Persevering through his early season woes at the plate, Corey Dickerson has reestablished himself as a solid and productive hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals.
After a questionable first half of the season, things are finally clicking for the Cardinals with an abundance of incredible performances. Paul Goldschmidt has all but secured his position as National League MVP, and appears to be setting his sights on an even bigger prize: The Triple Crown.
Across the diamond, were it not for his illustrious teammate at first, Nolan Arenado would likely be putting up an MVP campaign of his own, his offensive prowess capped off by a borderline superhuman defensive ability which is simply expected from him like no one else. Even 42-year-old Albert Pujols, who some considered to have nothing more to offer just mere months ago has showcased a window of his prime form, hitting a whopping 8 home runs in August alone.
In the midst of these stunning achievements, another player’s contributions, although significant, have mostly flown under the radar. That player is Corey Dickerson, whose second-half resurgence has transformed him from a mere benchwarmer into a major contributor for the team.
Dickerson, who turned 33 earlier this year, was signed to a one-year, $5 million contract during the 2022 offseason. Having played for six other franchises in years prior, the veteran outfielder saw marked success in the early seasons of his career, demonstrating commendable power while also hitting for high average. Though his homerun count has dipped considerably in recent years, his ability to hit for high average has remained consistent.
As reported by Rick Hummel, it seemed, however, that the Cardinals were interested in helping Dickerson reestablish himself as the power hitter he showcased himself to be in the early stages of his career.
In an interview regarding his signing with the team, General Manager John Mozeliak praised Dickerson’s capability at the plate and also cited the flexibility he would bring to the outfield.
Early Season Woes
Things would get off to a rocky start, however, as Dickerson started the 2022 campaign as one of the worst performers on the Cardinals. On June 5, two months into the season, Dickerson’s struggles would take a turn for the worse as he found himself on the injured list with a left calf strain. Slashing .194/.245/.286 and heading off the roster with an injury that would take him out of action for an entire month, things did not look promising for the journeyman outfielder.
An Explosive Resurgence
Remarkably, this hiatus from the Cardinals seemingly wound up being the best thing that could have happened to him. Almost immediately after returning from the injured list, Dickerson started hitting. Hitting a lot. In the 11 games he participated in in July, Dickerson posted 11 hits in 39 at-bats, raising his average up to .226 in that time frame. This was but a glimpse of what was soon to come.
The month of August saw an even more dramatic spike in Dickerson’s average, jumping from .226 to an impressive .280. Interestingly, Dickerson posted no walks during the entirety of August, but with the sheer abundance of hits he was producing, it was borderline inconsequential. To some, that may seem a rash or foolish assertion, but Dickerson’s hot streak at the plate was so dominant that it went so far as to set a team record.
A Franchise Record
Stretching across a span of three games in a series against the rival Chicago Cubs, Dickerson amazingly found a gap in the Cubs’ defense time and time again, racking up hit after hit. After posting a whopping eight consecutive hits in eight at-bats, Dickerson tied the soon-to-be ex-franchise record held by Curt Flood, Felix Jose, and Fernando Tatis. Hitting a pair of singles in his next two at-bats, the streak was brought up to 10, firmly entrenching himself as the franchise leader while becoming the 13th player since the expansion era to ever achieve 10+ consecutive hits. The streak consisted of seven singles and three doubles—a proper representation of his recent production at the dish.
In an interview following the first of the three games which would bear witness to the record-breaking streak, Dickerson professed his commitment to the Cardinals and his desire to take on a more prominent role in the future. “I’m just trying to show that I’m valuable. I might not like the role, or the playing time and stuff like that, but I enjoy being a part of this team and I know I can offer something. I just kind of have that mindset, go out there and compete.”
“I know I can offer something”
Setting a franchise record was, to little or no surprise, enough to cast out the dreaded role of bench warming and thrust Dickerson into a more prominent position as a daily starter. As of September 4, Dickerson boasted the 3rd highest Post All-Star Break average in MLB history, trailing only Ted Williams (.453) and Ichiro Suzuki (.429) with his own staggering .425.
Since then, his average has continued to climb with little to no interruption, where it now sits at a very attractive .290. As of September 8, he is slashing .290/.320/.433.
To decipher his sudden resurgence, there are a few factors to consider.
During his time on the injured list, Dickerson worked on reevaluating his perspective on the situation, stating in an interview with Bally Sports Midwest that, “…when it doesn’t quite work your way, it’s frustrating. Instead of having a light-hearted mindset to it and focusing on preparation, doing all you can, you can make excuses or be frustrated. To have that off my back and chest, success or failure, I think I’ll go at it a different way next time.”
While a player’s mindset is crucial to their performance, in this case, it’s highly unlikely that it tells the entire story. Though this is simply speculation, it seems possible that, seeing Dickerson’s efforts to return to power hitting weren’t panning out, the Cardinals’ hitting coaches allowed him to return to his more recent specialty: contact hitting. As mentioned above, Dickerson’s recent production consists almost exclusively of singles and doubles, having hit only four home runs (oh, and a triple). Though it’s not nearly as glamorous, or awe-inspiring as that of the towering homerun hitter, Dickerson’s playstyle is indisputably valuable for the aspiring ballclub. More hits naturally produce more scoring opportunities.
Should Dickerson Return In 2023?
Should he finish the year strong as we start to approach the final games of the season, bringing back Dickerson for the 2023 campaign is an interesting and exciting prospect. The question is obviously whether he can keep it up. His terrible first-half performance, alongside his increasing age, definitely doesn’t help his case. The risk assumed in undertaking his re-signing is considerable, and because of it, it’s entirely possible the Cardinals don’t pull the trigger. However, seeing the contributions he’s made for the team and their playoff push in recent months, the risk might just be worth the reward. Time will tell, and there’s still a lot of baseball to be played.