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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

OPS+ from the Cardinals’ big three

Looking at OPS+ marks by the St. Louis Cardinals’ top three hitters over the Albert Pujols years.

In the previous post, we looked at the potential of the St. Louis Cardinals’ middle three hitters in 2011, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, through a comparison of their career milestones to the famous 2004 MV3 of Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen.

In that analysis, I left Pujols out since the aggregate of his numerous accomplishments since 2004 would have tipped the balance too strongly in favor of the 2011 trio.

For the poll topic at the conclusion of the article, I slipped in a list of other top Cardinals duos during the Pujols era, asking readers to select the “best”. In a close race, at the time I type this, the pair having received the most votes was from 2005, Edmonds and Larry Walker.

Not being entirely satisfied where I left the subject, I decided to make another quick run at it. In this case, I summed the OPS+ of Pujols and his two most productive counterparts each season since Albert’s 2001 debut.

By definition, using OPS+ provides only a high-level offensive view, but it does allow Pujols’ yearly numbers to be included. For a 2011 projection, I simply listed the career OPS+ marks of Pujols, Holliday and Berkman.

Rank Year OPS+ OPS+ OPS+ Total Playoffs
1 2004 Pujols 172 Edmonds 170 Rolen 157 499 yes
2 2003 Pujols 187 Edmonds 160 Rolen 138 485 no
3 2008 Pujols 190 Glaus 124 Ludwick 150 464 no
4 2009 Pujols 189 Holliday* 169 Ludwick 105 463 yes
5 2010 Pujols 173 Holliday 149 Rasmus 132 454 no
T6 2011# Pujols 172 Holliday 135 Berkman 145 452 TBD
T6 2002 Pujols 181 Edmonds 158 Renteria 113 452 yes
8 2006 Pujols 178 Rolen 126 Duncan 140 444 yes
9 2005 Pujols 168 Edmonds 137 Walker 130 435 yes
10 2001 Pujols 157 McGwire 105 Drew 161 423 yes
11 2007 Pujols 157 Duncan 114 Ludwick 110 381 no

* partial season
# career averages

Not surprisingly, the MV3 in 2004 earned their reputation with the highest OPS+ total of the Pujols years. The same three also logged the second-best OPS+ total the year prior.

If Pujols, Holliday and Berkman each post career-average seasons for them in 2011, their total OPS+ would rank only in a tie for sixth over the last 11 years.

Then again, it doesn’t seem to matter all that much in the big picture. As the far right column indicates, having three players with high OPS+ marks does not correlate well with the entire 25-man roster reaching the post-season. Three of the top five seasons by this measure were non-playoff ones, 2003, 2008 and 2010.

Further suggesting a lineup with depth (and good pitching) may be more important than having three offensive stars is the fact that the Cardinals reached the playoffs in four of the lowest five OPS+ total years. The 2005 reader voting favorite ranks ninth in this measurement despite the club having won 100 games and the 2006 World Champions are eighth of 11.

Earlier I made the assumption that Holliday and Berkman will be the among the Cardinals’ top three contributors in 2011, joining Pujols. What do you think?

Poll: Which two Cardinals will have the highest OPS+ after Pujols in 2011?

View Results

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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