Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AnalysisMLBNational LeagueNL CentralSt. Louis Cardinals

Harrison Bader, The Sabermetric Darling of St.Louis

Credit: Facebook, St Louis Cardinals
Credit: Facebook, St Louis Cardinals

In a traditional “old school” fan base like the St. Louis Cardinals, many fans and announcers are quick to dismiss sabermetrics when evaluating a player. If you were to tune into their radio broadcast, you would hear endless complaints from Mike Shannon about the direction that baseball is headed. Despite the distrust levied against St. Louis “stat nerds” who love the Cardinals and who also have a shrine of Bill James in their homes, old school fans and announcers are unintentionally fawning over a sabermetric darling, Harrison Bader.

Finding Value

When the movie Moneyball was released in 2011, it was the official start of popularizing sabermetrics to the mainstream baseball world. Prior to the release, the only adherents to the religion of Bill James were a few die-hard baseball fans and a growing number of scouts trying to gain the upper hand. In the film, a notable quote about the goal of sabermetrics is to “Find value in players that no one else sees,”. This quote can perfectly surmise the value found in Bader. Looking at traditional stats, Harrison Bader, in 925 PA, has a career slash line of .236/.320/.393, which is all just under the league average of .254/.326/.427. Despite the below average numbers in the last two seasons, Harrison Bader had a higher bWAR(5.8) than Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, Buster Posey, Marcell Ozuna, Andrew McCutchen, Joey Gallo, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, and Charlie Blackmon. For reference, that list has a combined total of 5 MVPs, 4 ROY, and 42 all-star selections. Seven of which have come in the last two years. In terms of the Cardinals roster in the previous two seasons, he ranks third in bWAR behind Paul Dejong(7.9) and Kolten Wong(8.2). Analyzing Bader’s WAR is just the tip of the SABR iceberg. To get to the heart of his value, we could easily quote Inception, “We need to go deeper.”

For starters, most of Harrison Bader’s below average offensive numbers can be contributed to his RH/LH pitcher splits. Against right handed pitchers, Bader’s slash is .228/.317/.355 with an OPS of .671. However, when facing lefties his slash jumps to .254/.328/.487 with an OPS of .815. The trend continues when looking into K%. Facing RHP he has a 29.8 K% and 26.1 K% against lefties. Bader suffered setbacks in 2019 trying to bat around the Mendoza line. He also spent time in the AAA(where he hit seven home runs in 16 games). Despite the struggles he still improved his BB% and K%, jumping from 7.3% to 11.3% in walks and decreasing 29.3% to 28.8% in strikeouts. However, those who are avid Bader fans are not focused on his production at the plate. The primary value of Bader is in his defense and speed.

A big reason why Cardinals fans love Bader is his defensive prowess in center field. Even if one were to not delve into his defense metrics, all you have to do is watch Bader play and can easily observe that he is a vacuum in center field . He goes all out while making plays and fits into the cliche mantra “giving 110%.” Due to his talents with a glove, this is where sabermetrics places the highest value on Bader. Through a total of 1676.2 innings in CF, Harrison Bader has posted a UZR/150 of 18.8 and a DRS of 26. Fangraphs lists 15+ on both UZR and DRS as being “Gold Glove Caliber.”


For reference, lets do some comparisons. Who is the first player a baseball fan thinks of when they hear “St Louis Cardinals center-fielder” Of course Jim Edmonds immediately comes to mind. In his tenure as the Cardinals center-fielder, Edmonds had a UZR/150 of 5.6 and a DRS of 6. For modern context, Ronald Acuña Jr in center-field has UZR/150 of -2.7 and a DRS of 5. A large part of Bader’s excellent defense can be attributed to his most valuable asset, his speed.

BaseballSavant’s 2019 Ranking of Bader

Bader has not had many chances to show off his wheels on the base paths. In his career so far he has only amassed 28 stolen bases while being caught 7 times. To see the incredible speed that Bader has, all one has to do is take a peak at Baseballsavant. In his career Bader has been in the top 20 in sprint speed. In the past two seasons he has been in the top 5 in OAA, peaking at #3 in 2018. Just for fun, here is how a virtual 90 feet foot race between Billy Hamilton and Harrison Bader would end up.

Most 2020 projections for Bader place his stats as a rough average of his 2018 and 2019 campaigns, which was .264/.334/.422 in 2018 and .205/.314/.366 in 2019.

Baseball Reference 2020 Projections
Composite,RotoChamp, Streamer, and ATC 2020 Projections

It is clear that St. Louis is on the verge of something special with Harrison Bader. However, most Cardinals fans do not need sabermetrics to prove that. Bader is a fan favorite in St. Louis, he adds flash and charisma to the lineup. Moving forward into the 2020 season and beyond, if Bader can work out his struggles against RHP and play 150+ games in center field; coupled with the fact that Mike Shildt is big on being aggressive on the base paths, Bader has the potential to be 20/20 player with a five to six WAR season….and maybe an All-Star appearance for good measure.

All stats were gathered from:

Drake McGrew

My name is Drake McGrew, I am 22 years old, I have a Bachelors degree from Arkansas State Universty in History with a minor in Poli Sci . I have been a fan of the Cardinals since I was eight years old and my love for the game has continued to grow ever since. I have traveled to 14 MLB stadiums and have attended two postseason games. Baseball aside, my hobbies include hiking, traveling, playing video games, and listening to copious amounts of Bob Dylan. I can best be summed up by my life motto, Peace, Love, and Baseball.