where does that leave me? My main concern with Grichuk is his knee. If his knee heals properly and he comes back to his .275 average, watch out. My main concern with Zobrist is if his age catches up to him in the outfield? Does he lose time to Kyle Schwarber?

Tough call, but I like Grichuk here. Call me crazy, but his potential is worth more.

Advantage: Grichuk

Related Story: Comparing the Cards and Cubs: Starting Rotations

Centerfield: Dexter Fowler or Albert Almora/Jon Jay

Dexter Fowler’s signing represents three things to the St. Louis Cardinals. First off, it is an upgrade defensively in CF for the Cardinals and by signing him, the Cardinals were able to strengthen their outfield and make them more athletic.

Secondly, the signing improves the team offensively. Dexter Fowler will more than likely slide into the lead off position. Fowler had a OBP of almost .400, so seeing him at the top of the lineup will be great for hitters like Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty.

Lastly, it feels like a sort of pay back for Jason Heyward bolting to the Cubs. I’ll dish out more on Heyward later, but I am glad to see Dexter Fowler in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

Unlike left field, center field is an easy choice. Dexter Fowler had a great year for the Cubs in 2016. His offensive performance of batting .276, with 13 HR, and 48 RBI was very reminiscent of his 2012 season (.300, 13, 53).

If the Cardinals get the same Dexter Fowler that was in Chicago, the Cardinals lineup is easily among the top 5 lineups in the National League. His ability to get on base and create havoc on the base paths is a welcoming sight for many Cardinals fans. Plus, was it me or did Fowler kill Cards pitching too?

Defensively, Fowler made some adjustments to cover more of center field. He positioned himself deeper to prevent extra bases. While the occasional flare single may fall, Fowler still has good enough speed to track down flares.

The combination of Almora and Jay doesn’t really strike fear in me. Almora is young and inexperienced so I’ll reserve judgment till I see more of him. On the other hand, Cardinals fans are very familiar with what Jay brings to the table. He has a steady swing, with minimal power. He will hit for a good average and has average speed.

Advantage: Fowler

Right field: Stephen Piscotty or Jason Heyward

I’ll say this for Jason Heyward. He couldn’t have picked a better team to carry his poor performance in 2016. Lets just take a look at what he did as a Cardinal (2015) and as a Cub (2016):

St. Louis: .293 BA, 13HR, 60RBI, .359 OBP, .439 SLG, .797 OPS

Chicago:  .230 BA, 7 HR, 49 RBI, .306 OBP, .325 SLG, .621 OPS

I’m sure the Cubs weren’t expecting that Jason Heyward. Some thought that he would overcome his early struggles at the plate as the year went on, but that wasn’t exactly the case.

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His at bats during the playoffs and even on the biggest stage, the World Series, looked pretty bad. His confidence is shot. If his offensive numbers continue to spiral down, the boo birds will be singing even louder in Chicago and force Maddon’s hand but we all know what he can do as a première defender.

While Heyward struggled in his first year in right for the Cubs, Stephen Piscotty was able to impress in his first full season as a Redbird. After a nice rookie campaign, where he was 6th place in ROY voting, Piscotty was able to offer plenty during the up and down season for the Cardinals.

Here is Piscotty’s stat line compared to Heyward’s above:

.273 BA, 22 HR, 85 RBI, .343 OBP, .457 SLG, .800 OPS

While it’s obvious who had the better year, the big question for Piscotty is, can he duplicate his success? Piscotty figures to slot somewhere in the 4th or 5th hole in the lineup which means extra opportunity for HR and RBI. If he reaches for power, he would do well not to sacrifice his average.

Defensively, Piscotty was very good in right field. It’s tough transitioning from Heyward’s defense, but Piscotty proved that he was able to man the position just fine. He may not cover as much ground as we’d like, but that is something that will be worked on in Spring Training.

Next: Preview of the NL Central in 2017

Piscotty has the momentum heading into the 2017 season over Heyward.

Advantage: Piscotty

At the end of this one, the Cardinals take all three outfield position and tie the score up at 4-4. Seems fitting for two teams that ended up tying in the regular season series in 2016. Hopefully this year the Cards can maintain the edge. Go Cards!