LEFT-HANDED POWER BAT
The St. Louis Cardinals learned the hard way this postseason that you can’t win if you don’t hit. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt struggled in October, and the rest of the lineup failed to step up and support them. Facing right-handed aces Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, the October scoring drought continued an interesting trend from the regular season.
Throughout 2022, the Cardinals hit much better against left-handed pitching. As seen here on Baseball Reference, the team batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS+ were all higher against southpaws. The Cardinals ranked 1st in MLB in .OPS against lefties this season, but fell almost 100 points and dropped to 7th against righties. Still good, but it’s clear that this is an area to improve on for 2023.
The trend makes sense, as the three best hitters on the 2022 team– Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Albert Pujols– performed better against lefties than righties on the individual level. Heading into next season, a left-handed slugger to balance out the current Cardinal stars would be the ideal move.
Nolan Gorman, Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, and Alec Burleson are the current left-handed hitters on the 40-man roster. In addition to Burleson, only two hitters on the current Cardinal top-30 prospect list are left-handed– 19-year old Won-Bin Cho and 21-year old Jimmy Crooks. It appears this is a weakness throughout the organization.
Once again, enter Shohei Ohtani. Like Arenado and Goldschmidt, Ohtani can hit absolutely anyone. However, the left-handed DH performs better against right-handed pitchers. Goldschmidt and Arenado are a deadly duo at the plate, but now imagine a lineup of Goldy, Ohtani, and Arenado– there’s no escape, no weakness. It would rival the Dodgers trio of Trae Turner, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman as the best group in baseball.
In addition to providing balance in the Cardinal lineup, Ohtani is simply one of the best hitters in the world. He finished the season 10th in OPS and 11th in home runs. In maybe the most mind-blowing stat ever, Ohtani’s batting average of .273 is 70 points higher than his opponent’s batting average facing him as a pitcher. Plus he hit more than twice the home runs that he gave up! It’s just astounding what Ohtani can do on a baseball field.
Ohtani is incredible, and he profiles exactly as the kind of bat the St. Louis Cardinals need. But would the Cardinals really make this sort of move?