Let’s get after it again with another 2022 performance review of individual Cardinal players. I’m making some progress, and this latest report card won’t take long for me or you.

NEXT UP: Shortstop Paul DeJong.

OVERVIEW: Pauly’s offense has been in decline for three years now, and he reached his nadir (we think) in 2022. There’s no need to finesse this; DeJong was near the bottom of the majors in each of the meaningful categories offensively. He plays good defense, but that doesn’t matter much given his dead-wood offense. Meanwhile, president of baseball operations continues to spin the same old tune with DeJong, trying to sell gullible media and fans on the idea that Pauly can still turn it around. Sure. Frankly, this situation is an embarrassment to the franchise.

THE OFFENSE: It’s ugly. Really ugly. Let’s take a quick look at the unfortunate and unpleasant particulars:

— DeJong batted .157 in 2022 with a .245 OBP and .286 slug for a .530 OPS. And based on OPS+ he was 47 percent below league average offensively.

— In 2022, among 334 hitters that had at least 230 plate appearances, DeJong was No. 330 in batting average, No. .331 in OPS, No. 329 in OPS+, and No. 324 in slugging. He posted a career-worst 33.3 percent strikeout rate.

— Over his last three seasons DeJong has a .196 average, .280 OBP, .351 slug, .631 OPS and is 24 percent below league average offensively in OPS+. His three-season strikeout rate is 28.5 percent. DeJong did hit 19 home runs in 2019, and that put some cologne on an otherwise stinky set of statistics. DeJong had 1.4 WAR in 2021, with much of that based on defense and home runs. That said, he had a slugging percentage of .390 in 2021, and that plummeted 104 points in 2022.

— DeJong’s 53 OPS+ in 2022 was tied for 273rd among 280 Cardinals that had at least 230 plate appearances in a season during the DeWitt ERA, which began in 1996.

TERRIBLE START, BRIEF RALLY, THEN THE COLLAPSE: After playing in his first 24 games last season, DeJong was batting a sickly .130 with a .417 OPS, one homer in 77 at-bats and a 29% strikeout rate. The Cardinals demoted him to Triple A Memphis to regroup, and he eventually heated up against minor-league pitching.

After his long stay with Memphis, The Cardinals recalled DeJong on July 30 and he returned with renewed confidence and power. In his first 52 plate appearances of his comeback DeJong batted .318, slugged .705, generated a 1.108 OPS and either homered or doubled in 20 percent of his at-bats.

Sadly … DeJong got lost in his own brain again, rapidly losing confidence and engaging in the usual hyperactive fussing and fiddling with his approach and swing. From Aug. 14 through the end of the regular season, he had 9 hits in 89 at-bats (.101 average) with one homer and a strikeout rate of 40.4 percent. Amazingly, and in a comically appropriate symbol of their low standards, the Cardinals put him on their postseason roster.

For defensive purposes of course.

The Cardinals kept DeJong over Edmundo Sosa, who was traded to the Phillies. Sosa helped the Phillies with his offense and defense and was part of three postseason celebrations before the Phils stalled in the World Series.

ABOUT THAT DEFENSE: DeJong had another impressive showing last season with five Defensive Runs Saved in 537 innings. This followed his six Defensive Runs Saved in 873 innings in 2021. Despite his limited playing time, DeJong was tied for 11th in Defensive Runs Saved among shortstops over the past two seasons.

THE MOZELIAK REWIND: This is what the president of baseball ops had to say earlier this offseason when about DeJong. Keep in mind that the Cardinals owe DeJong a guaranteed $9.166 million salary for the 2023 season.

“With Paulie, this spring is important,” Mo said. “He has to make changes. When you think back to when he came up (in late July), he brought a lot of energy and some impact with his bat for about three weeks. Then, he regressed back to where he was prior to getting sent down. So, I think, for him, he’s got to figure out how to get back there, what he can do differently, and he’s obviously got to make some changes. Do you want someone that’s a defensive replacement at $9 million a year? No, that’s not ideal.”

No, it’s not. But does anyone really expect this organization to pay DeJong $9 million to go away and not play for the Cardinals in ‘23? It would be a big upset, and I’ll be congratulating them if they surprise us. For now I have to assume this: Mozeliak just can’t quit on Pauly, so leave it to other teams to upgrade by signing an elite free-agent shortstop who can make a tremendous impact on their franchise.

CONCLUSION: DeJong had a “F” season. Sorry, but I didn’t want to do the overly polite and phony thing by giving him a D-minus. I believe DeJong cares, and sincerely wants to do better. He’s a good dude. Perhaps new bench coach Matt Holliday and the promoted hitting coach Turner Ward can get DeJong going in 2023.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.

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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.


Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.