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: Daniel Poncedeleon
Season stats: 0-2, 1 SV, 2.73 ERA, 11 G, 33 IP, 24 H, 10 HR, 13 BB, 31 K, 3.34 FIP, 1.121 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 0.7 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 1
Overall grade: A
Positives: Made it to the major leagues just a year after having a ball rocket off his head at Memphis, which right there gets him an A from us….threw seven hitless innings against the Reds in his major league debut….bounced between starting and long relief but never allowed more than three runs in an outing….limited lefthanders to a .140 average and a .211 slugging in 65 plate appearances….allowed only one run in 17 innings on the road….had a 1.93 ERA in July….had a 3.67 K/BB rate as a starter….when batters took the first pitch they hit .190….hitters had a .467 OPS when he was ahead in the count….never allowed a hit to start off an appearance (0-9 with two walks)….batters hit .100 (3-30) leading off an inning….allowed a .477 OPS with nobody out….with two outs, his slash line allowed was .091/.167/.182….batters hit .127 in low leverage situations….hitters had a .485 OPS in the first 25 pitches….still hasn’t allowed a hit in the first inning….retired all six Cubs and Brewers he faced….put up nine wins and a 2.24 ERA at Memphis while striking out 110 in 96.1 innings.
Negatives: The first hit he allowed in the major leagues was a grand slam to Nolan Arenado….only went five innings once after his initial start….righties had a .728 OPS against him….had a 5.06 ERA at Busch, where he allowed both his home runs….had a 3.97 ERA in September….batters hit .278 when he received three or more runs of support….third-place hitters hit .455 with a 1.418 OPS….batters had an .804 OPS on the first pitch….gave up a .348 average with one out in an inning….batters had a 1.081 OPS with runners in scoring position….allowed a .304/.370/.565 line in high leverage situations….between pitches 51 and 75, batters hit .300.
Overview: There’s no doubt the Poncedeleon story was an excellent one for the organization. Ponce could have been seriously damaged or even killed from that comebacker last season and nobody would have faulted him if he had decided the danger was too great to go out there again. Instead, he got back to Memphis this year and dominated so that the callup was less feel-good and more merit-based. For him to not allow a hit in his first appearance was just icing on the cake. Poncedeleon turned into one of the more consistent relievers the Cardinals had and was one of the few that didn’t struggle down the stretch, allowing just two earned runs in his last eight innings.
Outlook: There’s a lot of arms in the system, but Poncedeleon showed enough last year to be considered a strong contender in the mix. When you see what he did to left-handers last year, if the club thinks that is a repeatable skill they may factor that into their thoughts about shoring up the lefty side of the bullpen. Poncedeleon will get plenty more chances to get that home ERA into a more respectable range next year, even if he winds up starting the season in the land of the delta blues.