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: Paul DeJong
Season stats: 45 games, 174 PA, 17 R, 38 H, 6 2B, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 1 SB, 17 BB, 50 K, .250/.322/.349, 84 OPS+, 0.2 bWAR
Postseason stats: 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, .200/.429/.300
Statcast: .303 xwOBA, 7.5% barrel %, 89.2 exit velocity, 40.6% hard hit %
Best Statcast category: Exit Velocity, Hard Hit % (57th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Outs Above Average (2nd percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 5, Goat 6
On COVID IL: Yes
Overview: How do you judge a player that contracted COVID-19 and then still played seemingly every day after he returned? DeJong returned on August 23. After that, it looks like he had all of two days off. Given how the talk was that Mike Shildt probably should have rested him more down the stretch in 2019, running a guy out there that is still recovering from a major illness might not have been the best move overall. I guess DeJong was probably asymptomatic, but he still missed a week or so more than his teammates. (Eleven games, but we know how they doubled up.) Even if he’s full tilt by the stretch run, you’d think it might have been a good idea to let him ease back into things, especially with Brad Miller and Matt Carpenter able to handle third for Tommy Edman to shift over.
Then again, DeJong hit .361 in his first nine game back, so maybe Shildt knew what he was doing. However, in the his last 15 games before the postseason, he put up a .140/.182/.160 line. Maybe the work got to him. Maybe the fatigue from being off came around once the adrenaline from the return wore off. Maybe he’s always going to be a guy that struggles down the stretch, no matter when that stretch starts. I don’t know. The fact is his last home run was September 5, which is a problem as he usually was hitting in the middle of the lineup. He batted fifth most of the time (78 of his 174 plate appearances) and thrived there, posting a .882 OPS and hitting two of his three home runs. Unlike when he hit second (40 PA), when he could only do a .397 OPS. DeJong feels like he should be hitting fifth or sixth regularly, because of his strikeout potential and his streakiness.
Defensively, the numbers seem to indicate he took a step back, but with the small sample size and the overall craziness, I’m not sure that you can read much into that. I don’t think that DeJong will ever win a Gold Glove, but if he can show that 25-30 home run power and keep an OPS around .850, the defense will be just fine. He’s not really going to hurt people too often there, though he does make the boneheaded play from time to time.
Outlook: I’m a bit more cautious on DeJong than some folks are. I guess last year’s fade and this year’s closing struggles may have influenced me there, even though they probably shouldn’t have. DeJong has three more years at very team-friendly prices, so I don’t think we’ll see any changes in that part of the infield for a while. Still, letting someone like Edmundo Sosa get some time this year would have been a smart idea and hopefully we’ll see a capable backup that will allow DeJong some more rest going forward.