Exit Interview 2021: Paul DeJong

As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning.  Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review.  Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season.  As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!

Player: Paul DeJong

Season stats: 113 G, 402 PA, 44 R, 10 2B, 1 3B, 19 HR, 45 RBI, 4 SB, 1 CS, 35 BB, 103 K, .197/.284/.390, 86 OPS+, 1.6 bWAR, 1.9 fWAR

Statcast: .310 xwOBA, 10.6 barrel %, 86.3 exit velocity, 35.3 hard hit %, 25.6 K %, 8.7 BB %

Best Statcast category: Outs Above Average (88th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: xBA (4th percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 7, Goat 9

Grade: D

Positives: Had two different two-homer games in April….slashed .282/.346/.479 in July….15 of his 19 home runs came in Cardinal wins….his only hit as a pinch-hitter was a home run….hit .233 batting seventh….hit .314 on the first pitch and had a 1.054 OPS when the count was 1-0….had a 1.006 OPS when he had a full count….six of his homers came with two out….hit .305 in high leverage situations….put up a 1.157 OPS in the third inning….hit five home runs against the Cubs….put up a .412/.474/.647 line in six games against the Giants….hit .250 during the win streak.

Negatives: Lost his job down the stretch to Edmundo Sosa….had the lowest average exit velocity of his career as well as the lowest xBA….had the second lowest hard hit percentage of his career….hit .163 against left-handers….had a .582 OPS at Busch….hit .185 in the first half….had a .324 slugging batting fourth….had a .544 OPS when the count was even and a .554 when he was behind in the count….had a .190 average with nobody out….hit .192 with runners in scoring position….that dropped to .098 with two outs and RISP….had a .364 OPS against power pitchers….hit .059 against the Brewers.

Overview: There have been questions about Paul DeJong over the last few years but I don’t think anyone saw this sort of freefall coming.  The strikeout rate has always been too high and I know that Allen and I have often said on Meet Me At Musial how miscast he was as a four hitter.  His defense is underrated at times and he has plenty of power potential, but finding that consistency has been an issue.  He was much more consistent in 2021, but unfortunately it was consistently bad.  Nothing seemed to go right for DeJong, save for the occasional displays of power.  The emergence of Edmundo Sosa helped cushion the blow for the team, but watching DeJong strike out on the regular at the beginning of the season made for a lot of people with frayed patience.

Outlook: DeJong is under contract for two more seasons at a fairly reasonable rate, but with the very rare quality of the free agent shortstop class, it would be a travesty if the Cardinals banked on a return to form for DeJong and a continuation of form of Sosa and let players like Trevor Story and Corey Seager pass without engagement.  However, if the Cardinals do land one of the big fish, a case could be made that Sosa would be the better backup.  Would DeJong have any trade value?  That’s a question for John Mozeliak and company and I imagine it is one that they’ll be exploring.  DeJong will probably start 2022 as a Cardinal but the odds aren’t 100%.

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