The Ryan Ludwick Deal in Hindsight


Ryan Ludwick is coming back to St. Louis, y'all! 

Okay, so he's not coming back the way you're probably hoping. He'll just be coming back to play against the Cardinals as part of a San Diego Padres team which suddenly finds itself in the midst of a fight for its playoff life. 

It's a little strange, considering how much gnashing of teeth there was around here when Ludwick was dealt away (I wasn't entirely pleased myself), but the Ludwick-slash-Westbrook-slash-whatever-the-hell-Cleveland-got trade hasn't really worked out for anyone so far. There were plenty of people around Cardinal land who believed losing Ludwick was going to hurt the team and lead to more losses. What I don't think anyone expected was that the team adding Ludwick wouldn't get any better, either. 

Things haven't really gone so well for Ludwick since he was dealt to San Diego, to be perfectly frank. In 42 games since the trade, covering 171 plate appearances, Luddy has hit .228/.316/.349, good for an OPS of .665 and OPS+ of 85. For reference, that's almost the exact same OPS+ as Skip Schumaker this season. In other words, Ryan Ludwick has hit like a much-less-than-his-best Schumaker since moving to San Diego. That's...not so good. Of course, Ludwick is still a tremendous defender in right field, so he's at least still adding significant value that way. 

In contrast, the performance the Cardinals have received from Jake Westbrook since the trade looks positively rosy. Westbrook has posted an ERA+ of 105 in 50 innings since coming over from Cleveland. That may not be a ton above average, but it's still better than average. So by this admittedly primitive measure, at least, the Cardinals have actually gotten the better end of the deal. 

Of course, what really counts is improving the team's won/loss record, and by that measure neither team has done well at all. The Cardinals went to bed on the 31st of July with a record of 59-46 and a slim half-game lead over Cincinnati in the division. Since then they've gone a rather horrific 15-24, and now stand eight games out. 

What's even stranger is how the Padres have fared since dealing for Ryan Ludwick. After all, they didn't even give up any pieces of their major league club. (They sent a pair of minor leaguers out in return for Ludwick's services.) As the trade deadline passed at the end of July, the Padres had a record of 60-42 and a 1.5 game lead. At first it seemed as if they would benefit from their deadline deals, as the Pads went on a serious tear. They won 10 of 11 games from August 8-19th, building up a 6.0 game lead in the division. Since then, though, the Padres have seen their fortunes take a hit. They lost ten games in a row from August 26 through September 5, and have seen their division lead whittled to just a half game. Overall, since trading for Ludwick the Padres are just one game over .500, which is bizarre considering they added a high-quality player to an already outstanding team and have played much worse overall since the trade than they did before it. 

So who won the Ryan Ludwick deal? Well, considering what each team gave up, you'd be hard-pressed not to conclude San Diego did much better than the Cards, and the record of each team seems to bear that out. Then again, neither team has been very good overall since the end of July, so any prize would seem to be strictly of the booby variety. 

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