If I tried to be optimistic about a rousing St. Louis turnaround that could lead to a playoff spot, I’d probably go with this …

Based on runs scored and runs allowed the 13-25 Cardinals should be 17-21 this season. This suggests their luck could change from bad to good. The Cardinals are 1-7 in games settled by one run, and that should normalize over time.

Nolan Arenado is currently 27 percent below league average offensively per OPS+, and he’s overdue for a blast-off.

The possibility of manager Oli Marmol making tough decisions on playing time to untangle knots in the lineup for more stability. Surely there’s a way to reap more offense from their outfielders.

The possibility of president of baseball operations John Mozeliak taking the initiative to improve the starting pitching instead of trying to sell his incoherent spin to make excuses for the ongoing failures.

Willson Contreras, catcher?

A surprisingly solid performance from future Cardinal Hall of Fame pitcher Adam Wainwright.

Most of all, the NL Central has softened. In the first month of the season the Pirates, Brewers, Cubs and Reds collectively won 57 percent of their games. Going into the weekend, the four teams have won just under 30 percent of their games in May. This division isn’t a superpower like the AL East. Despite their atrocious start, the Cardinals can convalesce.

OK, now here’s the problem: the division title is still in play but it may not matter because the Cardinals are below-average, mediocre, or bad in all areas of performance. I’m not exaggerating. The opinion is based on facts. I’m not saying meaningful improvement is impossible, but the challenges are extensive.

Let’s go through this …

OFFENSE: This is the most salvageable area, but there’s plenty of work to do. After being tied for fifth in the majors in average runs per game last season, the Cardinals rank 12th this season with 4.45 runs per game. That’s below the overall MLB average of 4.57 runs/game.

Their 107 OPS+is ninth-best in the majors, but the Cardinals were second overall in the OPS+ rankings earlier this season.

In other words: they’re going in the wrong direction. Through April 12 the Cardinals were batting .286 with a .806 OPS. But in the 26 games played since then the Cards are hitting .244 with a .717 OPS. And their slugging percentage – .449 on April 12 – is .404 in the last 26 games.

Inconsistency is an issue. The Cards have scored four runs or fewer in 63 percent of their games, the ninth-worst figure in the majors. And when they score or fewer runs the Cardinal record is 3-21.

The Cards aren’t taking advantage of opportunities; they’re MLB’s second-worst offense at stranding runners on base. This season Only 29 percent of their baserunners have scored, and that ranks 22nd.

On the positive side the Cardinals rank fourth in MLB with 42.4% hard-hit rate. This group does a pretty good job of getting on base, but they need to hit for more power. The offense is the least of the Cardinal problems.

Bizarre-level roster construction by Mozeliak is the underlying liability here. Manager Oli Marmol is still trying to figure out this Shashibo shape-shifting box of a team.

The Cardinals just have too many hitters to accommodate. The pathetic Mozeliak-Marmol scapegoating of Willson Contreras has created a logjam at DH and weakened the catcher position offensively.

When playing catcher this season, Contreras has a .292 average, .354 onbase percentage, .449 slug and .803 OPS. Those stats put Contreras no worse than 6th in the majors in each category among regular starting catchers.

Overall Contreras rates 23 percent above league average offensively when playing at catcher. Andrew Knizner, who replaced Contreras, is batting .220 this season with .610 OPS and is 33 percent below league average offensively.

Offensively there’s a huge gap between them.

STARTING PITCHING: The starters are 24th in MLB with a 5.40 ERA. They’re 24th in strikeout rate and 27th in swing-miss rate. Their strikeout-walk ratio is 23rd.

They’ve allowed 1.42 home runs per nine innings which ranks 21st. Only four MLB rotations have been clubbed for a higher slugging percentage (.483) than St. Louis.

STL starters are 28th in both quality-start percentage and game-score average. Their starters are yielding the sixth-highest hard-hit rate among MLB rotations. The 90.3 mph average exit velocity against them is the fourth-highest in the bigs.

To put a cap on this, St. Louis starting pitchers are 29th in Win Probability Added (WPA), ranking just ahead of sad-sack Oakland.

This is how it goes when the front office pieces together a rotation that doesn’t supply sufficient innings, is low on strikeouts, doesn’t miss many bats, and gets hammered by too many hard-hit balls.

The great Bill James updates his starting-pitcher rankings on a daily basis, and as of now the Cardinals have only one Top 50 starter: Jordan Montgomery.

BULLPEN: The Cardinal relievers have blown more saves (10) than any bullpen in the majors. They’ve slipped to 16th in ERA (3.88.)

At the end of April the bullpen led the majors with a 29.5% strikeout rate. In May, the strikeout rate (18.2%) is 27th.

Last season the STL bullpen was ranked third in the majors in Win Probability Added. This season? They’re ranked 29th, just above Oakland.

DEFENSE: The Cardinals have declined to 19th in the majors in defensive runs saved at minus four; last year they were fourth with a plus 67 defensive runs saved.

Currently the Cardinals rank 17th in MLB in Outs Above Average after being fourth in this metric in 2022.

Last season St. Louis was 11th in the majors on defensive efficiency by converting 70.2 percent of batted balls in play into outs. This season a looser defense ranks 29th with a .657 conversion rate.

When you have poor starting pitching that yields a high contact rate and makes it easy for opponents to put the ball in play – well, an ineffective defense turns that into a little baseball disaster.

BASERUNNING: FanGraphs has the Cardinals ranked at 28th in baserunning performance. Last season the Cardinals were fourth in the majors in extra bases taken (XBT) at 46 percent. This season they’re 25th with an XBT of 38%. The Cards have lost 13 runners on the bases so far; only three teams have done worse than that.


The WAA metric is a good snapshot for assessing a team at each position. Offense, defense and baserunning are taken into account at each spot.

Here’s a look at where the Cardinals rank among the 30 MLB teams In WAA at each position:

  • Overall pitching, 29th
  • Starting pitching, 29th
  • Relief pitching, 24th
  • Catcher, 13th
  • First Base, 1st
  • Second Base, 18th
  • Third Base, 22nd
  • Shortstop, 9th
  • Outfield, 28th
  • Designated Hitter, 8th

With so many disappointing showings on that list of 10 departments, the Cardinals are running behind in too many places. Even with 124 games remaining, that doesn’t bode well. The Redbirds, 13-25, need to get busy by playing better and making renovations.

INTANGIBLES: Perhaps biggest question of all: can this team overcome its ineffectual front office and a manager who is shaky under pressure?

It should be an interesting weekend at Fenway Park.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a pleasant weekend.


Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.