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St. Louis Cardinals: Dreaming of OBP

Carlos Santana and Christian Yelich OBP

As I sit here typing this up on December 1st, Giancarlo Stanton still has not been traded and the Cardinals are still a potential landing spot for him. For the sake of this exercise though, we’re going to pretend that he has been traded to San Francisco. Why, you ask? Because quite frankly, talking about Stanton is getting exhausting. So let’s escape from that for a bit. This will be far from a perfect science, and it’s sort of a dream scenario, but let’s have some fun with it anyway.

We knew going into the 2016 season that the Cardinals didn’t exactly have that big bat in their lineup. The same one that they’re searching for now. They attempted to go after a sort of “death by on-base percentage” approach. The idea was that there would constantly be players on base which would wear pitchers down and lead to a ton of run scoring opportunities. It worked in the sense that they had an overall team OBP of .334, tied for 3rd best in the National League. Unfortunately it didn’t translate to enough runs being scored. Their 761 runs ranked 7th in the NL, pretty much in the middle of the pack.

So if they miss out on Stanton, how can they go about improving upon last year’s offense? One way I think they can do it is to take last year’s “death by OBP” approach to another level. They can do this by trading for Christian Yelich and signing Carlos Santana. I wrote about how the Cardinals should pursue Yelich this offseason, and no, my mind hasn’t changed.

These two both have very strong career OBP’s. Yelich is at .369 for his career and Santana is at .365. Here’s a table from FanGraphs to use as a way of referencing what a good OBP is:

Rating OBP
Excellent 0.390
Great 0.370
Above Average 0.340
Average 0.320
Below Average 0.310
Poor 0.300
Awful 0.290

This lengthens the lineup in a big way. I’ve put together what their projected lineup would look like along with their career OBP’s, 2017 OBP’s, and projected 2018 OBP’s according to Steamer projections.

Career 2017 2018 Steamer
Matt Carpenter .377 .384 .381
Dexter Fowler .366 .363 .363
Christian Yelich .369 .369 .376
Carlos Santana .365 .363 .377
Tommy Pham .380 .411 .356
Yadier Molina .336 .312 .324
Paul DeJong .325 .325 .307
Kolten Wong .323 .376 .348
Pitcher .273 .273 .273
Average .346 .353 .345

For the pitchers OBP I just used what the Cardinals got from the ninth spot in 2017. Averaging the OBP’s obviously isn’t perfect because the at-bats won’t be exactly even across the board, but it gives us a number to work with. Any of these average OBPs would have led the league last season. Some regression is to be expected though as bench players will also get at-bats throughout the season.

This is the type of lineup where a OBP assault can work. The OBP’s from the 1-5 spot are extremely strong and there’s reasonable power up and down the lineup as well. We know about the power from guys like DeJong and Carpenter. Yelich and Santana are no slouches in the power department either. Both players are capable of slugging in the upper .400’s. If the Cardinals do fall short on acquiring Stanton, pivoting to something along these lines would be a legitimate option. One that I believe they should explore.

Thanks for reading!

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