MLB Defensive Player of the Month for August

September 6, 2021
The Cardinals had a 3.30 ERA in August, 4th-lowest in MLB. They also averaged 7.5 strikeouts per 9 innings in August, the  4th-fewest of any team.

The contrast there can at least partly be explained by the Cardinals’ standout defense. After a strong month, they rank 5th overall in Defensive Runs Saved with 55, only 4 runs short of the top.

Their top defensive player in August was center fielder Harrison Bader. He won our company’s vote for MLB Defensive Player of the Month.

Bader had 11 Defensive Runs Saved, the most of any player in August. No one else had more than 8. Additionally, Bader had 10 Good Fielding Plays, the most of any center fielder in August and 1 shy of the most in MLB (Austin Hays of the Orioles had 11).

Bader has 15 Runs Saved at the position this season. That ranks second to Michael A. Taylor, who leads with 18. Bader has done this while ranking 14th among center fielders in innings (635 2/3). Taylor ranks third (1,012).

Defensive excellence is nothing new for Bader. He totaled 15 Runs Saved in center field in 2019. In 2018, he had 16, split between center field and right field.

Bader was particularly a nuisance to the Pirates. He made six catches of fly balls against them that were credited as Good Fielding Plays within a three-week span. Wilmer DifoKevin Newman (x2), Colin MoranBryan Reynolds, and Ke’Bryan Hayes were all robbed by Bader’s diving grabs. Bader also had two assists against the Pirates, including one at home plate to preserve a one-run lead in the eighth inning.

It sounds odd to say that a player who hit .152 with a .421 OPS in 26 games in August played a notable role in keeping the Cardinals in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. But Bader’s defensive play has more than made up for his offensive shortcomings.

Most Defensive Runs Saved - Center Fielders - 2021 Season

Player Team DRS
Michael A. Taylor Royals 18
Harrison Bader Cardinals 15
Kevin Kiermaier Rays 13
Kiké Hernández Red Sox 11
Magneuris Sierra Marlins 8
Jackie Bradley Jr. Brewers 8
Byron Buxton Twins 8

COMMENTS (1 Comment)

Yeah, Bader looks comfortable out there diving and playing all-out on defense again. His first few weeks back from his cracked rib he seemed a touch tentative (understandable, since the injury came when he mistimed a dive and landed on the ball -- ouch!) but he's back up to speed, literally and figuratively. The Cardinals are much better with him out there and Carlson in a corner than with Carlson in center and Edman or a call-up in a corner, and the Cardinals' rotation, which tends toward the soft-tossing and the weak-contact-generating (Wainwright, Kim, Happ, Lester, and, for much of August, "junkballer" Wade LeBlanc), owes much of their relative success to having him out there.

He still has the worst vertical leap of any good outfielder I've ever seen and is awful at robbing home runs though, go figure...
8:27 PM Sep 7th
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