BY MARK SIMON
Most of the names atop the Defensive Runs Saved leaderboard are recognizable at this point of the season.
One of the exceptions may be St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader.
Bader has channeled his best Jim Edmonds in the form of multiple diving catches this season. He’s saved 7 runs defensively this season, 5 from center field and 2 from right. He ranks tied for fourth in Defensive Runs Saved among outfielders. In 15 games, he’s made a number of highlight-reel plays, including face-first dives to catch line drives hit by Eric Sogard, Tucker Barnhart, Ian Happ and Josh Bell.
He’s also made a couple of full-speed sprinting catches, the most notable of which was on a line drive by Billy Hamilton. It was the final out and the play denied the tying run from scoring in a win over the Reds on April 15.
From a statistical perspective, catching shallow fly balls was Bader’s specialty in the minor leagues, as he rated well in that in 2016 and 2017 (his numbers on deep balls were well below average). He also ranked third among outfielders in Double-A and Triple-A with 27 Good Fielding Plays in 2017.
He made the most of his opportunity in the majors when Tommy Pham went on the disabled list, and the strong defense carried over from the minor leagues. In order to make the most of his defense, the Cardinals have been playing Bader an average of 7 feet deeper in center field in Busch Stadium than they’ve positioned Pham this season (and an average of 9 feet deeper overall).
Bader isn’t necessarily a headline grabber, but he’s shown himself to be a useful player and a part of why the Cardinals currently stand tied for the lead in the NL Central.