Bernie on the Cardinals: Redbird Rookies Are Providing Tremendous Value in the NL Central Race.

The Cardinals have a solid 39-31 record and are tied for first place in the NL Central when they play the Brewers in Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

Question: What would the record – and the team – look like without their rookie players? Well I don’t think the Cardinals would be 39-31. And I’m 99.9 percent sure they wouldn’t be any better than 39-31.

I think it’s correct to surmise that the Cardinals would be much closer to .500 without the vital presence of Brendan Donovan, second baseman Nolan Gorman, corner outfielder and first baseman Juan Yepez, and pitchers Andre Pallante, Matthew Liberatore, and Zack Thompson.

And I know this: So far in 2022, the Cardinals have received more value from rookies than any team in the majors. This is based on the baseball reference version of Wins Above Replace Replacement. (WAR.)

Among position players, Donovan leads all NL rookies and is third among MLB rookies with a 1.7 WAR. Gorman is not far behind with 1.1 WAR. Likely due to his speed and defense limitations, Yepez has a lower 0.5 WAR, but has obviously had a positive impact on St. Louis’ offense.

June 21, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Brendan Donovan, 33, scores a run in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

If you add up the total number of players in the team’s rookie position – including two deductions for Kramer Robertson and Ivan Herrera – you get 3.1 WAR.

That’s the highest among NL teams and second among majors.

What about the jugs? With a 1.5 WAR, Pallante is first among National League rookie pitchers and second in the majors. Thompson, Liberatore and Angel Rondon have teamed up for 0.5 WAR. After subtracting the WAR rates below the replacement level of Packy Naughton and Jake Walsh, the net is 1.7 WAR.

That leads the NL and ranks second in the majors.

To recap – and not that you need it…

The Cardinals have the most WARs from rookie position players in the National League and the most WARs from rookie pitchers in the National League. And they’re second in the majors in both categories.

And that’s impressive and important for another reason. The rival Brewers aren’t getting nearly anything from their rookies compared to the rookie power rating that improved the Cardinals in 2022.

Utility player Mark Mathias has a 0.1 WAR for Milwaukee. Several beginner pitchers added 0.6 WAR together.

That means the Cardinal rookies are four wins better than the Brewer rookies, and that’s not something to be dismissed as insignificant.

In the first 70 games of the season, Gorman, Donovan and Yepez generated this for the 2022 Cardinals. I combined their numbers so we can see a composition.

430 record appearances
378 at bats
25 double rooms
13 Homer
66 RBI
60 runs scored
.293 batting average
0.374 based percentage
0.462 hit percentage
.836 OPS.

None belonged to last season’s 90-win team.

So how’s that for beefing up the offense for 2022?

Let’s take a quick look at each of the three beginners:

Donovan: Among NL rookies with at least 100 plate appearances, Donovan has the highest batting average (.318), highest onbase percentage (.425), highest OPS+ (149), most doubles (14), most runs made (25). ) and is second in standard OPS (.855) and RBI (22nd). Oh, and he’s played six different positions defensively.

Gorman: Among NL rookies with at least 100 PA, Gorman has the best slugging percentage (.516), best standard OPS (.866), and is second in OPS+ (147), tied second in home runs (6), and third in onbase percent (.350), third in batting average (.280), and sixth in RBI (17th)

Yepez: Among the NL rookies with 100 or more plate appearances, he ranks second in home runs (6) and RBI (16). He is third in slugging (.463), OPS (.794) and OPS+ (127). He is fourth in batting average (.276), fifth in doubles (7), and sixth in onbase percentage.

If we use OPS+ as our method of measuring offensive performance, the Cardinals have three of the top four rookie hitters in the NL.

Donovan is first at 49 percent above the league average, Gorman is second at 47 percent above the league average, and San Francisco’s Yepez and Luis Gonzalez are third at 27 percent above the league average.

Pallante has delivered double value with his strong work as a reliever and starter. And as the season progresses, we can expect even more positive results from Zack Thompson and possibly Liberatore.

Randy Flores and the St. Louis scouts are to be commended for doing such a fantastic job of drafting and player development. And there’s more young talent on the way. The Cardinals are poised for a bright future, and that’s encouraging.

Thank you for reading …


Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

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

While best known for his voice as a senior sports columnist at 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 DC

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

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