Brendan Donovan is the straw that stirs the drink for the St. Louis Cardinals

Brendan Donovan seems to have the greatest impact on the Cardinals' winning ways.
Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals
Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages

There are some players that just seem to dictate how their team performs that day. For the St. Louis Cardinals, that player seems to be Brendan Donovan.

We have talked at length on this site about the turnaround the Cardinals have had since May 12th (the club has gone 26-15 since then at the time I am writing this), and that date seems to be the timeframe that Donovan found himself as well. Before the final game of that Brewers series, Donovan was one of the bats who was struggling the most up until that point, and since then, he's been one of the club's best hitters.

Brendan Donovan







Before May 12th

.209 (7th)

.286 (8th)

.358 (6th)

.644 (7th)

19 (2nd)

15 (3rd)

After May 12th

.321 (1st)

.375 (1st)

.471 (4th)

.846 (2nd)

20 (T-2nd)

20 (5th)

While a lot of the attention as of late has been on Masyn Winn and Alec Burleson, I think it's pretty clear that Brendan Donovan has been the club's best position player this season. Willson Contreras could easily surpass him if he stays on the field the rest of the year and continues putting up the numbers he was, but I'm hard-pressed to find another Cardinal position player who has done more than Donovan.

On the season, Donovan is top 3 on the club in OBP, SLG, and OPS, has a strong lead in RBI, and has scored the second most runs for the club. Not only has he produced at the plate, but he's also providing immense value plugging in for the Cardinals in the corner outfield spots, second base, and third base throughout the season.

Donovan is a player who impacts winning. When he's in a groove and playing well, the team tends to win. When Donovan doesn't produce, the team does poorly. That's why he's not only the club's most valuable player thus far, but he truly is the straw that stirs the drink for them.

Check out Donovan's splits at the plate in games the Cardinals have won this year vs. games they have lost. Don't just look at the actual stats, check out where he ranks among his fellow teammates as well.

Brendan Donovan







Cardinals' win

.353 (1st)

.413 (1st)

.536 (2nd)

.949 (T-1st)

24 (T-2nd)

29 (1st)

Cardinals' lose

.179 (10th)

.252 (10th)

.293 (10th)

.544 (11th)

17 (1st)

7 (9th)

When the Cardinals win, Donovan is usually playing like an All-Star and MVP candidate. When the Cardinals lose, his number drop off significantly, and he even lags behind his teammates. I don't think the story of those numbers is that Donovan just brings his best performances when the team as a whole is doing well, I think it shows you that when Donovan plays well, it usually leads to winning.

One could argue that Winn or Burleson fill this role for the Cardinals, and although their numbers fall off in losses as well, they still rank in the top 5-7 batters on the team in each of those categories in losses. There is something about this team that finds a way to win when Brendan Donovan is producing.

Winter Warm-Up gave us a glimpse into how this Cardinal club feels about Donovan. We knew he was a beloved teammate before, but the front office, coaching staff, and players raved about his leadership and how Donovan pushes this team to be better throughout the media availability. That narrative has continued into the season, and Rob Raines just shared a story of how Donovan has helped shape a new tradition to celebrate players making their debuts.

Brendan Donovan is a winning player

We talk a lot in sports about having "winning players". That sentiment is more intangible than it is something you find in the box score, but as you could see above, the numbers sure do seem to back that feeling up.

Beyond the box score though, it is easy to see how someone like Donovan impacts winning more than other players. Donovan doesn't need to hit a big home run to make his presence known. Oftentimes, his performances are less flashy than his teammates (although Donovan has had his fair share of highlight plays this year). Donovan plays the game the right way and always seems to back positive plays for his team in a game - whether that's in the field, at the plate, on the base paths, or in the dugout.

Some within Cardinal Nation have thought over the past few years that we overstate the value of Donovan on this club. If anything, I think his absence last year and his performance this year have proven just how instrumental Donovan has become to winning.

If you remember, the Cardinals' offense was a top-10 unit in baseball last year before Donovan was shut down for the season. Donovan got off to a slow start last year as well, but after about the middle of May (sound familiar?), Donovan transformed into one of the best hitters in all of baseball. I asked Donovan about what led to that dramatic shift in performance last year, and he credited it to getting more aggressive early in counts as the biggest reason why he produced more over his last two months of play.

I love a lot of the Cardinals' young core, and I believe players like Winn, Walker, and some others are better players long-term than Donovan, but I really don't think there is an arguement for any other position player who impacts winning more than Donovan at this moment.