The infield for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020 was a relative strength at the plate and especially with the gloves.
While the St. Louis Cardinals had some of the weaker bats in the league in 2020, the infielders generally managed to hold their own offensively. The strong point was once again the defense, though, as the Cardinals led the major leagues in defensive runs saved. Following is a breakdown of the performance of each infield position for the Cardinals in 2020.
We all know what Yadier Molina provides, and this year was no exception, as Molina turned in another solid season both at the plate and behind it. With a .262/.303/.359 slash line at age 38, Molina once again defied Father Time. He also threw out five runners out of 11 attempting to steal, and that small sample proves that few runners dare test his arm.
Molina’s primary backup, Matt Wieters, was unimpressive, hitting at the Mendoza Line and starting the season 0 for 14. To his credit, Wieters picked it up a notch near the end of the season, amassing five hits in his final 13 at-bats.
Andrew Knizner, potentially Molina’s heir, didn’t stand out at the plate, but he outperformed Wieters, and his defense appears to have taken a step forward. If the front office is smart, Knizner will be the primary backup to Molina next season (if Molina stays, but that’s a different story).
Paul Goldschmidt was undoubtedly the offensive standout for the Cardinals in 2020. He hit over .300 for the fourth time in his career, and he had the highest on-base percentage of his career at .417. It appears those who believed Goldschmidt just needed to get acclimated to a new city might have been correct.
Defensively, Goldschmidt was also a star. He was nominated as a Gold Glove finalist, and his expertise at picking out low throws in the dirt has saved many an error. He is one of the main reasons for the Cardinals’ excellent defense in the last two years.
Rangel Ravelo played some first base when Goldschmidt needed a break. He was underwhelming, with a line of .171/.244/.286, but he played sparingly, appearing in 13 games with 41 plate appearances. While Ravelo might seem to bring the grade down a bit, his impact was minimal, so it only seems fair to give this position the highest honor.
Kolten Wong is another Gold Glove finalist, as he once again dazzled in the field. His Outs Above Average was in the 82nd percentile, according to Baseball Savant. He was steady at the plate in the leadoff spot, with a .265/.350/.326 line. He showed less power than in years past, knocking only one ball out of the park and trading his power for opposite-field line drives.
Unfortunately, his barrel percentage was among the worst in baseball. While there is a place for these types of hitters, the Cardinals’ offense lacked pop, and Wong could have helped a bit in that department had he not strayed from his older approach.
As most predicted, Edman did not match his excellent rookie season at the plate, but he still hit a decent .250/.316/.368. Edman’s real value came in his utility, though; while third base was where he played most often, Edman also spent time at second base, shortstop, right field and left field.
A bigger concern for Edman was his poor stolen base success rate of two steals in six attempts. With a sprint speed in the 95th percentile, Edman might just lack the instincts to be a solid basestealer.
Carpenter struggled throughout the year after displaying a promising Spring Training as the shift continued to give him fits. His 2019 struggles appear not to be a mirage, and an average of .186 isn’t going to cut it for another full season. He also struck out in over a third of his at-bats, which is not a recipe for success. With two more years left on Carpenter’s contract, things are looking grim.
Brad Miller played a few games at third base as well, although he was most often used as the designated hitter. It makes sense because Miller had his share of struggles when he played the field. With five errors in 23 chances at the position, Miller had an abysmal .783 fielding percentage.
Paul DeJong played the majority of games at shortstop for the Cardinals, and he produced a .250/.322/.349 line. It marked the second-highest batting average and on-base percentage of his career, but much like Wong, his power seemed to evaporate. DeJong only socked three home runs after hitting 30 last year and had the lowest slugging percentage of his career. Granted, he had about five times more plate appearances in the “typical” 2019 season, but it’s still a drastic decrease in home runs per plate appearance.
DeJong’s fielding metrics displayed a defensive decline in 2020. His Outs Above Average statistic was -4, which ranked 131st of 138 infielders.
Without the infield production the Cardinals received, it’s unlikely the team would have gotten to the postseason, even with the larger number of teams making it. Top-tier pitching is great, but offense and defense are needed to complement it, and the infielders generally did their part.