Update: Dexter Fowler Is Hitting. A Bunch. So Stop Saying He ‘Needs to Get Going’

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…


More: John Mozeliak Shakes Things Up, and That Should Get Mike Matheny’s Attention

  • rightthinker4

    Bernie, you’re wrong about this being a “Lou Thing”. When a lot of money is thrown at an athlete, regardless of the sport, fans will complain about the athlete, if he is off to a slow start, especially if he was the targeted free agent signing, and the team is doing poorly. This happens in every city. We understand that giving athletes large sums of money, does not increase their skills, no more than you would improve your communication skills if 101Sports, gave you a boatload of money.

    • Abraham Hsieh

      I think one thing nobody has really pointed out is that Fowler was a Cub last year, which means that he is subjected to the World Series hangover that the rest of that team is going through. I probably would have partied all winter long after winning that WS with that team so I am not holding Fowler’s slow start against him.

  • JeremyR

    Eh, it wasn’t just a cold start. He hit .221/.322/.455 in May, during which as you say, he was “going”.

    Is that terrible? No. But frankly, you want more than a .322 OBP out of your lead off hitter

    He seems to have decided to try to hit for more home runs and while it’s working, it seems to be costing him batting average. That might be worth a trade off, but probably not for a lead off hitter.

    Beyond that, in the off season we were constantly told by the media how great Fowler was, how he was the key that made the Cubs offense go, how he was going to fix all the problems the Cardinals have.

    When he struggles and turns out not to be as advertised, but the player he really is, you can’t just yell at the public and say “Well, you never should have believed us in the offseason”

    As I’ve said before, he’s Tino Martinez all over again. Tino probably didn’t help his chase with his personality, something that Fowler won’t have a problem with. But when you hype a player as much as the St. Louis press does (at the behest of the Cardinals), players can rarely live up to that hype.

    • James Berry

      Not once did i see anyone write or say that Fowler was going to fix all our problems. A bit of hyperbole on your part?

    • Taylor

      He also had a .241 BABIP and was playing through a shoulder injury.

  • James Berry

    I’ve seen Fowler doing much better for some time now and it was just another reason why i didn’t like Goldenboy being moved back to lead off. Our entire OF needs to improve…a lot…not just Fowler. Maloney had them playing like the old traditional bunch to the gaps and play deep on everyone and that is just foolish. During broadcasts that McCarver was in the booth, he constantly would criticize how the off OFer was playing far too deep on weak off field hitters such as Jon Jay. It was easy to spot, for anyone not living in those 1950’s you spoke of.

    I may be an oddity in today’s game who values defense at the same level as offense. To me, that is where the game has eroded the most.

    On a side note, how unfortunate was this typo in this article: “and he has been doping better”. Sometimes the jokes just write themselves!

    • Gavin Morgan

      lol Goldenboy

  • Peter Josef

    Everything alright Bernie?

  • ken

    mircrowaving fish is NEVER a good idea, no matter what year it is. but i’m glad to know that fowler is doping better. i hate it when guys aren’t doping well.

  • flood21

    Numbers work well for you on this subject and many others, but you still choose to ignore the numbers of Carp leading off vs. hitting 2 or 3. Bet you a beer that if and when he is dropped out of the lead off spot he goes into a slump and won’t snap out of it until put back in the lead off spot.

    • Taylor

      Maybe he ignores it because it’s irrelevant.

  • SW

    Matt Adams yall…

    • Modumbiak yall, LOL!

  • Matt Kahler

    Dexter Fowler isn’t the problem with this team. There are copious problems with this team – none of them start with Dex.

    Thanks, Bernie, for pointing out that these are the same fans who crapped all over Holliday while he was being an absolute beast during his tenure with us – best fans in baseball, lol. If they can’t see that the problems start with Mo and his inability to contain Matheny’s…less than stellar skill set as a manager (not to mention being unable to land top-tier free agents when you have the money to do so), then they’re not paying attention, and don’t know jack about baseball.

  • Rick Brown

    Since Batting Average comprises 75% or more of On Base Percentage, I think it is a fair criticism.

  • Mark Lee Arbogast

    If your opinion differs with Bernies always prepare to get “Snarked” by him. I particularly love the degrading fan voice imitations he does. Rush would be so proud.