St. Louis Cardinals

Greatest Cardinals No. 71: OF Ryan Ludwick

The 100 Greatest Cardinals: 71-80

Counting down the top 100 Cardinals of all-time, this video features numbers 71-80 on the list.
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Counting down the top 100 Cardinals of all-time, this video features numbers 71-80 on the list.

NOTE: The BND has endeavored to identify an objective list of the top 100 St. Louis Cardinals players of all time, based on statistical formulas developed through sabermetrics. We’ll count down the list daily, player by player, until April 4, the day of the Cardinals’ 2019 home opener. The running list and player bios can be found at bnd.com.

NO. 71 RYAN LUDWICK

The St. Louis Cardinals knew those Ludwick brothers of Las Vegas, Nevada pretty well.

The eldest of the two, Eric, was a right-handed pitcher they’d acquired from the New York Mets for Bernard Gilkey, then flipped with TJ Matthews to the Oakland Athletics for that big red head, Mark McGwire.

Then, in the pre-draft days of 1999, the Cardinals became acquainted with Ludwick’s kid brother, Ryan, who had just wrapped up his collegiate career at UNLV with a .363 career batting average. The A’s got to him first, drafting him in the second round with the 60th overall pick, while the Cardinals went instead with their pitching coach’s kid, Chris Duncan.

A reunion with Eric was not to be, but St. Louis and Ryan Ludwick connected six years later with a minor league contract and invitation to spring training. By that time, though, Ludwick had passed through three other organizations and taken on more pins and screws than the hardware department at Lowe’s.

To say he was damaged goods doesn’t nearly tell the full story.

Ludwick made his big league debut with the Texas Rangers in June 2002. In August, he broke his hip in a collision with the outfield wall and was fitted with a six-inch titanium rod.

The following September, barely a month after being traded to the Cleveland Indians, he slid into first base and injured his knee bad enough that it took two surgeries to repair.

Stranded at Class AAA Buffalo in 2005 — after being DFA’d by the Rangers and passed over on waivers — Ludwick was batting .191 and considering a move to the Japanese league when an inside fastball broke his wrist.

More surgery, another titanium screw.

But, once the Cardinals got him through the metal detectors at Roger Dean Stadium in the spring of 2007, Ludwick impressed. Manager Tony LaRussa heralded the extra-base pop in his bat and, ironically, “his good reputation for being ready every day.”

With outfielder Preston Wilson out with a balky knee, the Cardinals promoted Ludwick after just 29 games in Memphis, where he was hitting .340 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs. At 28, he crashed the St. Louis lineup with 14 home runs and 52 runs batted in in 339 plate appearances.

The following season, Ludwick was a National League All-Star and Silver Slugger outfielder. He slashed .299/.375/.591, had an OPS of .966 with 40 doubles, drove in 113 runs and scored 104 more. His 37 home runs set a new record among major leaguers who bat from the right side but throw with the left, a distinction only 56 other players in history can claim.

More importantly, the injury bug didn’t bite Ludwick during his time with the Cardinals, apart from a tightened hamstring that cost him two weeks in 2009. So, teammates were shocked on July 31, 2010 when they learned the 31-year-old outfielder had been shipped to San Diego in a three-way trade that sent Corey Kluber to Cleveland and brought pitcher Jake Westbrook to St. Louis.

Ludwick was never the same (and neither was Westbrook). He hit 26 home runs for the Reds in 2012, but that was the only season remaining in his career in which he played in as many as 125 games. On Opening Day 2013, diving to make a catch, he separated his shoulder and went under the knife again to repair torn cartilage.

His St. Louis years were truly special. Over his 12-year major league seasons, Ludwick amassed 11.2 Wins Above Replacement. His WAR in barely three full years with the Cardinals was 10.7.

SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 2007-2010

KEY STATS

.280/.349/.507 slash line with Cardinals | 84 HR in St. Louis | 305 Cardinal RBIs

TOP 100 SCORE: 2.56

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