May I have a word with you? Thanks. Let’s talk about Dexter Fowler.
Here’s the subject: Fowler’s offense, and how he’s trending .
Here’s my goal: To bust a false narrative, and put it into storage. At least for a while. Oh, and I’m a little wound up today. It’s the extra Monday caffeine. And so my sarcasm is in overdrive. Please accept my apology in advance. Thank you.
Here’s what I will do: present some stats and facts and avoid presenting dumb generalities that are devoid of true facts.
Here’s what I won’t do: Put an absurd amount of emphasis on Fowler’s BATTING AVERAGE. Why? Because the last time I checked the calendar, it was 2017. Not 1917, or 1943, or 1957, or 1968, or 1975 or 1986. So if you want to measure hitters on batting average and ignore pretty much every other more meaningful meaningful stat, then go visit with grandpa, and reminisce about the old-time baseball and how America’s national pastime game has been ruined by all of these nerdy, freak-geek numbers people and their durned fancy-pants numbers like this damn OPP or OBC or NBC or TBS or whatever that thing is.
Here’s why I’m m getting all snarky about batting average: The most essential statistic for Fowler is called “On-Base Percentage” which has been in the mainstream for so long, so prevalent in any performance evaluation, that it should be recognized and appreciated by anyone who still isn’t living in the 1950s, working for Fox Sports Midwest, and is capable of understanding the importance of having a healthy percentage in getting on base … because the more you get on base, the fewer outs you will make. The Cardinals coveted Fowler for his career .364 OBP. But day after day, I hear from people whining about Fowler’s batting average. These folks presumably have black-and-white TVs with the rabbit-ear antennae … they presumably have, in the past week or so, asked “What’s a microwave, and what the hell are you doing with my leftover tuna casserole! Heat it up on the range!” … when you mention “Apple,” they do not realize you are referring to your iPhone; they say they prefer the Granny Smiths over the Red Delicious ones.
Here’s what Fowler did at the beginning of the season: In his first 13 games he went 7 for 53, or .132 … LOOK, GRAMPS! IT’S A BATTING AVERAGE! …. he drew only four walks in 58 plate appearances, or just under 7 percent … he struck out in 27.5 percent of his plate appearances … he had only ONE extra-base hit … he did not drive in a single run … he hit too many grounders (46%) … his OBP was an emaciated .207 … his slugging percentage (.151) was a whisper … his OPS was, frankly, pathetic, at .358.
Here’s what Fowler has done in his last 44 games that followed his arctic-cold start: In his 177 plate appearances after the extremely frigid start, Fowler has a .362 on-base percentage, a .550 slugging percentage, a .911 OPS, eight doubles, four triples and nine homers; eight of which have given the Cardinals leads. He had 24 RBIs, 27 runs scored, a booming 1.429 OPS with runners in scoring position. (Batting average with RISP since April 18, .393.) That’s a swell set of numbers. And Fowler did all of this while playing in discomfort with a lingering shoulder injury. His walk rate over this time is a very fine 13.5 percent. His strikeout rate (18.6%) is within reason. Calculate the digits, and this is what you get: over his last 44 games Fowler’s park adjusted runs created puts him 36 percent above league average offensively during that time. And if anything the numbers should be even more loud and proud; Fowler’s batted-ball luck during this warming-heating trend is still 21 percent below the league rate.
Here’s why I’m annoyed: Because of the warbling being done by the “Gotta get Dexter going!” chorus, which includes media people who should know better. Even with the torrent of offense I just relayed to you, Fowler’s season OBP of .323 is still on the low side. And he’s only three points above average in in park adjusted runs created. He will do better … and he has been doping better. And really, that’s the point … You can’t still be saying “He needs to get going” weeks after he ACTUALLY DID GET GOING … Fowler started “getting it going” 44 games ago, on April 18, or 55 days ago. So why would anyone say “Dex needs to get it going!” when he’s been 36 percent above the league average offensively over a nearly two-month stretch? In his first season (2015) with the Cubs, Fowler had a .326 OBP on June 12. Now, in his first season with the Cardinals, he has a .323 OBP on June 12 — and had a .383 OBP the rest of the season.
Here’s the real problem: Fowler signed an $82,5 million contract to leave the Cubs and join the Cardinals through free agency. Because of the $82.5 mill, cold starts are unacceptable … slumps are prohibited … minor injuries should not matter … and if, over his last 44 games, Fowler has hit eight home runs that have given his team the lead, and he’s batted .393 with runners in scoring position, and he’s slugging over .500, and he’s frequently drawing walks, and he has 21 extra-base hits…
Well, sorry, noot good enough. Because of the contract, Fowler by now should have hit 23 home runs to give the team a lead … he should be batting ,493 with runners un scoring position … he should be slugging over .900 … he should have 42 extra-base hits instead of 21 … And no matter how many times he walks … hey, WHAT ABOUT THE BATTING AVERAGE! …
I have a name for this. I call it “The Matt Holliday Syndrome.”
Now it’s Fowler’s turn.
This is a Lou Thing.
Here’s what you’re missing in your fever to have a legit reason to criticize Fowler: He’s been lousy defensively, with a minus 7 Defensive Runs Saved … which means he already has cost Cardinals’ pitchers an estimated seven runs with his defense. And that minus 7 DRS ranks No. 32 among MLB center fielders this season. I suspect that poor positioning is a factor, and I’d be surprised if new outfield coach Mike Shildt doesn’t make vital alignment adjustments that have a positive impact. That’s what the Cubs did in 2016; they had Fowler line up a little deeper and he went from minus 12 DRS in 2015 (ugh) to +1 DRS in 2016.
Dexter Fowler doesn’t need to get going offensively.
That’s already been done.
He needs to get going defensively … as in getting after the ball, and making more catches, and helping out his pitchers.
Thanks for reading…