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

Sep 24, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Stephen Piscotty (55) is congratulated by Randal Grichuk as he crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Stephen Piscotty (55) is congratulated by Randal Grichuk as he crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals both missed the playoffs last season, but seem to be the class of the Central when it comes to outfields. Which one is better though?

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates may have the best outfields in the division, possibly even the National League. Both are filled with young studs and different sorts of combinations with their hitting and defensive abilities along the chart.

Bottom line? Both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates can claim balanced outfields who will be a force to be reckoned with this upcoming season. It will be difficult to sort through the two and make a choice on who is the best considering the fact that both exemplify the class of the division.

The St. Louis Cardinals added Dexter Fowler to their trio in the outfield, while the Pirates have kept it the same for a couple years now with Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco in the outfield. The Cardinals are making two changes, one is adding Fowler as I mentioned, while the other is shifting Randal Grichuk from center to Left.

Left Field: Randal Grichuk or Starling Marte?

With Grichuk, you have a first year left fielder, as he has played center for his first couple of full years in the league. In contrast, Marte- a speedy left fielder- has played the position for his four seasons in Pittsburgh. These two are pretty comparable, but who has the true advantage?

Starting with Grichuk, he is 25 years old and will turn 26 well into the season. He had a down year in a lot of offensive categories in 2016 as he had a couple of stints in triple-A but still played in 132 games at the big-league level. He did manage to hit twenty-four home runs which is where he has Marte defeated: power numbers.

Grichuk has dealt with some injuries throughout his years in the big leagues to this point. These may have set him back somewhat. He batted .240 last year which is thirty-six points down from 2015. If he stays healthy, he will be a special asset for the Cardinals this year.

Defensively, Grichuk has had his issues, like when he couldn’t throw due to an injury last season for a short period of time. But he fits better in left field due to his ability, so he will be better from a defensive standpoint in 2017 because of the position change.

Over to Marte who will playing in his fifth full season this year. He only appeared in 129 games in 2016 which is comparable to Grichuk’s 132 in the same season. Speed definitely favors Marte as he is one of the fastest players in the NL. He also bats near the top of the order, while Grichuk is more of a middle of the order guy.

Marte hit only nine homers last year, his lowest total in all of his “full” seasons. He did bat over .300 last season which is significantly better than Grichuk’s average. He stole forty-seven bags as well in 2016 which is more than Grichuk has in his career, just to prove why the speed and base running favors Marte heavily.

When it comes to WAR, these two are important assets to their teams: both are young, and are all-star-potential yearly-type players. Marte’s WAR was 4.9 last year, which is higher than Grichuk’s WAR of 2.9.

Overall, these guys offer similar things but contribute to their teams in different ways. That said, both are valuable players in their own regard.

Advantage: Marte, but it is a close one, because of how much potential Grichuk has coming into 2017.

Center Field: Dexter Fowler or Andrew McCutchen?

These are two of the better center fielders in the National League overall. McCutchen, however, did have his worst season last year statistically, while Fowler was a consistent player last year with the Cubs. This is a heavyweight battle here with this comparison.

Defensive ability favors McCutchen, but it is close. Neither of these players have won Gold Gloves, but rarely make errors. McCutchen had zero errors last season in the games he played earning a fielding percentage of .991. Fowler had four errors and a fielding percentage of .983 last year.

Both of these guys can play the position though. I think a big reason why McCutchen is a better defensive player is because of his speed. The Pirates have the fastest outfield in all of baseball. Don’t get me wrong, Fowler is quick, just not AS quick as McCutchen.

Offense is a tricky one, because up until 2016 McCutchen was one of the best players in the league but had such an off year in 2016. While Fowler hit .276 with thirteen home runs and forty-eight driven in. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Fowler is better than what his numbers show.

Fowler also only played 125 games last year due to an injury he dealt with throughout the season. His OBP was the best among leadoff hitters last year as well at .393. His .840 OPS was his second-best of his career last season and he also made his first career All-Star game too.

McCutchen had a career-low average in his 153 games, he also had his third lowest total of hits with 153. Something that is also shocking is that he struck out a whopping 143 times, his career high. Even more, he struck out 276 times in his last two seasons.

Those types of numbers for McCutchen last year is what makes this comparison so hard to make. The fact that McCutchen has been so great in the outfield, however, sets him apart from Fowler. I am not saying that Fowler is bad, but McCutchen has been very good defensively.

Advantage: Andrew McCutchen, but it’s CLOSE!

Right Field: Stephen Piscotty or Gregory Polanco? 

These two are the youngsters of their outfields, despite Piscotty being the same age as Grichuk, but Piscotty has only played one full season which was in 2016. Piscotty has absolutely shined since being called up in 2015. Polanco has played very well throughout his few seasons in the majors.

These two guys are doubles machines, they both hit thirty-plus last season: Piscotty hit thirty-five and Polanco hit thirty-four. Very close. Both seasons we have seen from Piscotty, granted he only played sixty-three games in 2015, allow me to say he was one of the best rookies in the league both seasons.

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Polanco is a very fast player, as are all of the Pirates outfielders, as I said they are for sure the fastest outfield in the majors. Polanco stole twenty-seven bags in 2015, but only seventeen in 2016. His home run numbers went from nine in 2015, to twenty-two in 2016. A power surge is a great way to explain Polanco’s 2016 offensive numbers.

Piscotty hit twenty-two home runs in 2016 on a St. Louis Cardinals team who had the most home runs as a team in the NL. In fact, Piscotty and Grichuk (2017 Cardinal corner outfielders) combined for sixty-four home runs last year.

Both of these guys committed four errors last season. I think they are almost even as fielders but give a slight advantage to Piscotty because of his arm. Both guys have outstanding arms, but I think Piscotty has more to offer overall from a defensive perspective.

These guys are very even, but I think this is where I give the Cardinal the upper hand.

Advantage: Piscotty, but another VERY close one!

Next: Five Players Feeling Pressure in 2017

These two outfield units will be so fun to watch in 2017. I think these are the two best outfields in the league right now. You have to feel good as a fan of the teams watching the raw ability of these players in the outfield, just so fun to see.