Its fun to look back at successful St. Louis Cardinals teams from the past. You can run across monster numbers from players like Albert Pujols, or pitching performances from Bob Gibson that forced baseball to change its rules in regards to pitching mounds. There is also teams that won games, and even pennants without the help of a traditional MVP like season.
The 1987 Cardinals won 95 games and did so in non-traditional fashion. They were fun, fast, and ultra competive. They hit 95 homeruns as a team. Didn’t have a pitcher throw 200 innings, but had a closer that threw 94 innings.
Lets take a look at some statistical anamolies that made this team entertaining.
This club had so many things that we just don’t see in present day baseball. The everyday lineup contained five switch hitters. Jose Oquendo, another switch hitter, and secret weapon had over 300 plate appearances off the bench. I would be hard pressed to name six switch hitters in the league right now.
Lead off hitter Vince Coleman is a good example of a lost art. Coleman, the 1985 rookie of the year, stole 109 bases in 1987. This was the last season to see someone steal triple digits, but it was amazingly the third season in a row for him to do it. Coleman was an a anamoly all himself. He was a college football kick returner. Noticed by the scouting department with off the chart speed. He eventually signed, was taught to switch hit, and become the lead off hitter for two National League pennant winning teams.
Here is where some of the stats get really amazing. This team had four players with less than 15 homeruns, and all had over 75 RBI.
Ozzie Smith was so good defensively, the best ever in my mind, that his offensive improvements get grossly overlooked. He was the prototypical two hole hitter. Almost impossible to strikeout, with amazing speed. Outside of one classic homerun, his power wasn’t a major part of his game. Although he did lead the team in doubles that season with 40, while driving in 75 runs. He also added 43 steals. That would be atop the league leaders in today’s game.
The three spot in the order was held down by Tommy Herr. Completely overlooked in team history. Great second baseman, and run producer. He achieved his offensive numbers in very unconventional ways. In ’87, he hit 2 homeruns, but drove in 83 runs. This is two years removed from my favorite stat line. In 1985, he muscled up for 8 homers while driving in 110 runs! Bill James mentions this several times in he update handbooks.
Jack Clark was the enforcer of the lineup with 35 homeruns and 106 runs driven in. He greatly benefited from the top of the order speed. With the base stealers in front, Clark got to punish fastballs. It’s funny how the other player attributes overshadow a 30+ homerun hitter.
One of the biggest fan favorites in STL history is hands down Willie McGee. Another won of the slashing switch hitters. McGee played gold glove caliber centerfield, but carried his weight with bat. McGee drove in 105 runs while only hitting 11 homers. An eventual batting champion, he was a main run producer on this ’87 club.
Terry Pendelton was labeled “Houdini of the hot Corner”. A fantastic third baseman that produced at the plate with 12 hr and 96rbi. He held down third on the best infield defensive alignment in history. The gold glove winner in ’87 eventually moved on to Atlanta and won an MVP in 1991.
Injuries eventually caught up wit his this club. Losing the World Series to the Twins in seven games. Im still bitter, but think this team wins if Pendleton and Clark are healthy.
The 1987 Cards were fun to watch, and it was fun to reminisce. The played the game hard, and showed the league another way to win.
Thanks for reading.