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: Dexter Fowler
Season stats: 150 G, 574 PA, 69 R, 116 H, 24 2B, 1 3B, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 8 SB, 5 CS, 74 BB, 142 K, .238/.345/.409, 98 OPS+, -0.2 bWAR
Statcast: 7.4% barrel %, 85.2 exit velocity, 28.4% hard hit %, .338 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 10, Goat 8
Overall grade: C
Positives: Improved on his terrible 2018….hit .245 with 15 homers against right-handers….hit .248 at home….posted a .786 OPS with 10 homers in the first half of the season….hit .313 with an .840 OPS the first month of the season….had an .883 OPS in games the Cardinals won….was 3-9 with a homer and two walks as a pinch hitter….hit .269 as a center fielder….hit .300 in 34 games batting seventh with five homers….had a 1.038 OPS on the first pitch….hit .264 with two outs….hit .292 with runners in scoring position….had a .975 OPS with two outs and RISP….hit .260 in low leverage situations….hit .302 in the fourth inning but hit the most homers in the eighth (4)….eight of his homers came in the seventh inning or later….had a 1.180 OPS against Colorado….had a 1.850 OPS in two games against Houston….
Negatives: Hit .224 after May 1….had a .279 OBP the last two weeks of the season….had a .683 OPS against lefties….hit .171 in May and .183 in September….hit .219 as a right fielder, which is where he played the most….hit .163 as the first batter of the game and .179 when he led off an inning….in both situations he had an OBP under .300….hit .211 with a .690 OPS batting first in the lineup….hit .157 with two strikes on him and .136 when the pitcher was ahead in the count….hit .197 with nobody out in an inning….had a .756 OPS in high leverage situations….hit .164 and only had nine walks in the first inning….had a .677 OPS in the first three innings….hit .208 against power pitchers….had a .594 OPS against the Cubs….was in the bottom 7% of the NL in exit velocity….had just two hits in 33 postseason at bats.
Overview: To some degree, we looked at Dexter Fowler this season and felt like he was passable. However, it really feels that was more because 2018 was so terribly, terribly bad than because 2019 was any great shakes. The strong start helped, of course–you never get a second chance to make a first impression–and the career high in longballs didn’t hurt the cause either. That said, he had the lowest OPS of his career if you don’t count last season and he played the second-highest number of games. It’s not a combination that you’d like to see very often.
Fowler got lots of looks at leadoff, but as you can see from the stats, he just wasn’t really able to capitalize on that. He did bring his walk rate back up to his normal levels, but he struck out more often than he has ever done before. It’s hard to sit a guy that’s making $16.5 million, of course, but it’s also tough to see that level of production when there are a slew of other outfielders that would seem to be able to bring a bigger bat while keeping the defense about the same.
Outlook: Honestly, I’m not real sanguine about Fowler going forward. A lot of his Statcast numbers look very similar to what he put up in 2018. The walk rate increasing probably helped him put up some better numbers, but even this rebound season left him slightly below average when it comes to OPS+. What are the odds that he’ll improve for the second straight year? They would seem smaller than thinking that 2020 might be somewhere between the last two seasons and that’s not a great place to be. I continue to root for Fowler, who seems like a great and fun guy and someone that wants to be better for the Cardinal fans, but I’d also like to see Mike Shildt be less locked into him playing should things be slow yet again next season.