Exit Interview 2021: Tommy Edman

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: Tommy Edman

Season stats: 159 G, 691 PA, 91 R, 41 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 56 RBI, 30 SB, 5 CS, 38 BB, 95 K, .262/.308/.387, 93 OPS+, 3.7 bWAR, 2.3 fWAR

Statcast: .316 xwOBA, 4.3 barrel %, 87.6 exit velocity, 35.3 hard hit %, 13.7 K %, 5.5 BB %

Best Statcast category: Outs Above Average (98th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: BB % (10th percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 9, Goat 17

Grade: B

Positives: Played almost every game and as such wound up leading the league in at bats….fell one double shy of tying for the league lead in that department….had the highest average exit velocity and maximum exit velocity of his career….was tough to strike out, finishing in the top 8% of the league in that department….put up a .794 OPS against left-handers….had nine home runs on the road….six of his home runs came in the second half, when he also put up a .725 OPS….hit .302 in August with an .855 OPS….hit .291 in games where the Cardinals won….did not lose a game in which he scored a run until May 14….went 3-9 with a double, a homer, and a sacrifice off the bench….that included going 2-4 with the homer as a pinch-hitter….hit .292 leading off a game….had an .809 OPS in eight games where he batted seventh….had a .735 OPS when he swung at the first pitch….hit .328 actually on the first pitch….had a .734 OPS when there were no balls in the count….hit .284 with six homers with nobody out….had a .286 average with runners in scoring position….posted a .703 OPS in late and close situations….slashed .342/.373/.500 in high leverage situations….hit .329 in the sixth inning….hit .329 with a .908 OPS against the Pirates….won his first Gold Glove with his work at second base.

Negatives: Hit .257 with four doubles during the win streak…put up a .578 OPS in the last four weeks….struggled enough against righties that he tried batting right handed against them, going 0-4….had a .671 OPS against them when he hit left-handed….posted a .221/.229/.288 line in June….hit .225 in losses….had a .579 OPS hitting sixth….hit .189 with two strikes….had a .606 OPS in low-leverage situations….hit .230 from the seventh inning on….struggled against the Cubs, hitting .211, as well as the Brewers (.238)….fashioned a .236 average in day games….without his strong August, would have hit .254 on the season.

Overview: Tommy Edman is truly a player that seems to depend on your point of view.  On the one side, he did play good defense, steal 30 bases, and hit 40 doubles.  On the other, a lot of that came because he didn’t walk and as such got a ton of opportunities.  Twelve times, he went 0-5 in a game.  He had five or more at bats in a game 46 times.  (For comparison, Paul Goldschmidt reached that 31 times.)  When you look at the modern idea of lineup construction, having a player like Edman, with limited on base and power potential, getting the most at bats of anyone on your team would seem less than ideal.  After all, he was below average when you mark him based on OPS+.

Yet somehow he had a knack of contributing.  As noted above, he was excellent in high leverage situations and, while it is some function of being a free-swinger with speed at the top of the lineup, 40 doubles is still something.  You could give a lot of players that many at bats and they might not come up with that kind of total.  Of course, those doubles aren’t going to turn into homers–there’s a difference between Edman’s doubles and doubles by Goldschmidt or a young power prospect like Dylan Carlson–but they were still valuable.

Outlook: I think it’s reasonable to question how repeatable a season like this by Edman is or even whether he’ll get a chance to repeat it.  With the change in managerial leadership, the potential pursuit of a top notch shortstop, and the coming footsteps of Nolan Gorman, it would seem that the odds are Edman is going to finally get into that utility belt/Ben Zobrist type of role that he seems the most suited for.  The idea that he’s going to lead off for 124 games in 2022 seems pretty far-fetched but he still can contribute without that.

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