For the sixth straight year, we’re taking a look back at everyone that played for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. Whether they were a major contributor or a bit player, here all year or for just a little while, we’ll look at their season and talk about what went right and what went wrong. The stat line listed is just their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers in the discussion may be for the entire year. Imagine this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a little review on their way home for the winter. As always when you see incredible artistry in the blogs, all credit for the header work goes to @cardinalsgifs.
Player: Dexter Fowler
Season stats: 118 G, 491 PA, 68 R, 22 2B, 9 3B, 18 HR, 64 RBI, 7 SB, 63 BB, 101 K, .264/.363/.488, 122 OPS+, 1.6 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 15, Goat 12
Overall grade: B
Positives: Eclipsed his career high set two seasons ago in home runs….put up the second-highest OPS and OPS+ of his career….hit 16 of his home runs against right-handed starters….hit .288 and had a .400 OBP in the second half….had a 1.006 OPS in August…hit over .300 after August 1….was 4-8 with two extra-base hits as a pinch-hitter….hit .300 with five homers in 13 games batting second….had a 1.047 OPS when he hit the first pitch….hit .400 with a 1.156 OPS on a 1-1 count….had a .997 OPS with two outs in an inning….had a 1.021 OPS with runners in scoring position….with two outs and RISP, that OPS was 1.079….hit .287 with 1.015 OPS in high leverage situations….got to fly ball pitchers for a 1.035 OPS….hit .310 against the Reds.
Negatives: Got off on the wrong foot by starting the season 7-53 (.132)….grounded into a career-high 10 double plays….dealt with numerous injuries all year long….hit just four home runs in the second half….hit .221 in May and .224 in July….hit .217 when he led off games….had a .698 OPS in the leadoff spot….hit .174 when the count got to two strikes….hit .221 in late and close situations, though with three homers….hit .196 versus power pitchers….hit .223 against his old team the Cubs….seemed to struggle a bit in center field defensively….had a career low in stolen bases.
Overview: We started the year talking about how much Fowler’s personality was going to revitalize the clubhouse and ended it with whispers about him leaving early and coming late. Fowler wound up with a lot of criticism headed his way in part, I believe, because the first impression wasn’t great. When you look at his season as a whole, though, you can tell that it was pretty solid all the way around. It wasn’t necessarily what the Cardinals thought they were getting–an OBP-laden leadoff guy to set the table for Aledmys Diaz and Matt Carpenter–but Fowler’s power and overall production made sure that the first year of his deal was no bust. As for that personality, it seemed at times that Fowler’s smile dimmed but he still seems to be well-liked in the clubhouse and there were no indications that anyone really had a problem with him. Even outspoken Tommy Pham deferred to Dexter when it came to who was playing center field.
Outlook: Center field seems to be the point of contention right now, more so than Fowler’s bat. John Mozeliak famously noted that he only committed a “large sum of money” to Fowler, not a position. There was a tweet from Jenifer Langosch late in the season that indicated she believed that Fowler would ask for a trade if they tried to move him to a corner position. There are a number of people that would seem to be defensively better than Fowler on the roster (Pham, Harrison Bader, maybe even Randal Grichuk) but it may depend on how that roster is reworked in the offseason before a decision on center is made.
No matter where he plays, it feels like Fowler will be an asset to the 2018 Cardinals. Hopefully the offseason lets him get those nagging injuries under control because even a compromised Fowler was a pretty good player. One that can go all out may be a wonder to behold, especially if there is more offensive support for him.