It’s no secret the St. Louis Cardinals are struggling. Whether its been pitching, hitting, or defense, it is clear the team is in need of a shake up. Maybe it’s time to revisit the roster and consider adding Paul DeJong to the 40-man roster.
For much of the off-season, the St. Louis Cardinals preached better defense and athleticism. However, to many fans not much has changed from last season. Whether it’s the outrageous decision to start Matt Adams in left field or continuing to rely on an aging Jhonny Peralta at third, it’s clear the philosophy the fans were promised has taken a back seat.
As I watched the Cardinals stumble to another loss on Tuesday night, one play in particular stood out to me. I’ll set up the situation for you. After Lance Lynn struck out Matt Wieters to begin the bottom of the third, Gio Gonzalez walked. The Nationals’ Adam Eaton proceeded to hit a ground ball towards Peralta and Aledmys Diaz.
The ground ball should have been a routine double play ball to the third baseman. However, Peralta was unable to range to his left to field the ball cleanly. In doing so, the ball trickled under his glove to an unsuspecting Diaz. The batted ball resulted in an error on the play, allowing Gonzalez to reach second and Eaton to reach safely at first.
According to BaseballSavant, Eaton’s ground ball had an exit velocity of about 83 MPH. The hit probability for a batted ball at 83 MPH is about 20%. To add more, the wOBA for a batted ball at that velocity is a miniscule .195. To put that in perspective, an average wOBA would be around .320 and an awful wOBA would be .290.
Essentially, Eaton’s ground ball should have been a double play to end the inning. Obviously the error compounds the scenario a bit, but the stats show Eaton more than likely shouldn’t have reached safely either way. So instead of being out of the inning or having two outs, Lynn found himself with one out and facing Bryce Harper.
Outside of the hitter’s influence, let’s look at why else this play couldn’t be made.
I’ll use the RZR rating to explain. Fangraphs defines RZR (Revised Zone Rating) as “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out.” The rating takes into account the amount of made plays within and outside a player’s range. The average rating for a player is .835.
Jhonny’s current RZR is a .667, which is almost 100 points lower than an awful rating. So his chances of reaching the ground ball hit to his left were not very good. He made his best attempt, I’m sure, but be reasonable here. Outside of RZR, he is also worth negative defensive runs saved. Statistically, Peralta is a defensive liability and Thursday’s play showed.
The rule of thumb on the field is if the third baseman can make a play, he will go for it. If you have the range to make a play, by all means take your opportunities. But, if you don’t have the range, then don’t force the play. Jhonny did just that and caused Diaz to have a miscue himself. Not to rub salt in the wound, Jhonny, but that play led to two runs…
I’m not going to go into his hitting. If you have been watching the games, you haven’t missed much. Bernie Miklasz went into his hitting more than I did and its as bad as you think.
So for a team that certainly preached defense, defense, and more defense, the St. Louis Cardinals continue to roll with whatever. So I’ll just throw out the idea that maybe the Cardinals need to promote someone from within the organization.
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My candidate: Paul DeJong.
He may not be the high profile player like a Carson Kelly (can’t believe some would suggest him at 3rd), but why not give the kid a chance?
I mean if Matheny is seriously going to give Matt Adams more playing time in LF (because defense is overrated, amirite?), then surely DeJong should be offered an opportunity.
DeJong is currently playing SS for the Memphis Redbirds, but saw action with the Cardinals at third base during Spring Training. He recorded fifty-one at-bats and hit for .216 BA. During his time in Spring Training, DeJong also hit seven home runs and had seven RBI.
DeJong has been able to translate his Spring to a fast start in Memphis. He is currently batting .364, an OBP of .364, and an OPS of .864. Although he has not hit a home run for the AAA team, his slugging still sits at a respectable .500.
In thirty-seven innings for the Memphis Redbirds, Dejong has had nine total chances at short. He has three putouts and six assists. He has also turned a double play. I don’t pretend to know everything about DeJong, but it seems like the kid at least deserves a chance. For more on DeJong, jump over to Michael’s earlier post.
There are a couple of factors though that the Cardinals have to overcome to get him to St. Louis. One, he isn’t on the 40-man roster. As much as I want to give him a chance, I am not sure the Cardinals are on the same page. They would have to remove someone from the current roster to make space (Jonathan Broxton).
The second factor is money. The Cardinals owe a lot of money to Jhonny Peralta still. I don’t know if the Cardinals would ever justify making a move like this to bench someone who costs them so much. The only way to justify such a move is to continue to lose under Peralta at third. If you are willing to do that, then do not preach defense first.
Is Paul DeJong the answer to all our problems? Probably not. I believe, though, that he gives the St. Louis Cardinals a really good chance at actually being better defensively. Who knows, maybe yesterday’s play is made by DeJong. Until the organization takes a leap of faith with its young players, get used to seeing Peralta rumble, bumble, and stumble.
It seems like every night there is something to complain about when it comes to the Cardinals. However, the Jhonny Peralta at third experiment, is over. Well, at least in my eyes. If you preach defense, then stick to it. If you are not willing to promote from within, then PLEASE move Carpenter back over to third and put Matt Adams at first.