Yes, you absolutely read that right. Read it again. Harrison Bader. Print it out. Frame it. Book it. Because it is going to happen.
Now, before you jump in the comment section and rip me apart. Here are a few things that you need to know.
When Harrison Bader took his first handful of at-bats for the St. Loui Cardinals, I was instantly drawn to him. At the time, I dreamed of having Bader and Magneuris Sierra at the top of the Cardinals lineup. Speed kills, and these two had it.
They’ve always said speed doesn’t slump. A sentiment I’ve never agreed with. Just ask Billy Hamilton about that, or, ask Harrison Bader about his 2019 and parts of his 2020 season. Contrary to popular belief, speed can, in fact, slump.
Speed Never Slumps…is a lie
What initially drew me to Bader was his speed, defense, and excitement on the field. After my initial infatuation with the man, his shine wore off. Party due to his excitement on the field.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my athletes exciting and a little bit on the cocky side. I.E. Kobe, Jordan, Tatis Jr. These are the types of players I get excited to watch.
However, if that’s your brand of baseball and you can’t hit a breaking ball, that brand becomes old and frustrating. Bader started to become the bane of my existence.
Then, the 2021 season started. I could immediately tell that Bader had made several offseason adjustments. Suddenly his K rate was down, his walk rate was up, and he was making solid contact with breaking balls.
The defense and speed were still there, and then suddenly he could hit a little bit too. Towards the end of May, he really started putting together some great at-bats.
Of course that’s a perfect time for the baseball gods to strike him down with a rib injury. Bader rolled over a fly ball against the Cubs and injured his rib.
I once again feared a return to guessing and not being able to make solid contact against off-speed pitches. I was wrong.
Bader returned on July 1st and immediately started making an impact with his bat. He not only picked up where he left off, but he came back a much better hitter than he was before. So far, Bader has sustained that pace.
So, let’s take a look here. Is Harrison Bader the player he is now, the player he was pre-rib injury, or a sum of both halves? Does it even matter?
Here’s a look at Bader’s numbers before the rib injury this season. A total of 22 games and 83 plate appearances. The 2nd line would be his 162 game pace at the same rate.
|1st 22 Games||83||16||8||2||4||9||9||13||.211|
|162 Game Pace||612||118||59||15||30||67||67||96|
(All stats provided by Baseball-Reference)
As you can see, even before the injury, Bader was already an improved hitter. His slash line during this time was .219/.301/.411 with an OPS of .712.
Now, this version of Bader, while improved, likely wouldn’t quite be an All-Star unless his defense and baserunning were completely off the charts.
It’s also worth noting that Mike Shildt’s insistence on keeping Bader in the lower half of the lineup is likely affecting his run and RBI totals. Stats that are highly dependent on the guys around him, and those guys have been fairly terrible this season.
Even in this small sample size, you can see that he was also getting a bit unlucky with a BABIP of .211. Well below Bader and the league’s averages.
Harrison Bader – An Impact Bat
Now, let’s take a look at Bader in the 30 games since his return.
|Last 30 Games||121||34||14||7||5||18||9||24||.358|
|162 Game Pace||654||184||76||38||28||98||50||130|
Now, the 162 game pace player you see here is definitely an All-Star. Especially since these counting stats are averaged with him at the bottom of the lineup.
You would have to think that even Mike Shildt would have him in the top half after hitting at this pace for a few months.
His slash line during the 30 game heater is .312/.372/.514 with an OPS of .886. With his elite speed and defense, this would make Bader a 5+ WAR player easily.
The only slight alarms that go off here are that his K rate goes back up just a tad, and his walk rate drops just a tad, and his BABIP is pretty high at .358.
Putting it all Together
Since Bader’s BABIP would likely be somewhere between these two numbers, let’s take a look at his 162 game pace with all 52 games he’s played this season averaged in.
|Last 52 Games||204||50||22||9||9||27||18||37||.297|
|162 Game Pace||636||156||69||29||29||69||57||116|
If the average here is the type of player that he is during the prime of his career, Cardinals fans should be more than happy with these numbers. These numbers would make him extremely valuable over the next several years. .275/.343/.473.
His BABIP comes back down to earth here. His MLB career average BABIP is .296, his 162 game pace with those stats is .297. In my opinion, Bader will likely be this type of player with more runs and RBI’s.
Just a FUN Player
The truth is I would enjoy Harrison Bader at any of these totals. He has become a pretty great all-around ballplayer. He also brings excitement and intensity every night. Something the Cardinals are lacking and have been for quite some time.
To all the Bader haters out there, I was once you. This man drove me crazy. And then he put in the work. Now, we should all be praising this very bright spot in the Cardinals roster.
Bader could very well still put together a 4 bWAR season if he keeps the bat hot. And I, for one, am here for it.