Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
Player: Marcell Ozuna
Season stats: 148 G, 628 PA, 69 R, 163 H, 16 2B, 2 3B, 23 HR, 88 RBI, 3 SB, 38 BB, 110 K, .280/.325/.433, 106 OPS+, 2.9 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 13, Goat 11
Overall grade: B-
Positives: Was second on the team in home runs and led the team in RBI….in the 10 games in September after returning from getting a cortisone shot, hit five home runs and slashed .333/.341/.714….hit .314 against left-handed pitching with an .895 OPS….hit .299 in St. Louis….hit seven home runs in June and in September….had a .321 average during the August run….only pinch-hit once the whole season and drew a walk….eight of his home runs came while leading off an inning….hit .500 (6 for 12) in the fifth spot….had a 1.020 OPS on the first pitch….on a 2-0 count, slashed .421/.421/1.105….had a 1.003 OPS when ahead in the count….11 of his homers came with nobody out….hit .303 with two outs and runners in scoring position….11 of his home runs came in the first or second inning….however, had a 1.067 OPS in the third….hit .307 against starting pitchers…..hit .324 with four home runs against the Cubs….had a .831 OPS against the Brewers.
Negatives: Ended May with just three home runs….had a .716 OPS against righties….had a .693 OPS at the All-Star Break….hit .210 with a .564 OPS in July….had a .200 average when the pitcher was ahead in the count….had a .299 OBP when there were no outs in an inning….only four of his 23 home runs came with someone in scoring position….hit .214 in late and close situations….had a .655 OPS in high leverage situations….hit .184 in the eighth inning….had a .635 OPS against relievers….hit .152 with one homer against power pitchers….went 1 for 24 against the Phillies….overslept one day and didn’t report to the field until game time or a little after, requiring a late scratch and more concern about his focus.
Overview: If Ozuna had put up this season following his 2016 year, people wouldn’t have been as disappointed. When you hit 37 homers the year before and are the big off-season acquisition for a team needing power, 23 homers and a .433 slugging is nice, but not really what everyone was looking for. The Cardinals were aware that Ozuna had been dealing with shoulder issues when they traded for him, but it feels like (given subsequent comments) they expected Ozuna to have worked harder at his rehab and been stronger through the year. The impact that he had after getting his shoulder examined while the club was in Los Angeles and the shot that he received made folks wonder just why he hadn’t had it examined before.
Ozuna’s hitting issues–and again, he didn’t seem to have a problem hitting, just hitting for power–sparked a lot of interesting writing this year. Zach Gifford wrote about Ozuna’s stance early in the season for Birds on the Black, right before Ozuna had his June breakout (from the day the post published through June 15, Ozuna had a .425/.481/.712 line with six homers). More recently, Chuck Brownson at the same site has been looking into how the shoulder affected Ozuna during the year. If nothing else, Ozuna gave us a lot to talk about this season.
Outlook: The club did a lot of implicit calling out of Ozuna in the after-season press conference, implying that he needed to get motivated and take control of his training. It’s likely not a coincidence that soon after he had his shoulder examined and a minor surgery performed. Ozuna will be a free agent after the 2019 season and it seems very unlikely he’ll be back in Cardinal red beyond this coming year, but hopefully he’ll perform like a free-agent-to-be and we can spend next offseason debating whether the club should try to keep Ozuna instead of knowing September is a farewell tour.