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The planned and optimum outfield alignment of Tyler O’Neill in left, Harrison Bader in center and Dylan Carlson in right has been in the same lineup only 68 times this season. That’s mostly because of injuries to Bader and O’Neill, with the usual rest days mixed in.

Bader missed a little over two months after breaking a rib while diving for a ball against the White Sox on May 24. He didn’t return to the lineup until July 1 and has played in 98 of the Cards’ 159 games.

O’Neill has played in 135 of the team’s 159 games, missing time with an assortment of injuries and ailments including a fractured finger that kept him out from May 18 through May 26.

When T.O, Bader and Carlson were on the same lineup card the Cardinals had a 46-22 record for a superb .676 winning percentage, and they averaged 4.9 runs per game.

The threesome were in the same lineup only 15 times from the start of the season through the end of June. Before July, the Cards were 40-41 and tied for 13th in the National League in runs scored, averaging 3.9 runs per game.

Since Bader returned on July 1 to reunite the band in the outfield, the Cardinals are averaging a full run more per game, 4.9. And they’re 49-29 for a .628 winning percentage which ranks third in the NL to the Giants and Dodgers over that time.

Since Aug. 27 the Cardinals are 20-6 when O’Neillm Bader and Carlson start and patrol the outfield together.

With a weekend series to go in September the Cardinals’ three starting outfielders have combined for 21 doubles, 22 homers, 57 runs and 60 RBIs in the team’s 29 games. Collectively, O’Neill-Bader-Carlson are batting .308 this month with a .347 onbase percentage, .599 slug and .945 OPS.

Let’s go back to July 1, when Bader returned to the lineup and reconnected with O’Neill and Carlson. Over the last three months the St. Louis outfield ranks first among NL outfield units in batting average (.278), is second in slugging (.491) and Isolated Power, and is third in OPS (.832), homers, and runs. Also, fifth in RBI with 124.

In park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) the St. Louis outfield has been 25 percent above league average offensively since July 1, third-best among NL outfields.

Through the end of June, the Cards outfield was 10 percent below league average in park-and-league adjusted runs created — 11th in the NL.

That’s a huge difference. A 35% improvement in outfield offense since Bader, Carlson and O’Neill began playing the bulk of the games as a unit since July 1.

Just imagine how good the Cards’ offense would have been all season if the alignment of O’Neill, Bader and Carlson were able to start more than 43 percent of the games together.

BIRD BYTES:

1) Here’s my column on manager Mike Shildt’s decision to start Adam Wainwright in Wednesday’s NL wild-card game: Of course he is, and the decision is so obvious and 100 percent free of suspense or second-guessing that it doesn’t have to be explained or even applauded.

Really, that’s all you need to say.

2) Shildt is a closer. Three seasons as manager, three straight postseasons. But here’s a fun stat for ya. In 2019, the Cardinals heated up and went 27-14 from Aug. 18 until the end of the regular season. The 2021 Cards are 28-13 since Aug. 18.

Yep, 27-14 and 28-13. Very similar, eh?

If the Cardinals win two of three from the Cubs this weekend, they’ll have a 31-14 mark since Aug. 18. But he’s a closer.

3) The Cardinals had 52 homers in September, which sets a franchise record for most homers in a season during the Sept-Oct block of schedule. The 52 homers exceed the 45 in Sept-Oct 1998, the 42 in 1999, and the 41 in 2019.

3a) Before going off for 52 homers to lead the majors to this point of Sept-Oct, the Cardinals ranked 25th in the majors with an average of 28.4 home runs per month through the end of August. After hitting a home run every 30.3 at-bats through the end of August, the Cards are homering every 18.3 at-bats for Sept-Oct.

4) With three games remaining, the Cards’ .484 slugging percentage would rank third in franchise history for Sept-Oct behind the 1930 team (.501) and the .489 slug cranked by the Mark McGwire team in 1998.

5) When Edmundo Sosa starts at shortstop this season the Cardinals are 10 games over .500 at 34-24. And in his 236 plate appearance as a shortstop this season Sosa is hitting .301 with a .379 OBP, .437 slug and .816 OPS.

6) Among the 19 NL shortstops who have at least 200 plate appearances at the position this season, Sosa is ninth overall and sixth in the NL in park-and-league adjusted runs created.

A wRC+ of 100 is league average; Sosa is 25 percent above that average offensively as a shortstop.

In the NL only Fenrando Tatis (164), Corey Seager (146), Brandon Crawford (142), Trea Turner (141) and Willy Adames (136) are above Sosa (125.) Sosa is having a better season offensively than quite a few “name” NL shortstops in wRC+ including Francisco Lindor (105), Trevor Story (104), Javier Baez (103), and Dansby Swanson (101.)

7) With 13 Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop, the Cardinals rank fifth overall and second in the NL. Sosa has eight DRS this year — four more than Paul DeJong. And Tommy Edman saved one run at shortstop in his brief time there.

8) The Cardinals have MLB’s best record, 25-8, since Shildt reinserted O’Neill into the No. 3 lineup spot, behind Paul Goldschmidt and ahead of cleanup hitter Nolan Arenado.

Shildt initially went with this successful 2-3-4 combination on Aug. 22, but then O’Neill missed a couple of games with a stiff back, and Shildt plugged him back into the No. 3 slot on the 27th.

The Goldschmidt-O’Neill-Arenado line has been in place 27 times in the 35-game stretch that began Aug. 27. And the trio has occupied the 2-3-4 slots in 20 of the last 22 games.

The Cards have won 20 of the 22, averaging 5.8 runs, slugging .494 and posting a .814 OPS.

In 127 plate appearances as the team’s No. 3 hitter since Aug. 22, O’Neill is batting .292 with a .362 OBP, .628 slug and .991 OPS. His haul includes six doubles, 10 homers, 26 runs, 26 RBI and four steals. And O’Neill has a .300 average and .968 OPS with runners in scoring position when batting third since Aug. 22.

O’Neill has 11 home runs in September; one blast came when he batted fifth for the Sept. 5 game at Milwaukee. Carlson batted third that day, between Goldy and Arenado.

9) Oldies but goodies: The Cardinals have the NL’s third-best record (30-14) since Aug. 14. Over those 44 games the Cards are 8-1 when Wainwright starts, 7-2 when Jon Lester starts, and 6-3 when J.A. Happ starts. That’s a combined 21-6. In games started by other pitchers since Aug. 14 the Cardinals are 9-8.

10) With 18 homers, Carlson is tied with Ken Boyer for sixth place in franchise history for the most home runs by a rookie in a season. The top five are Albert Pujols 37 in 2001; Paul DeJong 25 in 2017; Chris Duncan 22 in 2006; Ray Jablonski 21 in 1953; and Johnny Mize in 19 in 1936.

Carlson is fourth in franchise history for most extra-base hits in a season by a rookie. He has 53, trailing only Pujols (88 in ‘01), Mize (57 in ‘36), and George Watkins (56 in 1930.) In 1941, a 21-year-old rookie named Stan Musial had 52 extra-base hits for the Cardinals.

Carlson also has the seventh-highest number of total bases (234) in a season by a Cardinals rookie in team history.

And he’s only 22.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the weekend!

–Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. 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 “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

The weekly “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is available at 590thefan.com

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

* All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.

 

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 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. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 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.