The National League is down to four teams now that the Pirates eliminated the Reds last week, but even including Reds, those teams reached the postseason because of their pitching and defense. The top-five teams in the National League in runs allowed this season are also the five teams that reached the postseason: the Braves (548), Pirates (577), Dodgers (582), Reds (589), and Cardinals (596).
If we remove pitching and only look at the defenses for those five teams, one team falls away from the pack. Here are our five playoff teams and their team Defensive Runs Saved (NL rank): the Pirates 77 (2), Dodgers 47 (4), Braves 45 (5), Reds 43 (6), and Cardinals -39 (14). Four of the five playoff teams rank in the top-six of the NL in team DRS, but St. Louis is second to last, ahead of only Philadelphia.
What’s even more interesting is if we break down DRS by position, only catchers have saved the Cardinals runs this year, thanks to Yadier Molina and his 12 Runs Saved. The following charts show the total team DRS for 2013 on top and player DRS on the bottom. Please note that the first chart accounts for the entire team and anyone who has logged time defensively this year. The second chart highlights those players I believe will see significant playing time in the postseason.
|Cardinals DRS by Position, 2013|
|Notable Cardinals DRS, 2013|
As you can see, Descalso makes this list at three different positions, helping the team defensively when he plays for Freese at third, but hurting St. Louis in the middle infield. In addition, Allen Craig possesses the ability to play a corner OF spot but seems unlikely to do so in October with Holliday and Beltran currently being healthier options.
This post isn’t designed to say the Cardinals need to overhaul their starting lineup now that postseason play is upon us, but rather to show a team ranked fifth in the NL in runs allowed still has a lot of room to improve in that very category. Remember, that fifth-placed ranking is the worst of any NL playoff team.