by Michael Riehn
The Cardinals have been blessed with fantastic teams in the 2000’s. A World Series Championship, 2 pennants and 5 division titles, 7 playoff appearances, 1 Cy Young Award and 3 MVPs are just a small list of accomplishments for the organization. The United Cardinal Bloggers are doing a best players of the decade review.
So who gets to be on the list? The criteria for me:
- I’m not looking at who was best for the decade, but who did the best in a specific season
- Decade is defined as 2000-2009
- Each position will be accounted for with a full starting 5 (pitchers) and a closer.
- Players can’t be listed multiple times, so while Albert Pujols may have had the best season as a third baseman, left field and first base, I’m only taking his best season (which happens to be at first base)
- Must have 400 plate appearances to qualify (Sorry Matt Holliday 2009)
First a primer on OPS+: OPS+ is OPS adjusted for the park and the league in which the player played, but not for fielding position. An OPS+ of 100 is defined to be the league average. An OPS+ of 150 or more is excellent and 125 very good, while an OPS+ of 75 or below is poor.
First Base: Tino Martinez 2003, er, I mean Albert Pujols 2009.
The Tino joke aside, it wasn’t hard to pick who the best Cardinal player of the decade was, at first base or any other position. It was difficult picking his best season. He’s been so good for so long that almost any season he’s had would be the best at any other position for the Cardinals (or any other team). Technically, 2010 had a higher OPS+ with 190, but the 59 more plate appearances and a career high in stolen bases put him over the top (in my opinion).
Second Base: Fernando Vina 2001
Honestly, Skip Schumaker’s 2009 was close, but Vina gets the edge due to his Glove Award Winning defense and base running. You don’t remember it now, but Vina had a fantastic pivot on the double play.
Shortstop: Edgar Renteria 2003
Renteria had an amazing season in 2003 that would have looked good in a corner outfield spot. What makes it even better is that he played Gold Glove caliber defense at the most demanding position on the field and stole 34 bases.
Third Base: Scott Rolen 2004
Rolen always had an amazing glove, but he improved his game with MVP caliber offense in 2004.
Left Field: J.D. Drew 2001
This was the toughest call out of every position (and technically this was right field). Not because Drew didn’t play well (he did), but because he was injured so much. The talent was real though, and he didn’t have much competition.
Centerfield: Jim Edmonds 2004
The third member of the MV3 with Pujols and Rolen, it is amazing to think back to the time when we had 3 players in the top 5 of the MVP voting.
Rightfield: Ryan Ludwick 2008
After battling injuries throughout his career, Ludwick finally got healthy and won a silver slugger award in 2008. Hopefully, he will regain some of this form for a repeat in 2010.
Primer for ERA+: ERA+ adjusts a pitcher’s earned run average (ERA) according to the pitcher’s ballpark (in case the ballpark favors batters or pitchers) and the ERA of the pitcher’s league. Average ERA+ is set to be 100; a score above 100 indicates that the pitcher performed better than average, below 100 indicates worse than average.
Starting Pitcher 1: Chris Carpenter 2009
How could I not take the year he won the Cy Young? I provided both for comparison. This was the most difficult pitching decision that I had to make. In 2005, Carpenter threw over 240 innings, led the league with 7 complete games and had 213 Ks (and more K’s per 9 than 2009). In 2009 he had a slightly lower walk rate and almost NEVER gave up a home run. I’d take either, but I think Carp’s 2009 was SLIGHTLY more dominant.
Starting Pitcher 2: Adam Wainwright 2009
A workhorse season, it wasn’t quite as good as Carp’s (and would rank behind Carp’s 2005), but fantastic nonetheless.
Starting Pitcher 3: Darryl Kile 2001
I know that 2000 is considered his better year because he won 20 games (and was 5th in the Cy Young voting), but 2001 sticks out as a better season to me. He kept the ball in the ballpark better and had an improved ERA because of it. Either season is great, and he left us far too soon.
Starting Pitcher 4: Matt Morris
Matt Morris in his prime was a beautiful thing to watch. In 2001 he put it all together for a brief peak at the top.
Starting Pitcher 5: Rick Ankiel 2000
It’s hard to remember how good Rick Ankiel really was. His cartoon curveball and electric fastball took the league by storm in 2000. Along with Darryl Kile, these two should have been leading the Cardinals through the early to mid 2000’s. Instead, both of their careers were cut short. 10 strikeouts per 9 innings is sick.
Honorable Mentions: Joel Pinerio 2009, Woody Williams 2003
Closer: Jason Isringhausen 2002
For all of the grief that Issi took in Cardinal Nation, you would think he wasn’t very good. On the contrary, Isringhausen was DOMINANT at times, especially during 2002. Look over the stats and you will see something amazing. Along with his 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings and low walk rate, he DID NOT ALLOW A HOME RUN in 2002. Wow.