Quick: What do the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins have in common? Answer: They hit into a lot of double plays.
After the two teams’ weekend series, the Marlins and Cardinals are second and third, respectively, in the NL in grounded into double plays with 67 and 66. Before the establishment press discovers this, let’s dispel (again) the notion that GDPs are necessarily bad.
First, let’s review some of the factors that create double plays. As we wrote after the 2011 championship, during which the Cardinals led the league in both scoring and GDPs, double plays are a symptom of something actually very good, “something elemental to scoring: getting on base.” A couple of other factors are at play, too, such as strikeouts (which negatively correlate with GDPs) and net steals (which negatively correlate with GDPs). Let’s take each in order.
High on-base percentage (which positively correlates with GDPs): This is the most important, of course, and the Cardinals are currently tied with the Rockies for the highest OBP in the NL. And they’re third in the league in stolen-base opportunities per plate appearance, which might also be considered “double-play opportunities”:
It also might be called “scoring opportunities,” which is why the Cardinals lead the league in Runs per Game with 5.04.
Strikeouts: As was the case in 2011, the Cardinals strike out infrequently. They have the second-lowest strikeout rate in the league:
That means that they’re putting the ball into play a lot. Combined with the fact that they typically have runners on base, they’re going to hit into a fair number of double plays. But just as strikeouts typically don’t score people, one of the positive aspects of putting the ball into play is moving runners around the bases.
Stolen bases: The Cardinals have the fewest stolen bases in baseball with 18. And that of course includes AL teams. Since they’re not altogether awesome at stealing bases — they have a 67% success rate, which is slightly below average (73%) — this is a good thing. But that number is even more pronounced given the number of chances they have.
Since the Cardinals steal a base only once every 55 chances, they’re going to have runners susceptible to double plays. They’re also susceptible to scoring.
So the next time someone complains about the Cardinals hitting into a double play, just remember that you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette. Speaking of, it’s breakfast time here in India, so your (generally) faithful correspondent needs to wrap up. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to the next double play, since it means that the Cardinal offense is doing exactly what it needs to do, which is manifested in the bottom line: scoring runs.