Indians News: St. Louis Cardinals proving you don’t need Gold Glovers to play good defense


As bloggers, our role is generally to provide analysis of ongoing trends to improve the understanding of people who have real lives and don’t have time to figure out things like WAR.  But sometimes things happen that just befuddle me, and I feel a need to just throw them out there and let everyone stew on them so maybe someone will give me an answer.

Here goes.  Mark Reynolds has played 40 games for the Cardinals this year, in a league with no DH.  That includes three games at third base and six in the outfield.  Somewhere in the archives of Wahoo’s on First is an article I wrote wondering why the Indians would DH Nick Swisher and play Reynolds in the field.  Rock bottom in the major leagues these days might be to be considered less agile than Swisher, but Reynolds is playing in the field regularly for the Cardinals and apparently not costing them any games.

Reynolds shared first base with Matt Adams, at least until Adams got hurt.  Adams would fit in nicely on most any beer league team.  The Cardinals have also run Jhonny Peralta out at shortstop just about every day this year.  Peralta is still as chunky and ungraceful as he was in Cleveland, only a lot older.  Their primary second and third basemen both rank eighth in the National League in range factor, so neither of them is saving a bunch of runs.  Matt Holliday in left field has never seemed better than average on defense.  Aside from Jason Heyward and Yadier Molina, nobody on the Cardinals has much of a reputation as a defensive player.

The question is, why doesn’t this matter?

How can the Cardinals throw a bunch of guys out on the field with defensive reputations ranging from barely adequate to highly dubious and not have it impact them the way it does the Indians?  The Cardinals lead the NL in ERA, not to mention wins.  They are fifth in the league in strikeouts, so they miss a lot fewer bats than the Indians and they are letting opponents put the ball in play. Yet, the defense is making plays behind them, even the guys who seldom made plays when they played for the Indians.

There must be something the Cardinals are doing right that the Indians are missing.  It’s not player development, because not many of these guys came up through the Cardinals’ system.  Ironically, one of the guys who has cost the Indians a game this year with his defense, Marc Rzepczynski, came up with the Cardinals, so whatever they teach guys there must not have gotten through to him.  The bottom line, though, is that the Cardinals prove that you don’t have to have a team full of Gold Gloves to play good fundamental, run-preventing baseball.

Meanwhile there is one team in the American League that has given up more unearned runs than the Indians, and they have the second worst batting average allowed on balls in play in the AL.  If they were average in that category they would have given up 63 fewer hits this year – essentially one per game.  How many more games could you win over the course of a season giving up one fewer hit per game?

Enough to make this a priority, I would say.

Next: What if the Cavs played for the Tribe?