If you want to be truly embarrassed by the spot the Cubs find themselves in the standings, tied with the Cardinals for first, consider that in terms of fWAR, Paul DeJong is the best player on the Cardinals. By some distance actually, as he’s accrued nearly twice the WAR of Marcell Ozuna in second. And that’s with DeJong unable to hit a bull in the ass with a snow-shovel since April. Some of that is Paul Goldschmdit’s struggles and playing first base (thus getting little to no defensive credit), and Matt Carpenter being ouchy, old, and grizzled (the official motto of St. Louis). But yeah, the Cubs are tied with a team whose best player got there almost entirely through defense.
If you feel like the Cardinals have been advertising DeJong as a future star for half of eternity at this point, and being influenced on another level by some big homers against the Cubs, you’ll probably be shocked to learn he’s still only 25. But their version of Javy Baez he has not become, nor anywhere close, and let’s all revel in the fact that Cards fans so desperately want their own version of Javy who also happens to be white.
For a minute there, DeJong looked like he might just be that in April. That month saw a .342/.403/.607 slash-line, good for a 163 wRC+. To go along with his spectacular defense, and it looked like you had a real player here, and us lamenting the Cardinals finally being right about a product of their system.
DeJong has been living in an abandoned boxcar since with one can of baked beans, at least offensively (by defensive runs he’s been the best SS in the NL). He hit .200 in May, .218 in June, and .225 in July. His wRC+ have been 95, 66, and 100, as he walked a ton in May (17%), and slugged just enough lately to barely claim average.
It’s not hard to find the discrepancy in DeJong’s start and the rest of the season. DeJong’s BABIP in April was .389. It hasn’t been above .236 since. And yet DeJong, for the most part, has hit the ball extremely hard. Only in June did DeJong not have a hard-contact rate above 45%. Since May 1st, DeJong has the worst BABIP in the National League.
It’s weird. DeJong doesn’t hit an abnormal amount of flies, which tends to lower one’s BABIP because they don’t just fall in when they don’t go out of the park all that much. He doesn’t hit a ton of line-drives, which would help, but that rate isn’t so low as to explain three months of taking it in the moon fortune-wise.
It doesn’t really work to say the past three months have just been market correction on DeJong’s April, because that would entail a higher force equaling out DeJong’s numbers simply to balance the universe. And as we all know because we’ve been told all our lives, if there’s a higher power it definitely works for the Cardinals. Still, DeJong’s numbers are right where they should be according to Statcast, as his batting average and weighted on-base are right in line with his expected-batting average and expected-weighted on-base.
And yet that low of a number over three months seems a tad harsh. DeJong doesn’t have an abnormal amount of flies not leaving the park, as his HR/FB rate is about league average at 12%. As we said, he doesn’t hit an abnormal amount of fly balls. It’s just weird.
Still, with all of that DeJong is a couple of weeks away from his best season in the majors, which was 3.3 fWAR. And if he finds any luck at all in the next two months, he might give Baez a run for title of best shortstop in the National League (0.5 fWAR behind right now). It’s been an odd year for him, and you wonder what the Cardinals might conclude about him if it doesn’t change. They’ve given up on better players, y’know.