St. Louis Cardinals: Paul DeJong is even better in 2018

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ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 26: Paul DeJong #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a double in the seventh inning against the New York Mets at Busch Stadium on April 26, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas /Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 26: Paul DeJong #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a double in the seventh inning against the New York Mets at Busch Stadium on April 26, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas /Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals’ shortstop is off to a pretty good start in 2018. I think he’s even better than his breakout rookie campaign.

Paul DeJong had a great rookie season in 2017 for the St. Louis Cardinals. He played in 108 games and hit .285, smashed 25 home runs, and drove in 65. He became the everyday shortstop and was unspectacular, but stable at the position. All in all, it was a fantastic debut for the then 23-year-old.

And, I think DeJong is even better in 2018 so far. Some of you may say, “But, he’s hitting .260 compared to .285 last year… his OPS is .829 compared to .857 in 2017. Are you crazy?”

No, I am not… and there are many reasons DeJong is better so far.

First, love it or hate it, WAR is a tool used to measure how valuable a player’s overall game is. And, he’s 11th in the National League in that category. He was worth 3.0 fWAR in 2017 and has already been worth 1.5 in a quarter of the season. He’s on pace to double his output from last season. And, there are few big reasons why the St. Louis Cardinals’ shortstop is more valuable this year:

Number 1

His walk rate has more than doubled this season. After finishing the 2017 campaign with a 4.7 BB%, many people stated and/or exclaimed that DeJong needed to improve his plate discipline. Well… he has. So far in 2018, his BB% sits at 9.6. That low walk rate, combined with his high swing and miss percentage contributed to a .325 OBP – not a terrible number, but one that many would’ve liked to see improve.

The numbers are better because he’s simply swinging at less bad pitches and making contact with more strikes. Last year, DeJong swung at pitches outside the strike zone 33.8% of the time. This year, he has swung at 25.9%. That is a huge improvement. Also, last year he made contact with 82.2% of pitches he swung at that were strikes. This year it is at 83.4% – a small improvement, but improvement nonetheless.

These improvements have led to a .349 OBP, a 24 point improvement. The improved on-base ability has led to a 128 wRC+, which means he’s been 28% better than league average. Last season it was 122.

Number 2

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He is playing great defense for the St. Louis Cardinals. So far in 2018, he has three defensive runs saved (DRS). Last year in 747 innings, he had zero. Last season, DeJong made 96% of “routine” plays. This year, it’s up to 98.2%. When the ball has been hit to him this season, he makes the play.

Number 3

He is a much better base runner. Last season, his BsR (base running runs above average) was -2.4. He was a below-average base runner. This year it sits at 0.9. From Fangraphs on BsR, “Number of runs above or below average a player has been worth on the bases, based on stolen bases, caught stealing, extra bases taken, outs on the bases, and avoiding double plays…” I would like to think that he’s simply grown as a base runner and player and that Willie McGee has helped out in this area.

Conclusion

While DeJong’s average and OPS are lower right now, he is a better overall player. He’s getting on base more, playing better defense, and running the bases a lot better.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals who need to be moved

I only see Paul DeJong continuing to make strides for the St. Louis Cardinals. What do you guys think? Let me know. Thanks for reading.

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