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.
If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez. Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site. My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast. It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug. So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!
Player: Harrison Bader
Season stats: 128 G, 406 PA, 54 R, 71 H, 14 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 39 RBI, 11 SB, 3 CS, 46 BB, 117 K, .205/.314/.366, 78 OPS+, 2.0 bWAR
Statcast: 9.9% barrel %, 86.6 exit velocity, 35.3% hard hit %, .315 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 7, Goat 5
Overall grade: C-
Positives: Got to be “the face of the franchise” in the winter, modeling the powder blue jerseys and making TV appearances….was a Gold Glove nominee….over half of his bWAR came from his defense, which remained superb….hit four home runs in slightly over 100 PA against lefties, which was a better rate than against righties….hit .313 in 11 August games and walked more than he struck out….hit .393 on the first pitch….three of his 12 homers came on an 0-1 count….hit .373 with a 1.169 OPS with no strikes on him….hit .500 (2-4) with a homer when he batted in the first inning….five of his home runs came off of finesse pitchers….had a .754 OPS in high-leverage situations, his best of any of those categories….hit five homers in September….half of his home runs came against the Cubs and the Brewers….nine of his homers came while he was batting eighth…had a .514 OBP against the Reds….had a 1.615 OPS in three games in the Rangers’ ballpark.
Negatives: Went 2-12 in the postseason, both singles and both in the NLDS….wound up being benched in the NLCS, only getting the start in the final game and was pinch-hit for in the eighth with runners on….was demoted to Memphis at the end of July and spent about three weeks there….hit .177 against lefties….slashed .164/.306/.308 at Busch Stadium….hit .205 in the first half, .204 in the second….had three months (June, July, October) where hit under .200….was 1-10 with a HBP as a pinch-hitter….hit .140 batting seventh….had a .369 OPS when the count reached two strikes….hit .168 with two outs in an inning, though five of his home runs came then….hit ,213 with runners in scoring position….that dropped to .118 with two outs and RISP….hit .182 from the seventh inning on….had a .649 OPS against power pitchers….hit .146 against the Cubs.
Overview: You could see this coming and most of us did. Bader was an exciting player in 2018 and there’s no doubt that his defense brought a lot of attention to him. However, expecting him to repeat the offensive production he had last year was probably asking a little much. The Cardinals hitched their wagon to him some this offseason, in part because he was still under control and had less leverage to get out of things such as jersey reveals and MLB Network interviews. That raised his profile in the fan base as well, though, and that might have raised expectations to a level that was unreachable.
Kyle Reis has said for years, as Bader was coming up through the system, that he profiled as a fourth outfielder and that makes a lot of sense. Bader’s a guy you’d definitely want on your team for late innings or if your corner outfielders are big sluggers. However, he’s never going to carry a team. He’s never going to be one of the big stars of a team. The idea that the Cardinals balked about trading him (and other prospects) for Zack Wheeler at the trade deadline feels like the front office is still expecting bigger things from him that he probably can provide. That said, there’s a lot of weight to keeping a glove as special as that out in center.
Outlook: Like we said for years about Kolten Wong, Bader’s going to be graded in part by how his teammates do. If the offense is going well, they can handle his bat–which is going be better than it was in 2019, I think, even if it’s still not going to be super-special. If it isn’t, he’s going to be bumped out of the lineup for a better offensive option. With Official Prospect of the Blog Dylan Carlson on the way and playing center in the minors, Bader might want to look into anything that can upgrade his offense performance legally. Mark Saxon recently wrote that Bader wasn’t necessarily in tune with all that tech Jeff Albert is pushing but it probably would be a good idea if he gives it a shot. Bader’s going to start 2020 as the center fielder but there’s no guarantee at all he’ll be in that position by the All-Star Break, much less the end of the year.