Friday, January 2, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Cardinals Third Baseman

Honorable Mention-  Albert Pujols 

Third base is a hard position.  Albert Pujols makes my honorable mention list based on his one season as a Cardinals third baseman.  It also happens to be one of the better rookie seasons ever, so there's that.  Again, third base is a hard position.  Without giving away the rest of the list, in one season as the Cardinals third baseman Albert Pujols posted a WAR of 6.0.  Terry Pendleton, who is also on this list, posted a WAR of 4.9 for the Cardinals in 7 seasons.  Pujols also had 47 doubles, 37 home runs, drove in 130 runs, and posted a slash line of .329/.403/.610.  The rookie third baseman also won the National League Rookie of the Year, made the All-Star team, and finished fourth in MVP voting.

5. (tie) Joe Torre 

Joe Torre spent one season as the Cardinals full time third baseman in 1971.  Turned out pretty well.  If I can put Pujols on here for one Rookie of the Year season I can also put Joe Torre on here for one really good MVP winning season.  In 1971 Torre posted a slash line of .363/.421/.555 with 24 home runs, 137 RBIS, and 230 hits.  The RBIs, hits, and batting average all lead the National League that year.  He posted an OPS+ of 171 and an oWAR of 8.6.  Torre spent a fair number of games at third again in 1972 before the Cardinals used him almost exclusively as a first baseman his last few seasons in St. Louis.  While his 1972 season was a far cry from his 1971 season, Torre still posted a .289/.357/.419 line with 11 home runs, 81 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 122.

4.  Terry Pendleton 

Pendleton was an important cog on the 1980s Cardinals.  Some times the Whiteyball era players can be a little tough to judge.  While Pendleton went on to win a batting title and an MVP award with the Braves, he was not that player while he was on the Cardinals.   In 7 seasons as a Cardinal Pendleton hit .259/.308/.356 with only 44 home runs.  He also only stole 99 bases as a Cardinal and almost all of those happened during his first four seasons on the team.  Pendleton is here for defense.  During those 7 seasons as a Cardinal Pendleton posted a dWAR of 10.7 which included a 1985 season of 2.9 and two seasons of 2.3 in 1986 and 1989.  It's not Ozzie Smith, but it's closer than you think.  For example, in 1985 Ozzie Smith led the National League in dWAR.  Pendleton was second.  In 1986 Pendleton finished fourth.  In 1985 Pendleton led the National League in Total Zone Runs with 24 and finished second in Range Factor.  In 1986 he finished second in Total Zone Runs and led in Range Factor.  In other words, if you hit the ball on the ground to the right side of the Cardinals infield, with Smith and Pendleton playing, you were likely out.  

3.  Scott Rolen 

I could have lived with Rolen at two or three on this list.  I think that the peak of Rolen was actually higher than my player at my two spot, but Rolen's lows as a Cardinal were really low.  Plus there is always the whole World Series ring.  Rolen has one ring from 2006.  He won it while pouting on the bench.  My player at two has three rings.  Now, on with Scott Rolen.  Rolen was probably already the best third baseman in the National League when the Cardinals picked him up from the Phillies in 2002.  He had a shot at an MVP award in 2004 when he hit .314/.409/.598 with 34 home runs, 124 RBIs, and Gold Glove defense.  He just decided to have his career year the same year that Jim Edmonds had a career year and Pujols was Pujols.  He finished fourth in the voting, but could have easily won many other years.  For his Cardinal career Rolen posted an OPS+ of 127, but only spent six years in St. Louis.  At his peak he could have been first on this list, but his Cardinals career was too short to move him past this spot on my list.  He was traded to the Blue Jays after the 2007 season was spent feuding with Tony LaRussa over playing time and health concerns with Rolen's shoulder which was injured in a weird play at first base in 2005.  The play involved Hee Seop Choi who seemed to run over a lot of people in the mid 2000s.  Ask Mark Prior.  Rolen ended up being a good player the rest of his career, but probably could have been the best Cardinals third baseman and a Hall of Famer in a perfect world.

2.  Whitey Kurowski 

Kurowski had a short career, but played on several important Cardinals teams that won three World Series titles.  Whitey was not just along for the ride either, but was an important part of the team.  The four time National League All-Star won the World Series with the Cardinals in 1942, 1944, and 1946.  He also helped the 1943 Cardinals to a National League pennant.  During his 9 year career, all spent with the Cardinals, he averaged 19 home runs and 94 RBIs with a career slash line of .286/.366/.455. He is one of those rare players who actually walked more in his career (369) than struck out (332).  His best season was probably in 1945 when he hit 21 home runs, drove in 102, and hit .323.  While JAWS ranks him as the 85th best third baseman to ever play the game, his OPS+ of 125 puts him in the top 30 of all-time even with Hall of Famer Ron Santo.  

1. Ken Boyer 

Boyer is the only Cardinals player, with their number retired, who is not in the Hall of Fame.  Basically, the most common argument is that he and Ron Santo are really the same player.  If Santo got in then Boyer should be in too.  Boyer was a really good and consistent player for the Cardinals for a decade starting in 1955 running through 1965.  During that time Boyer was always good for 25 to 30 home runs, 90 to 100 RBIs, a .290 to .300 batting average, an OBP over .350 and a SLG near .500.  He won the National League MVP in 1964 and hit a grand slam in the World Series to help the Cardinals defeat the Yankees, but in my opinion his best year was actually 1960.  During that season Boyer hit .304/.370./562 with 32 home runs, 10 triples, 32 doubles, 97 RBIs, and won a Gold Glove.  The problem with Boyer's Hall of Fame candidacy in my opinion is his post Cardinals years.  He bounced around with the Mets, White Sox, and Dodgers before calling it quits.  There were some rough years in there.  Still, as a Cardinal he played at a high level and is a pretty easy choice for the first spot on this list. JAWS ranks him as the 14th best third baseman of all-time.

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