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United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable: Which Cardinal surprised you the most in 2012?

[The United Cardinal Bloggers have begun their offseason roundtable discussion in which member bloggers take turns posing a question each day to the others. Today's question comes from Christine Coleman of the delightfully named blog Aaron Miles' Fastball.]

And it’s short, plus looks back on what just ended instead of ahead to next year: what one Cardinal surprised you the most in 2012? (Player, manager, GM — whichever one you choose.)

The player who by far surprised us the most was Matt Carpenter. That’s because he seemed to come out of nowhere. After all, if Skip Schumaker hadn’t strained his oblique in spring training and started the year on the DL, Carpenter probably wouldn’t have even made the roster (though he did light up spring training with a .438 OBP/.661 SLG). We kept waiting for him to taper off — and yet he wound up with the seventh-highest WAR (1.6) among position players on the team, despite having the ninth-most plate appearances.

And yet, it’s not like Carpenter’s bat was a closely guarded secret, given that he finished his 2011 Triple-A campaign with a .417 OBP, giving him a minor-league career mark of .408. His 2012 production — at least that on-base skill — was expected by at least one observer, Dan Szymborski. Check out how his ZiPS projection lines up with Carpenter’s actual performance, rather difficult to do for a rookie player:

Player G PA OBP SLG BB% SO%
ZiPS 136 571 .342 .366 11.6% 18.0%
Actual 114 340 .365 .463 10.0% 18.5%

The power part of Carpenter’s game was truly impressive, nearly 100 points over projection.

But based on this method, Yadier Molina has to have been the most surprising hitter.

 Player G PA OBP SLG TB
ZiPS 139 530 .340 .397 190
Actual 138 563 .373 .501 253

We hope that Molina’s career year — featuring 33% more total bases than his projection — will serve as at least an anecdotal counterpoint to the so-called “contract-year effect.” (2012 was the first year of Molina’s new five-year extension.)

Speaking of contract year, the effect proponents would just as easily point to Kyle Lohse’s 2012 campaign, which we’ll be the first to admit surprised us as much as Carpenter’s and Molina’s. After all, ZiPS projected a 4.37 ERA over 124 innings for the righty; instead, he repeated his 2011 success with a better-than-career 3.92 xFIP — and led the team with 211 innings pitched. If you covered up the name, you could easily mistake his season for that of a vintage workhorse Chris Carpenter.

One Response to “United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable: Which Cardinal surprised you the most in 2012?”

  1. cardinalnation257 Says:

    I think Craig was the most surprising Cardinal. Matt Carpenter looked great in spring training and I always thought he would have a chance, but Craig was just outstanding. I’m so excited to see what he can do in a full healthy season. The guy has the potential to hit over 30 homeruns and yet he can still hit for average, which makes him a very rare hitter. I would have to say Rosenthal’s second half emergence was the second most surprising. He was absolutely lights out!!! It was disappointing to see him struggle in the minors, but when he got his call to the majors he was more than prepared.

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