One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Tyler O’Neill
Season stats: 96 G, 383 PA, 56 R, 11 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 14 SB, 4 CS, 38 BB, 103 K, .228/.308/.392, 101 OPS+, 1.3 bWAR, 1.3 fWAR
Statcast: .307 xwOBA, 11.3 barrel %, 89.8 exit velocity, 43.3 hard hit %, 26.9 K %, 9.9 BB %
Best Statcast category: Sprint Speed (98th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Whiff % (12th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 10, Goat 5
Positives: Had three three-hit games and one multi-homer outing….had a .788 OPS against lefties….had a .418 slugging on the road….10 of his homers came in the second half even though his plate appearances were fairly evenly split pre and post All Star break….hit .354 with a .905 OPS in June….hit 12 homers and had a .870 OPS in games the Cardinals won….went 2-6 with a homer coming off the bench….hit .309 from the fifth spot in the order….four of his homers came on the first pitch, on which he hit for a 1.180 OPS….had a .470 OBP when ahead in the count….hit .299 with four homers with runners in scoring position….had a 1.046 OPS in the ninth inning….had a .756 OPS against power pitchers….hit three homers and had an .802 OPS against the Cubs….hit .310 against the Brewers….hit more homers off of breaking pitches than fastballs, though the average was better against the heat.
Negatives: Had three different stints on the injured list….had his most plate appearances in August and hit .215….only was the DH once and went 0-4 with three strikeouts….hit .188 when leading off an inning….struggled in the third spot in the lineup, putting up a .475 OPS there….hit .181 with a .556 OPS with nobody out in an inning….had a .586 OPS in high leverage situations.
Overview: When a young guy comes off of a season where he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting, you have some expectations. There’s no doubt that O’Neill’s season was a disappointment but it’s hard to tell exactly why that is. The injuries surely didn’t help matters, keeping him from feeling good for an extended period of time. However, even the longest active stretch for him, he still just slashed .214/.323/.423. His line in 2021 was not so outrageous that it wasn’t able to be better or duplicated. Interestingly, his strikeout percentage was down but it seemed to sap some of his power as well. Again, with all the medical history that he had this past season, that probably was the largest driver of any issues but there might have been some changes in approach that just didn’t work out.
Outlook: John Mozeliak has already said publicly that while O’Neill is an exciting player, there are some things he’s going to have to work on this offseason. There’s no real chance the club would trade TON given how far his value has fallen, so we’ll see him out in left field to start the 2023 season, most likely. O’Neill won’t be a free agent until the end of the 2024 season, so the Cardinals can afford to be patient and see whether he can find the MVP-level form of his past yet again.