Exit Interview 2021: Dylan Carlson

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: Dylan Carlson

Season stats: 149 G, 619 PA, 79 R, 31 2B, 4 3B, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 2 SB, 1 CS, 57 BB, 152 K, .266/.343/.437, 117 OPS+, 3.2 bWAR, 2.8 fWAR

Statcast: .318 xwOBA, 7.0 barrel %, 88.2 exit velocity, 31.1 hard hit %, 24.6% K %, 9.2% BB %

Best Statcast category: Chase Rate (74th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Hard Hit Percentage (9th percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 15, Goat 7

Grade: B

Positives: As expected, will be in the mix for the Rookie of the Year, though he will not be the favorite….played his longest season ever and yet was outstanding at the end of it, putting up a 1.152 OPS over his last fourteen days….did a number on left-handing pitching, hitting .341 against the port side….was much better at Busch, hitting .306 and hitting half his home runs there even in slightly fewer games….had an .847 OPS in the second half of the season….got off to a hot start, slashing .281/.363/.494 in April….his best month was August, putting up an .884 OPS that month….pinch-hit four time, went two for three with a walk….hit five of his home runs in the second spot, but had a .983 OPS hitting sixth….hit .347 with a .969 OPS on the first pitch….had a 1.061 OPS when ahead in the count….hit four first inning home runs….had a .902 OPS against finesse pitchers….five of his home runs came in a tie game….had a .993 OPS against the Cubs….hit three home runs against the Brewers, more than any other team….hit .313 in day games….in three games at Dodger Stadium hit .417 with a 1.333 OPS….had an .870 OPS in the last third of the game….made an outstanding catch against the Padres in the middle of the winning streak….increased his walk percentage by around three percent from 2020.

Negatives: Struggled against righties, hitting just .243 off of them, though 13 of his homers came against them….hit .227 away from Busch….struggled in July, putting up a .202/.283/.404 line….had a .649 OPS in games the Cardinals lost….in nine games as a left fielder had a .556 OPS….hit .235 when leading off an inning, which included a 7-for-35 stretch leading off a game (though he had two leadoff homers)….hit .185 batting third, though it was just seven games….had a .534 OPS when the pitcher was ahead in the count….hit .213 with runners in scoring position and two outs….only two of his home runs came in high leverage situations….hit .157 against power pitchers….ranked in the 40th percentile or below in many of the Statcast categories.

Overview: There were some significantly high expectations for Carlson coming into this season and while he probably didn’t reach those, he also showed that he’s going to be a cog in this team for some time to come.  Carlson held down center field when he had to but really was most comfortable in right, flashing enough leather that it wasn’t insane to think he would have joined Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader as Gold Glove nominees.  He had four outfield assists which likely got the attention of the league and may give people some pause about running on him in the coming years.

It’s the bat, of course, that gets the most attention.  Carlson didn’t dominate the league, but as he often does, he got better with the more exposure that he had to a level.  About the time I was asking if he’d be disappointing on a Meet Me at Musial, he went off for a two homer game and played a key role in the 17 game winning streak.  He must have made some sort of adjustment after the rough July because the last two months of the season were wonderful for him and pushed him back into Rookie of the Year contention, though likely Jonathan India will beat him out for it.

Outlook: With his first real first season (that 2020 thing doesn’t, doesn’t count) now under his belt, I expect Carlson will spend the winter tinkering a bit, making some adjustments, and continue to make positive improvements during next season.  With the big bats that are already in place (and the possibility that the Cardinals will bring in another one via free agency), he will not have to be the main guy and can be a significant supporting character.  When teams have supporting characters like Dylan Carlson, they tend to be really, really successful.

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