Exit Interview 2020: Dexter Fowler

After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season.  They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post.  Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  This year, of course, was anything but typical.  So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative.  There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable.  As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!

Player: Dexter Fowler

Season stats: 31 games, 101 PA, 14 R, 21 H, 2 2B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS, 10 BB, 28 K, .233/.317/.389, 92 OPS+, -0.1 bWAR

Postseason stats: 1 R, 2 RBI, 4 K, .286/.286/.357

Statcast: .281 xwOBA, 4.8% barrel %, 84.5 exit velocity, 27.4% hard hit %

Best Statcast category: Sprint Speed (44th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Outfielder Jump (23rd percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 1


Overview: Fowler’s rebound from a dreadful 2018 to an about-average 2019 continued in the shortened 2020 season.  His four home runs–his bats hit five, thanks to Tyler O’Neill–were only three away from the team lead.  He hit .273 until an 0-13 to end the year dropped his average 40 points.  (That’s what small samples do.)  His walk rate, while lower than his normal, still was right about 10%.  There’s a strong argument to be made that 2018 was an aberration and we’re seeing more representative Fowler work now.

Of course, that brings up the question of whether or not this output is actually good enough.  The Cardinals spent most of their season with their outfielders hitting in the last three spots of the lineup.  Fowler had all of 11 plate appearances higher than seventh in the lineup.  His overall season looks better not because it was any great shakes, but because O’Neill and Harrison Bader were worse and Dylan Carlson got off to a slow start.

He was atrocious against lefthanders (.284 OPS in 18 plate appearances) which would seem to lead to him becoming a platoon outfielder.  His average was significantly better on the road, but interestingly he hit three of his home runs at Busch, meaning that the OPS gap was minimal.  All in all, he contributed to the Cardinals season in many ways, but perhaps not to the level you would expect given the contract.  He also wound up missing most of September as he sat out as a precautionary measure related to the interaction of some stomach medicine and the lowering of his immune system, which may have hurt his overall line.

We spoke about it some with Jack Flaherty, but this was also a season where Fowler took a stand on issues, sitting out a game after the George Floyd killing as part of a league-wide effort to raise awareness.  As with Flaherty, it’s a very good thing to see players using their platform for things that matter to them.

Outlook: Fowler’s contract, which has been such the focus of his time in St. Louis from the very beginning, runs out after next season.  I can’t imagine that there would be much desire on either side for him to return.  Not that Fowler doesn’t like St. Louis or the front office isn’t a fan of Fowler, but there’s been nothing over the past four years to make it seem like either side would want to extend the relationship.  More likely there will be a mutual parting of the ways.  Until then, however, Fowler is a Cardinal.  In the last year of a deal, it may be easier for Mike Shildt to use him as a platoon guy or give him more days off.  I hope that fans can appreciate that, while the results might not have been there, Fowler’s personality and effort make this time under the Arch a net positive.

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