In the midst of all those home runs, the St. Louis Cardinals played a style of small ball under Whitey Herzog that they had been playing throughout the decade, relying on speed, aggressive baserunning and manufacturing runs (along with good defense and a good bullpen). They won their third pennant of the 1980s that year, even though they ranked last in the NL with only 94 home runs — in a season in which the Cubs and Giants both topped 200.

The Cardinals did other things well, however: They led the league in steals, walks and on-base percentage, and that allowed them to rank second to the Mets with 798 runs scored. As a point of comparison, the Dodgers hit 221 home runs in 2017 and scored 770 runs.

Source: David Schoenfield,

For a few years now, I’ve felt that a team that was going nowhere should sell out and copy the 1980s Cardinals. While you can’t find a guy who will steal 100 bases, you can find guys who can grab you 40 or so. If you were willing to punt power, you could have a lineup with four guys who stole 40 bases and that would create problems for other teams. If you’re going to lose 90 games anyway, at least do things differently. You never know, it might still work.

3 comments on “Could speedy Cardinals of ’80s compete in today’s game?

  • Name

    What might a speed team might have looked like in 2018 that you could probably sign or trade cheaply. Presumably you’d have some speedy players in your own system to supplement, but here’s what i came up with.

    C – Chris Hermann
    1b- might need to convert another position player here
    2b- hernan perez
    3b- Eduardo nunez
    SS- Erick Aybar.
    OF- Cameron Maybin , Ben Revere, Jarrod Dyson, Denard Span, Carlos Gomez

    I struggled in the infield but you have a lot of cheap speedy options in your OF who if given the green light could all get 40+

    • Brian Joura

      Thinking about NL teams that could have done this. My first thought was the Reds but they were locked into too many OFers. The Giants spent the winter thinking they were contenders acquiring Longoria, McCutchen and Austin Jackson. They could have picked up three of the guys you mentioned above – maybe even upgraded to Cain. But Nunez has not been good so far, which would put a dent into the plan.

  • eraff

    The 798 Runs scored would place them in the upper 3rd of the league in 2017. The big question on that would be whether they’d lose production based on currently employed defensive Metrics and Shifts… how many “ground ball outs” would be taken away from their hits.

    They had a Great Manager….He was highly strategic within “The Knowns” of the game—I’d say he would have been adaptive and influential in advancing the art of Managing with modern metrics.

    “Different Courses for Different Horses” as they say, but those ballplayers were better at what “they knew to do”—and I believe they’d have been good ballplayers trying to do different things…example, Tom Herr and Terry Pendelton and Willie McGee could have hit for More power.

    They were a team that was resourceful—again, Whitey was a Great Manager.

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