THE REDBIRD REVIEW: FUN WITH NUMBERS
Last offseason, free-agent shortstops Dansby Swanson, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa signed deals that will pay them $775 million over the life of their contracts. And this season the four high-priced shortstops are averaging $25 million in pay.
The Cardinals are paying Paul DeJong $9 million this season and aren’t obligated to pick up his team option for 2024. But he may be forcing the Cardinals to reconsider that.
OK, here are the OPS+ figures for each shortstop so far this season, and a 100 OPS+ is league average. I’ll just list their percentages – above or below average – so far in 2023.
DeJong, 60% above average.
Swanson, 15% above average.
Bogaerts, 13% above average.
Correa, 7% below average.
Turner, 16% below average.
Obviously there’s a strong chance that these numbers will change and flip DeJong from the top spot. And the teams that signed these huge-dollar shortstops because of what they could do on a long-term basis.
And so what? DeJong has performed valuable service offensively and defensively for the Cardinals in 2023. According to FanGraphs, DeJong already has produced $11.4 million in value this season, and that’s in just 26 games.If his numbers drop, that doesn’t erase how he came to the Cardinals’ rescue at a critical point of the season.
Going into the weekend, among MLB shortstops that have at least 100 plate appearances this season, DeJong leads the pack with a .596 slugging percentage, .962 OPS, and a home-run rate of one homer per 11 at-bats. He’s also tied for third in onbase percentage (.366) and is seventh in batting average.
Despite having only 89 at-bats, DeJong has more home runs than notable shortstops such Turner, Swanson, Bogaerts, Correa, Francisco Lindor, Bobby Witt Jr., Jeremy Pena, Wander Franco, and Javy Baez. And his robust slugging percentage is the best among the other 35 shortstops that have 100+ plate appearances.
And yet …
A Cardinals fan tweeted me Thursday to protest against the idea that DeJong is back. His reason? DeJong had struck out 17 times since May 10. That’s on the hide side, but nothing alarming. Plus this intelligent gent left out a few things … you know … like DeJong’s five home runs, 12 RBI, and .884 OPS since May 10.
And if we’re going to obsess over the strikeouts in a bizarre attempt to discredit DeJong, I’ll note that Willy Adames, Trea Turner, Bogaerts, and Correa have struck out 15 or more times since May 10 – but without the load of home runs, RBI and slugging the Cardinals received from DeJong over that time.
Strikeouts are an acceptable tradeoff for heavy power numbers. Every manager in baseball believes that. Ever manager in baseball would make that trade. But that doesn’t matter to these hopelessly unhinged DeJong haters.
During the Cardinals’ current 13-5 stretch DeJong started 16 of the 18 games, and the Cardinals went 12-4 with Pauly in the lineup.
In those 16 contests DeJong had an onbase percentage of .389, slugged .938, rumbled for a 1.326 OPS, slammed six homers, and drove in 14 runs.
And with runners in scoring position over that time, DeJong had a .938 slug, and a 1.326 OPS … with three home runs and 11 RBI in only 16 at-bats.
DeJong is tied for 7th among MLB shortstops with 1.4 WAR this season. He’s accrued that much WAR in only 26 games. Every shortstop tied or ahead of him in the rankings has played between 38 and 51 games.
DeJong’s shortstop defense ranks 12th at the position this season according to Fielding Bible. Bill James Online has DeJong with a +2 net baserunning gain this year.
With all of this slugging, and above-average defense and baserunning, the sane among us would be happy to see DeJong excel. Yes, even with a 26.7% strikeout rate that’s only four percent higher than MLB average. And he’s doing this at a bargain salary of $9.5 million.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his 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 in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.
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.