Position wars is a simple comparison of team performance depending on who is starting at which position. Since there are many, many factors that determine victory or defeat, these comparisons can’t be embraced as proof that one player should be starting over another.
However, if with a certain player in a particular position the team continues to enjoy greater success, that could be an indication.
With that disclaimer behind us, let’s look at the positional comparisons.
Yadier Molina is not quite back yet – he has missed 35 games already this season. In his absence, the entire second half of the season so far has been handled by his backups, Matt Wieters and Andrew Knizner.
Going into the weekend series against the Pirates, Matt has started 17 second-half games, and Andrew the other 8. The record with Knizner back there (5-3) is somewhat better than with Wieters (9-8), although the team ERA is much better when Wieters catches (3.23 v 5.40). In his few starts, though, Knizner seems to have sparked the offense (5.79 rpg v 3.58 when Wieters catches).
On the season as a whole, the team has done better statistically with Wieters than with either of the other catchers. Matt has started 36 games, leading the team to a 20-16 record with a 3.54 ERA. Yadi has made 67 starts this season, with a corresponding 32-35 record and a 4.28 ERA. The team ERA is worst in Knizner’s 10 starts (4.86), but the team is 6-4 in those games because they score 4.97 runs per game when Andrew starts – as opposed to 4.77 with Yadi in the lineup, and 3.82 with Matt.
Among the starters, Jack Flaherty has had some of his best moments with Wieters behind the plate. In his 7 starts with Wieters, Jack has 5 quality starts, a 2.11 ERA, and a .149 batting average against. He throws 66% strikes, and averages just 15.47 pitches per inning. His record in those 7 starts, though is just 1-1 because his run support in those games is just 3.38 runs per game.
The offense for Jack has been better in the 15 games he’s pitched to Yadi (4.32 runs per game), but Jack, himself has been less effective and less efficient. His ERA with Yadi behind the plate is 4.76 with a .246 batting average against. Only 62% of his pitches in those games have been strikes, and he averages 17.69 pitches per inning.
Miles Mikolas has also been statistically better when pitching to Wieters (3.21 ERA in 8 starts) than Molina (4.48 in 14 starts).
In both of these cases, though, the difference has been less the catcher than adjustments made by the pitcher around the All-Star break.
Both Dakota Hudson (3.91 ERA in 13 games) and Michael Wacha (4.01 ERA in 9 starts) have done better throwing to Yadi than Matt. Hudson has a 4.10 ERA in 9 starts with Wieters catching, and Wacha’s ERA in games that Wieters has caught is 8.55.
Adam Wainwright has pitched just one game to Wieters this year. His ERA in the 6 games Knizner has caught him (4.64) is virtually identical to the mark he’s posted in Molina’s 14 starts (4.66).
Kolten Wong has started 100 of the first 113 games at second base. The Cards are 51-49 in those games. Tommy Edman has been the primary backup. He has made 9 starts at second, with the team winning 6 of the 9
With Matt Carpenter spending most of the second half – so far – on the injured list, Edman has been the primary third baseman. With Tommy starting 14 of the 25 games since the break at the “hot corner,” the team has gone 8-6, scoring 4.97 runs per game. The record might be better, but the team ERA with Edman at third is just 4.46 in the second half.
Carpenter has been active and starting at third for 8 second-half games so far. Surprisingly, the team ERA in those games is significantly better than in Edman’s starts (3.28). But the offense has chimed in with just 22 runs (2.88 per) in those games – leading to a 3-5 record.
For the whole season, St Louis is 38-38 in Matt Carpenter’s 76 starts at third, and 9-10 in Edman’s 19 starts. They are 7-3 when Yairo Munoz starts at third.
With Marcell Ozuna beginning the second half on the injured list, Tyler O’Neill made 16 second-half starts in left field. The Cards were 11-5 in those games. Ozuna has returned and made the last five starts in left – with the team losing all 5.
For the season, St Louis is 37-45 when Ozuna starts in left, scoring 4.22 runs per game against a team ERA of 4.20. When O’Neill starts in left, the team is 16-8, scoring 4.71 runs per game and with a team ERA of 3.98.
Center field has been handled primarily by two players. Harrison Bader made 60 starts there, and Dexter Fowler has been there for 45 games. The records are virtually identical (31-29, .517 for Bader and 23-22, .511 for Fowler), but the method of getting there was predictably different. With the elite defender Bader in center, the team ERA was 3.60 (as opposed to 4.47 when Fowler starts).
But with Harrison in a season-long slump at the plate, the team scored just 3.98 runs per game in his starts – as opposed to the 4.84 runs per game they score when Fowler starts.
Fowler is also part of the equation in right field, but here – ironically enough – he is the defensive option. The other half of that time-share is Jose Martinez.
With Martinez in right, the team ERA is a not-terrible 4.27. When Dexter plays there, though it drops significantly to 3.86. However, the team scores just 4.09 runs per game when Fowler starts in right, vs 4.78 with Martinez.
The won-lost record favors Jose here, 37-28 (.569) vs 21-23 (.477).
Recent Scoring Changes:
In the midst of the 10-run sixth inning that flipped the July 19 game against Cincinnati (box score), Munoz reached on a ground ball to shortstop Jose Iglesias. Originally scored an infield hit, it has since been changed to a fielder’s choice. So subtract a hit and a total base for Munoz.