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Big City Comes Home: Matt Adams Can Be a Big Help to the Cardinals Vs. RH Pitching

Welcome home, Matt Adams.

The Cardinals made a smart pickup Tuesday, securing the rights to Big City from Washington  through a waiver claim.

It’s just a straight claim by the Cards, who do not have to send a  prospect to the Nationals to gain the services of Adams’ powerful left-handed swing. The Cardinals’ only responsibility is taking on what’s left of Adams’ $4 million salary for 2018. And that’s less than $1 million. He’s a free agent after the season.

The popular Adams doesn’t need an introduction in St. Louis, having been drafted and developed by the Cardinals. He made his MLB debut with the team in 2012, and had his best seasons here in 2013 and 2014. Who can forget Adams launching a Clayton Kershaw curveball into the right-field bullpen at Busch Stadium for the homer that sealed a victory in the NL Division Series and sent the Cardinals on to their fourth consecutive NL Championship Series?

Adams enjoys special status with Cardinals fans. That was obvious last week when the crowds at Busch Stadium gave Adams a standing ovation and sustained applause during the four-game game series with the Cardinals.

Adams was traded by the Cardinals to Atlanta on May 20, 2017. But Matt and wife Carina never left St. Louis, really. They’ve maintained their home here and live in STL during the offseason.

Sweet.

Adams can look forward to enjoying some of Matt Carpenter’s famous salsa.

Adams turns 30 on Aug. 31.

OK, now let’s get to the baseball part of this reunion…

Adams can help the Cardinals in multiple ways:

1. The Cardinals really needed a LH bat. As of Tuesday morning, the only LH batters on STL’s  active 25-man roster were Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong and Greg Garcia. (In an earlier version of this column, when editing, I deleted Wong’s name by mistake. Stupid error; I apologize. And thanks for bringing that to my attention.) Dexter Fowler is a switch-hitter, but he was moved to the 60-day DL and won’t play again this season because of a broken foot.

2. Adams stands among the most menacing pinch hitters in the majors. In 187 career plate appearances as a PH, Adams has a .295 average, .337 onbase percentage, .497 slugging percentage and an .834 OPS with eight doubles, nine homers and 45 runs batted in. Adams has walloped a homer every 19.2 pinch-hit at bats. No pinch hitter in the majors has more homers and RBIs than Adams since 2013.

3. If manager Mike Shildt seeks a platoon advantage against RH pitching, it makes sense to have Carpenter at 3rd base and Adams at first — instead of playing Jedd Gyorko at third and Carpenter at first. Here’s why:

In 238 plate appearances vs. RH pitching this year, Adams has slugged .538, homered every 12.4 ABs, and performed at 38 percent above league average offensively.

Carpenter this season has a .391 OBP and .594 slug vs. RHP (.986 OPS). As for park adjusted runs created Carpenter is 58 percent above league average offensively when facing RH.

Gyorko, who bats right, is hitting .233 with a .314 OBP and .371 slug in 236 PA vs. right-handed pitching and is 11 percent BELOW league average offensively vs. RH.

I’ve been writing and discussing Gyorko’s ordinary at best numbers vs. RHP all season. With the Adams’ homecoming, the Cardinals have a much stronger alignment to use against RH pitching. And the bench is stronger. This was a gift.

4. Adams’ pull power is restored, and formidable. After being messed up by a hopelessly misguided batting approach preached by former manager Mike Matheny and former batting coach John Mabry, Adams is back in full force — or should I say, pull force — as a dangerous power hitter. The previous regime wanted Adams to worry about beating defensive shifts by encouraging him to bunt and chip singles to the opposite field. These remarkably stupid instructions drained Adams’ power. But the coaches in Atlanta, and then Washington, knew that Adams is a strong man with a quick swing that can trigger pull-side homers to right field and right center. From the start of 2015 until being traded to Atlanta in May 2017, Adams pulled the ball at a rate of 37.6%. From the start of 2016 until the trade, his pull rate was even lower, at 34.3%. Since leaving the Cardinals, Adams had a pull percentage of 49.2%. This season, Adams has pulled 54.6% of balls he’s put into play (106/194) this season.

5. Since being traded by the Cardinals, Adams in 591 plate appearances has slugged .528, with an .851 OPS and robust .263 ISO. His overall offense is 19 percent above league average in park adjusted in runs created. He has 29 doubles, 37 homers and 106 RBIs in 540 at-bats. That’s an excellent HR ratio of a big shot every 14.5 at-bats.

6. After the trade from STL, Adams has crushed RH pitching like never before. In 492 plate appearances he has a .341 OBP, .560 slug, .901 OPS and is 32 percent above the league average against right-handed pitchers. The damage against RH includes 33 homers in 492 at-bats (or one every 14.9 ABs.)

7. In 277 PA for the Nationals this season, Adams slugged .510, hit 18 homers and knocked in 48 runs. He homered every 13.8 at-bats and produced at 23 percent above league average offensively in wRC+.

8. This much hasn’t changed: Adams isn’t going to get much done against lefty pitchers. In 382 career PA against left-handers, the big fellow has a .207 average and .356 slug for a.595 OPS. And his offense against LHP is 41% below the league average from 2012-18. But hey, there’s always memories of his homer against the famous lefty, Kershaw.

9. This season Adams has played 377.2  innings at first base and 95 innings in left field. Adams has always played well at first base, with 26 Defensive Runs Saved during his career. (Including 1 DRS this season.) And Adams hasn’t been awful in left field this season; he’s a minus 1 DRS.

10. Obviously, Adams can play first base, with Carpenter at third base, when the Cardinals want to put as many LH bats in the lineup as possible when facing RH pitchers. With Marcell Ozuna in left field, I don’t see many (if any) starts in LF for Adams. And he hasn’t played much in right field but the Cardinals haven’t ruled out using Adams in left or right field on occasion. But when Adams doesn’t start, he’ll be a valuable asset to have on the bench, ready to deploy for the desired matchup or late-inning maneuvers.

10a. By the way, just to push back a little against some disinformation, here are the Defensive Runs Saved at third base this seasn for Carpenter and Gyorko and where they rank among all 3B in the majors:

Gyorko:  6 DRS, ranks 5th among MLB third basemen.

Carpenter:  7 DRS,  ranks 4th among MLB third basemen.

Thanks for reading …

-Bernie

More: Do the Cards Deserve More Credit for Player Development? Joe Sheehan Thinks So.