Paul DeJong is optimistic that he will bounce back for the St. Louis Cardinals, but he first needs to prove it on the field.
Paul DeJong has, quite simply, become the punching bag for the St. Louis Cardinals fanbase.
DeJong, 28, is coming off his worst season in the majors, hitting .197/.284/.390 with 19 home runs and 45 RBI. He only appeared in 113 games, surrendering a lot of playing time in the second half to Edmundo Sosa, who earned a chance for more playing time in 2022 with a strong performance.
But DeJong and the Cardinals front office says not so fast. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak has been adamant in his support for DeJong, giving strong indications that he will be the Opening Day shortstop. In his first public comments this offseason, DeJong told The Athletic that he believes he’s ready to bounce back.
“It’s easy to say, but working on things right now in this stage, I feel where things were different last year and where Incan be better and how I can change,” he said. “Overall, it’s all about me getting out of my own way.”
Perhaps a coaching change – and a more analytical team approach – can help aid DeJong in his quest to earn the shortstop position in 2022 and beyond. Its also reasonable to expect that he will be better next season, considering that his BABIP (.216) was well below his career average (.282), meaning that part of his struggles can be traced to being unlucky.
Other parts of DeJong’s game that were down in 2021 include his line drive rate (19.6 percent in ‘21; 32.1 percent in 2020) while his groundball rate soared (38.4 percent in 2021; 28.3 percent in 2020), among others.
If DeJong can bounce back, or even hit close to .250 while hitting 20-30 home runs, the Cardinals will be a significantly different team next season. Whether the Cardinals’ optimism for a resurgence is warranted remains to be seen. But he clearly feels he’s up for the task.
It’s now up to DeJong to prove it.