Cards improved without Pujols
Surprisingly, St. Louis' offensive production has soared sans the slugger
Albert Pujols' decision to leave the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason shocked the baseball world. In 11 years with the franchise, Pujols defined the St. Louis offense. As a Cardinal, he smashed 455 home runs while posting a batting line of .328/.420/.617. A player of that caliber is always difficult to replace, and the Cardinals' offense was expected to struggle without their superstar.
But that hasn't been the case. After losing the best offensive player in baseball, the Cardinals' offense has been even better.
In order to determine whether a team performed better after losing its offensive stud, we can use wRC+, which measures how a team has performed offensively against the league average. League average will always be 100, so if a team's wRC+ is 120, it means that team has been 20 percent better than an average offensive team. This stat also adjusts for park and league, making it incredibly useful when comparing players from different years.
In order to determine how teams perform after losing their offensive stars, we looked at the largest contracts handed out to players who have switched teams. We ended up with 12 players, from Alex Rodriguez and his $252 million contract, to Torii Hunter, who received $90 million. In those 12 instances, the team that lost its superstar managed to improve its offensive performance during the following season five times. Some of the improvements were small. The Indians and the Mariners improved their offense by just 1 percent after losing Manny Ramirez and Ken Griffey Jr., respectively. The other teams that improved have experienced a more significant jump in production.
So the fact that the Cardinals' offense has been better without Pujols isn't necessarily surprising, but the rate at which their offense has improved sets them apart more than any other team involved in the sample.
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