NUMBER FOUR: Winning combination
One of the biggest questions for manager Oli Marmol heading into the postseason is who the Cardinals should start in the outfield. There are a lot of factors to consider here– health, platoon splits, defensive value, who’s hot– and I’m not sure there is one right answer.
One stat to consider, however, is simply which players win the most. While it may be an oversimplification of a complex issue, there is something to be said for wins and losses mattering the most in a short playoff series.
Five current St. Louis Cardinals have started over 35 games in the outfield this season. In those games, the St. Louis Cardinals are:
52-27 when Lars Nootbaar starts, 40-40 when Lars Nootbaar does not start
60-47 when Dylan Carlson starts, 32-20 when Dylan Carlson does not start
47-24 when Corey Dickerson starts, 45-43 when Corey Dickerson does not start
52-36 when Tyler O’Neill starts, 40-31 when Tyler O’Neill does not start,
29-33 when Juan Yepez starts, 63-34 when Yepez does not start
First, I will acknowledge the numbers are a but off. Each of these five have started games at DH, and Yepez has recorded starts in the infield. However, the point of this exercise is impact when the players are in the starting lineup.
On first glance, the starting outfield is obvious. Lars Nootbaar in right, Dylan Carlson in center, and a Tyler O’Neill/Corey Dickerson platoon takes left.
Unfortunately for Juan Yepez, he was not with the major league team for much of the second-half hot streak. He’s been fantastic this season, and the numbers may not reflect how he helped keep the team afloat during the first few months.
In addition, the Cardinals have a weirdly good record when Dylan Carlson doesn’t start. Carlson has entered the game as a defensive replacement many times this season, so he’s found ways to impact the game off the bench. But unlike the other Opening Day outfielders, there is a pretty solid winning percentage when he is not in a starting spot.
The most obvious correlation, however, is that Lars Nootbaar wins baseball games. There’s a stark contrast in record when Nootbaar is in the lineup compared to games he doesn’t play. No matter who the Cardinals face this weekend, there is no doubt in my mind that Lars Nootbaar deserves to be the starting right fielder.
After Nootbaar, I’d still go with Carlson in center field. As for left field, only the team knows the health of Tyler O’Neill. That decision will remain a mystery.
There you have it, four little-known stats that lead to St. Louis Cardinal success. This postseason, watch out for Nootbaar’s spot in the lineup, if Albert hits a home run, Donovan scoring, and both Goldy and Nolan recording multiple hits. Just one of the four increases the Cardinal’s chance of victory.