The 2010s are coming to an end, but who have been the best St. Louis Cardinals players at each position over the last ten years?
2019 marks the end of a decade in which the St. Louis Cardinals have won a World Series, made the playoffs on six occasions and had a winning record every year (the only team to do this in the NL and has only been matched by the Yankees in all of Major League Baseball).
There have been many changes to the line-up over the last ten years, but who have been our best players at each position and made the Cards all-decade team?
Catcher – Yadier Molina (2013)
Now, this was not a hard one to guess the player, with Yadi averaging over 131 games a year over the decade, but which year was his strongest as a Redbird. Both the 2012 and 2013 seasons were excellent, in which Molina had his best offensive seasons and also performed well defensively.
With very little to choose between these two seasons from the surely HOF-bound catcher, the 2013 Yadier Molina season kicks off the all-decade team with Yadi’s decade high 30 Defensive Runs Saved, 80 RBI and 133 wRC+ which was better only marginally by his 2012 season (138).
First Baseman – Albert Pujols (2010)
Prior to the 2019 season, there was a lot of hype around the arrival of Paul Goldschmidt and the hope he would continue his All-Star form from the DBacks. Unfortunately, Goldy had his worst offensive season since 2011 which left one clear front-runner for the St. Louis Cardinals all-decade first baseman position.
That prize had to go to Albert Pujols, and most notably his 2010 season. In his penultimate season in St. Louis, Albert won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, came second in the MVP voting and was an All-Star. This was all due to his NL leading 118 RBI, NL leading 42 homers and a 173 OPS+ which was second-best in all MLB.
Second Baseman – Matt Carpenter (2013)
Matt Carpenter was a real puzzle piece in putting together this all-decade team as he has changed positions many times since joining the league in 2011. Carp has transitioned from first base in 2012, to second base in 2013, to third base in 2014 then back to first base in 2017 with a smattering of outfield in there also.
Finding his position in the team was a challenge, but unfortunately for Kolten Wong and his gold glove winning 2019 season, Carpenter takes the second baseman spot with his 2013 season.
2013 was Matt Carpenters’ career-high year of fWAR with 7.2 which outshone even his monster offensive 2018 season. Carpenter led all of the MLB in hits (199), doubles (55), and runs (126) in 2013. So although 2019 KoWo may be defensively stronger than 2013 Carp, it has to go to Carpenter for his offense alone.
Third Baseman – David Freese (2012)
This was another position that was strongly affected by the Matt Carpenter conundrum. After the decision to play 2013 Carp at second base, this has opened up the role for 2012 David Freese. This was Freese’s only season of being an All-Star in his career with a strong offensive performance hitting a career-high .372 OBP, 20 home runs and 147 hits. Freese also had his best defensive year as a Cardinal in 2012, so he adds some defensive abilities to the all-decade lineup.
A notable shoutout goes to 2019 Tommy Edman here who, although only playing 92 games in the entire regular season, managed only 0.5 fewer fWAR than David Freese. Had he played the full season he likely would have performed better both offensively and defensively.
If we extrapolate Edman’s numbers for the same number of games as Freese, we see Edman would have hit 18 homers vs. Freese’s 20 and amassed 96 runs compared to Freese’s 70. So here’s hoping Tommy will have a big 2020 and embed himself in the 2020’s all-decade team.
Shortstop – Paul DeJong (2019)
Paul DeJong’s 2019 season takes the shortstop role on the St. Louis Cardinals all-decade team, not so much for his career-high 30 home runs and All-Star performance, but mostly due to his superior defensive abilities. Jhonny Peralta ran a close second here with a stronger performance offensively, but DeJong’s defense solidifies his position in the lineup.
DeJong started the season well with 40 hits and 14 doubles in his first 29 games, but this offensive output tailed off towards the end of the year aside from his home runs which stayed constant throughout the year. Pauly D’s defense on the other hand has been exemplary with 14 defensive runs saved, and his 2019 season was the strongest position player defensively, aside from Yadi, of the decade.
Right Field – Jason Heyward (2015)
Statistically Jason Heyward has had the strongest season in right field as any Cardinal of the decade, amassing 5.6 fWAR and showing his strong arm with the only positive defensive rating of the decade in right field according to FanGraphs.
His decision to leave the Cards for Chicago makes this choice all the harder, but Lance Berkman‘s lacking defense in 2011 and Carlos Beltran‘s high K% (20%) and poor BABIP (.291) of 2012 mean that Heyward in 2015 is the best candidate for the right field position on the Cardinals all-decade team.
Center Field – Tommy Pham (2017)
It is another simple decision for the center field role with Tommy Pham being a strong candidate both offensively and defensively during his 2017 season. Although he didn’t have the best clubhouse presence according to certain front office staff, Pham had 6.2 fWAR and a solid defense in his final full season as a Redbird before being traded away during the 2018 season to the Rays.
Pham hit a career-high 23 home runs and his baserunning was excellent with a career-high 25 bases being stolen in his 2017 season. Since Pham has left, the Cardinals haven’t been able to properly replace Pham’s offense with Bader weighing in strongly in the field, but not stepping up at the plate to replace Tommys runs.
Left Field – Matt Holliday (2010)
With Tommy Pham taking the center field role, mainly due to a lack of better options in the middle of the outfield, this has left the all-decade team position open for Matt Holliday to be the take left field.
Holliday had a number of good years as a Cardinal during this decade, but his 2010 season was certainly the strongest in the Lou with 103 RBIs, 28 homers and 45 doubles which were all by far his best. Although defence wasn’t his strong suit, Matt excelled offensively and his 6.2 fWAR for the 2010 season are his best of the decade and far supersede that of Marcell Ozuna the last 2 years.
Starting Pitchers – Adam Wainwright (2013), Jack Flaherty (2019), Chris Carpenter (2011), Miles Mikolas (2018) & Carlos Martinez (2015)
Adam Wainwright has been the mainstay of the Cardinals rotation over the last decade and the top three seasons by FIP are by Waino in 2010, 2013 & 2014. But the 2013 season tops the rotation with an MLB leading 19 wins from 34 starts coupled with a 2.55 FIP and 0.56 HR/9.
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Jack Flaherty takes second spot in the rotation with his 2019 season, and if Jack can continue his second-half stats going into 2020 he should have the all-decade starting spot locked down after he allowed just a 0.91 ERA and 0.45 HR/9 which were both an MLB best among starting pitchers.
Chris Carpenter pitched the most innings in the NL (237.1) in 2011 so he is the rotation innings-eater, while maintaining a solid 3.45 ERA and finished with 4.5 fWAR, the 5th best season by a starting pitcher on the Cardinals in the Twenty-Tens.
Finally 2018 Miles Mikolas and 2015 Carlos Martinez shore-up the remainder of the rotation with a combined 32 wins leading to a .742 win rate, and had a combined 327 strikeouts in 375 and a third innings pitched. Therefore, the starting five rotation for the St. Louis Cardinals all-decade team amassed a massive 22.9 fWAR.
Relief Pitchers – Seunghwan Oh (2016), Trevor Rosenthal (2015), Giovanny Gallegos (2019)
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a number of strong relief pitching performances over the last ten years, most notable of these coming from Trevor Rosenthal and his career-high 48 saves in the 2015 season where he had a save in 71% of the games he pitched in.
Seunghwan Oh had the highest fWAR of all relief pitchers over this period with 2.6 fWAR amassed over the 79.2 innings pitched in his first season in MLB in 2016. He came 6th in the Rookie of the Year awards in that first season and allowed just a 1.92 ERA.
Finally, Giovanny Gallegos from 2019 proved that the Cardinals won the Luke Voit trade with Gallegos pitching in 66 games, allowing only a .222 BABIP and had a 2.31 ERA which greatly helped the Redbirds middle relief and it looks likely Gallegos will become one of the Cards mainstays going into the next decade.
It’s been a great decade and if it was possible to grab a time machine, the mix of personalities on this metaphorical team would be fun to see.