The St. Louis Cardinals Disappointing Start


David Peter

The St. Louis Cardinals are having a historically bad season. Their 11-24 start (.314 win percentage) is tied for the third worst start in Cardinals franchise history, and in each of these seasons that have started off this bad, they have missed the playoffs. Right now the Cardinals are 9.5 games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates, who are looking pretty good as of now. To make matters even worse, they have the worst record in the National League and the third worst record in the entire MLB. What are the reasons behind this awful start and can the Cardinals ever contend for a playoff spot this year?

The Cardinals hitting right now is not too bad, however for a lineup this good I believe that we should be scoring more runs. This year, the Cardinals have scored an average of 4.46 runs per game, which is 13th in the MLB. This may seem good but in reality it is not all that great. With the addition of Willson Contreras in the offseason and Paul Goldschmidt coming off an MVP season, you would think they would be scoring more runs than last year. But you would be wrong. Last year a Cardinals team without a great hitting catcher in Willson Contreras scored 4.73 runs per game. So why isn’t our hitting better? Paul Goldschmidt is the team leader in batting average (.321), homeruns (7) , and doubles (14). He is having yet again another great season both offensively and defensively. However, our other star in Nolan Arenado is having a pretty poor start. He has only a .232 batting average with 3 homeruns and only 4 doubles. Last year he racked up a .293 batting average with 30 homeruns. He seems to have a way higher strikeout percentage, especially on fastballs, potentially due to a seemingly slower bat speed messing up his timing on these pitches. As time progresses, however, he should be able to adjust better to the fastball. As for the other players, they seem to be doing pretty decently. Nolan Gorman especially has emerged as a pretty solid hitter, and Willson Contreras has started to improve after a slow start. 

But the main problem that the Cardinals have been having for years, and one that continues to haunt them today, is pitching. Let’s start with the starters. I know that Adam Wainwright was out for the start of the season, but the pitching was expected to be a little better than this. The best pitcher in terms of ERA (earned run average) is Jordan Montgomery, whom we acquired from the Yankees at last year’s trade deadline in exchange for Harrison Bader. Although his ERA (3.29) isn’t the worst, it still is not all that great. He has pitched 41.0 innings and has given up 41 hits in these innings. The long ball or walks don’t seem to be an issue for him, however, so he might be able to turn it around before things start getting worse. As for the others in our rotation, they have been terrible. Jack Flaherty had a pretty great start but has fallen off and has now allowed 26 runs in 34 innings pitched, while also walking a team-leading 22 batters. Everyone thought that Miles Mikolas would have a good season but his start is also not proving it. He has pitched 37 innings and has given up 25 runs with 53 hits. This is over one hit per inning he pitches. Steven Matz has also had a terrible start after returning from injury. 

The relievers, unfortunately, have not been much better. Jordan Hicks has pitched 13 innings, allowing 13 runs and racking up a 7.62 ERA in 14 games, by far the worst on the team. Ryan Helsley, Drew Verhagen, and Chris Stratton each have sub-4 ERAs, which isn’t too bad but could be better, considering Helsley was a top three closer in the NL last year (behind Edwin Diaz and Josh Hader in my opinion). Genesis Cabrera has been our leader in ERA with a 2.77 in 13 innings pitched, but all of these pitchers need to start making an improvement. 

Now the real question is- can the Cardinals be a playoff contender this year? I believe there is a chance, but it will be pretty tough. The Cardinals haven’t been in a situation like this in a while, and the hole they have dug themselves into is deep, but the journey to the playoffs starts one game at a time. I think that another way for them to improve is to trade some pieces at the deadline in exchange for some better pitching. I believe that our pitching is the main problem and that we need to patch that big hole quickly. In the end I hope to watch the Cardinals play in October and I will continue to cheer them on this year.