With Opening Day just about here, I wanted to get you primed with a roundup of national views on the 2024 Cardinals.

Let’s begin with the latest, updated projections for the NL Central based on average wins from game simulations.

CLAY DAVENPORT: Cubs 82.2 wins, Cardinals 81.6 wins, Brewers (79.6), Reds (79.4) and Pirates (77.5.) Davenport gives the Cardinals a 25.6 percent chance of winning the division and a 42.5% shot at making the playoffs. The Cubs have a slightly better chance than the Cardinals in both scenarios.

PECOTA at Baseball Prospectus: 84.2 wins for the Cardinals and 81.2 for the Cubs, with the others in fairly close range – Brewers (79.3), Reds (78.6), and Pirates (71.3). PECOTA gives St. Louis the best chance to win the division (42.9%) and the highest postseason probability (56.7%) among their NL Central rivals.

FANGRAPHS: Another tight forecast, with 83.3 wins for the Cardinals, 82.3 for the Cubs, 80.3 for the Brewers, 79.0 for the Reds and 77.5 for the Pirates. The Cardinals also rate as the most likely team to win the division (33.2%) with the Cubs next at 26.7%. As for playoff probability, it’s Cards 48.2 percent, Cubs 41.3% and Brewers at 30%. I’m surprised to see the Reds’ shot at making the postseason so low at 23.1%.

ESPN: In the overall MLB power rankings ESPN has the Cubs at 14th, followed by the Reds (16), Cardinals (17), Brewers (21) and Pirates (25.) And ESPN gives St. Louis the best chance of qualifying for the postseason at 56 percent – ahead of the Cubs (49%), Brewers (25%), Reds (31%) and Pirates (8%). I think most of the projection systems are underestimating the Pirates.

Let’s move on …


Baseball analyst Joe Sheehan put the Cardinals at No. 12 among the 30 teams. He recently picked the Cardinals to come away with the NL’s third wild-card playoff spot.

“The Cardinals bought innings…but can you ever really buy innings? In this era, and heaven knows we’ve gotten reminders of this this spring, there is no such thing as a healthy pitcher,” Sheehan wrote. “There are pitchers who have been healthy, and the next pitch … So investing in three thirtysomething starters with the expectation that they’ll be, collectively, a bit above average across 90 starts and 540 innings sounds conservative, but it is as risky as anything else, just without the upside.

“The 2024 Cardinals are quietly a very old team, with five projected starting pitchers 33 and up, with the lineup core 32, 33, and 36. Two offseason acquisitions (Matt Carpenter and Brandon Crawford) are 37 and 38 and may both be on the Opening Day bench. The Cardinals haven’t been able to transition to the next generation, partially a player development failure, partially by choice. The 2024 team is a transitional one, and it may be good enough to get them back into October after their long drought of one year away.

“As with any older team, though, injuries are the rake. Tommy Edman has struggled to return from wrist surgery and will begin the year on the IL. Gray will have his first start pushed back or skipped as he works through a hamstring strain. Even younger players have been nicked up; perennial Sheehan Newsletter breakout guy Lars Nootbaar has a couple of broken ribs, and Dylan Carlson hurt his shoulder yesterday in a collision with Jordan Walker. The Cardinals should be a wild-card contender, but they are not good enough to lose ten WAR to the IL in the first half and stay in the race. (The Carlson injury creates an opportunity for speedster Victor Scott II to make the team.)

“The one area in which we should be able to project a big improvement is in the bullpen. Last year’s group was 23rd in ERA, 18th in FIP, and 24th in strikeout rate. If the Cardinals chased floor for the rotation, they pursued strikeouts in the pen. Andrew Kittredge, Ryan Fernandez, and Riley O’Brien should lengthen the pen and miss bats in the process. (Keynan Middleton has the dreaded strained forearm and may never join this group.) Moving Matthew Liberatore out there could help as well.

“Even more than the bullpen, though, watch the defense. The 2023 Cardinals were one of the worst defensive teams in franchise history. I project them to be 22nd on defense this year, not good enough given the projection of an above-average number of balls in play. The injuries to Edman, Nootbaar, and now Carlson all make the defense worse, and the cascading effect of all three being out at the same time is something to watch in April.

“The Cardinals are better, and will presumably avoid the self-inflicted nonsense that wrecked their season by June 1 last year. They do need to stay healthy, though, and that project has gotten off to a rough start.”

Note from Bernie: For information on Joe’s insightful newsletter, go to JoeSheehan.com 


Adam Burke of VSIN.com is a shrewd baseball analyst. And an honest one. He sees the Cardinals as a team that can go either way. And he’s right about that. 

“There is a definite path to the Cardinals returning to the mountaintop in the NL Central,” Burke wrote. “However, there is an alternate path in which they struggle to be a .500 team. We can probably all agree that they are unlikely to go 71-91 again, as they got really, really unlucky in a lot of metrics that are open to variance all season long. The massive drop-off defensively absolutely hurt them more than it would have hurt a lot of teams because of their pitch-to-contact approach.

“I think the offense will be good and the pitching staff will be average at best, unless they (would have added) Jordan Montgomery. The sooner Sonny Gray can return, the better off they will be. I do think this team has a fairly high floor and I’m inclined to think the ceiling is higher than I feel it is because of how well they’ve done for the better part of 25 years.

“But, I don’t think the ceiling is all that high. I think this is a team that lands in that 81-85 win range, as the line implies. And you could talk me into them finishing higher or lower than that. I don’t have any strong convictions here, but I would slightly prefer the Cubs over the Cardinals in the division, which is exactly what those odds imply as well.”

In Las Vegas, the Cardinals over/under total for wins is 84.5. And Burke is a “slight lean” with the under.


The esteemed columnist Joe Posnanski ranked the Cardinals 13th among the 30 teams and projects 84 wins for the Redbirds.

“When a team has as disappointing a season as the Cardinals had in 2023—I think most people had them as the favorite or co-favorite to win the division before the season began—you can usually point, at least a little bit, to bad luck and injuries. But you know what? It sure looks to me like the Cardinals collapsed fully on their own, without much help from bad luck (their actual record was identical to their Pythagorean expectation, 71-91) or a flood of injuries.”

Poz was intrigued by management’s recent decision to extend manager Oli Marmol’s contract through 2026.

“I’m fascinated by the decision to bring back manager Oliver Marmol,” he wrote. “I wouldn’t say it’s a good move or a bad move, I don’t really know, but I would say it’s not the normal move that happens after a shockingly bad season. No, normally the manager will pay the price for such a disappointing run, whether that’s fair or not.

“The Cardinals, instead, are betting on Marmol and stability. I admire the impulse to go against the grain on this one, to basically decide, ‘Hey, it was a bad year, nothing more, we’re not going to just tear things up, no, we’re the St. Louis Cardinals, by gum, and we’re going to stay the course and trust our instincts and ride this thing out.’ There are risks, for sure; a slow start could create all sorts of ‘When will you fire the manager?’ talk—particularly in St. Louis, where EVERYONE will be paying attention from Opening Day on—and that brings its own headaches. But the Cardinals stuck with their manager, and in a time when few teams do, that’s worth noticing.”

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Writing at his superb “Birdy Work” blog, longtime CBS Sports baseball writer Dayn Perry believes the NL Central will come down to a Cubs-Cardinals finish.

“I see this being a hotly contested race and one that could come down to the final days of the regular season,” Perry wrote. “Let us now heap shame upon MLB schedule-makers for having the Cardinals and Cubs not meet head-to-head after Aug. 4.) I see the Cardinals, if generally healthy – and that’s hardly to be presumed in light of recent events – as the narrowly better offensive team. I see the Cubs as being a bit better on defense and better in the rotation by a more significant gap. Craig Counsell is the better manager, but the Cards have a higher ceiling in the bullpen. Find an edge for one team, and the other is there to parry it on other fronts. In the end, though, I think the Cubs are the slightly better team on paper. As well, all that prospect depth means they’ll be well positioned to be active at the top end of the market leading up to the trade deadline. Thus, I expect the Cardinals will be resigned to fighting the Diamondbacks, Padres, and perhaps Reds for the final two wild-card spots in the NL (the top one goes to Philly, who’s a tier above these squads). That’s not optimal, but it’s sure as hell better than last year.”

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The Athletic projects 83 wins for the Cardinals in 2024. Keith Law has them finishing third in the NL Central behind the Cubs and Brewers.

“The Cardinals won just 71 games last year, so I’m calling for a big improvement, although I’m sure that’s not big enough for the team or its fans. They look like they’ll score a lot more runs, at least 50-75 more than last year, but this rotation is banking on five guys who’ll be age 33 or older, and I’d only bet on Sonny Gray to post an ERA below 4. I do think they’ve got some young hitters to watch for steps forward — Jordan Walker made my breakouts column this year, I’ve expected more from Dylan Carlson since his sophomore year (though now he’ll have to overcome a shoulder injury), and Iván Herrera is a good enough hitter to split time with Willson Contreras and let the veteran DH some days.”

The Athletic is outstanding. There’s a special subscription offer going on right now.


Patrick Dubuque of Baseball Prospectus projects an 85-77 record for the Cardinals. He understands why the front office felt the need to sign veteran starters Gray, Lynn and Gibson, but …

“The bigger problem, of course, is that they can’t make their own. The Cardinals have fallen far behind the curve in pitcher development, and it’ll be years before the rude awakening of 2023 translates to an appreciable difference in pitcher prospects,” Dubuque wrote. “For now, there’s a couple of guys that look like the old guys, and then nothing. Well, and potentially back-of-the-rotation starter Tekoah Roby for the stretch run, if he discovers his best self and stays upright.

“Signing three veterans in free agency doesn’t solve that problem, but it does potentially solve the problem of not finishing last and getting fired, which is an admirable and only tangentially related goal. Whether these were the guys to do it is open for debate, and PECOTA’s answer is ‘probably not,’ but Lynn and Gibson in particular demonstrate just how clean the divide is between St. Louis and the kind of large-market team that can choose to paper over its mistakes with hundred-dollar bills.

“The Cardinals have a way of compressing and playing with time. Their disastrous 2023 season was six weeks of dying followed by four months of waiting; their offseason, a single gasp of resuscitation followed by more waiting. As Matthew Trueblood wrote earlier this offseason, the franchise travels with a momentum that even they can’t seem to slow or alter; they have the inertia of a boulder rolling down a hill, nearly at the bottom.”

Dubuque sounded a warning …

“Something has to happen,” he wrote. Soon, the Reds’ young talent will coalesce, and the Cubs will stir. But their trepidations this winter have allowed St. Louis to coast just a little longer, stretch out the twilight. We may be witnessing the last moments of the Cardinals as the Cardinals, as a cohesive and omnipresent force, like a lake drying up. Things don’t feel as permanent as they used to, or maybe time just doesn’t feel so long. But it’s not over yet.”

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In his “payroll tiers” breakdown, ESPN’s Jeff Passan put the Cardinals and Cubs in the third group – The CBT Avoiders. That’s below the “Financial Behemoths” and the “CBT Payors.”

CBT stands for the competitive balance tax on 40-man payrolls. The current threshold is $237 million. Along with the Cards and Cubs, other “Avoiders” are the Padres and Red Sox.

“At some point, three of the four teams in this group have surpassed the threshold,” Passan wrote, referring to the Cubs, Padres and Red Sox. “The Cardinals are habitual shirkers, and this is the first time they’re projected to top $200 million in CBT payroll.”

Passan added: “All four have something else in common, too: They’re in the muddled middle talent-wise — good enough to desire October baseball but unwilling to push themselves financially to ensure a spot. The Cubs and Cardinals play in the second-weakest division in baseball, the NL Central, and still neither was inclined to go beyond $237 million.”

The link to Passan’s story.


A prediction from Yahoo Sports national baseball writer Russell Dorsey:

“It seems like the Cardinals’ plan going into 2024 was to pray that last year was an aberration and hope for a bounceback from much of the roster,” he wrote. “The problem with that is a whole lot of things need to go right for this to be the team St. Louis is hoping for. It’s not impossible — Goldschmidt is just two years removed from an MVP season, and Arenado has shown he has good years left in the tank — but the Cardinals are an aging team, and their window might be closing. This year, I expect they’ll show flashes of being a playoff team, but ultimately, their pitching will again keep them out of the postseason.”


Bleacher Report baseball writer Joel Reuter has the Cardinals at 14th among the 30 teams in his initial MLB power rankings.

“The Cardinals are never down for long, and after finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2007, they look poised for a solid bounce-back campaign after rebuilding the starting rotation,” Reuter wrote. “The continued development of young players such as Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, Masyn Winn and Zack Thompson will be the X-factor.”

Elsewhere in the NL Central, Reuter’s power ranking has the Cubs at No. 12, the Reds at 18, the Brewers at 20, and the Pirates at 25.


ESPN baseball analysts Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield put the Cardinals in a group of five teams that have the best chance of returning to the playoffs after failing to get there in 2023.

Doolittle’s postseason probability lines up this way: Yankees 60.1 percent, followed by the Cubs (53.5%), Cardinals (46.8%), Mariners (45%) and Guardians (42.6%).

“As our playoff odds suggest, there is a high degree of probability they turn it around,” Schoenfield wrote of the Cardinals. “The National League Central and the NL wild-card race look wide open, helping their playoff chances.

“The Cardinals addressed their pitching problem in signing free agents Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. The emphasis there was on durability: Gibson ranked 12th in the majors in innings pitched in 2023, while Gray and Lynn ranked 22nd and 23rd as all three topped 180 innings. Gray is coming off a season in which he finished second in the AL Cy Young race and posted 5.3 WAR — that’s a seven-win improvement over Adam Wainwright, who struggled to minus-2.0 WAR in his final season.

“The offense should also be better after scoring 719 runs, 10th in the NL and a 53-run decline from 2022. Jordan Walker, who will turn 22 years old in May, and Nolan Gorman, 24 in May, have breakout potential. They combined for 43 home runs last season but could easily reach 60-plus in 2024. Other young players like Lars Nootbaar, Alec Burleson and rookie shortstop Masyn Winn should also be on the upswing, creating a deeper lineup.”

On the other side, Schoenfield went on to say the Cardinals could fall short because of injuries, the aging rotation, and another downturn season for Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.

“The two created about 242 runs in 2022, when Goldschmidt won MVP honors and Arenado finished third, but created about 176 runs last season,” Schoenfield wrote. “Given their ages, that may be their new level of production.”



Baseball America picked the Cardinals to finish 4th in the NL Central behind the Cubs, Reds and Brewers. But two anonymous scouts/executives chose the Cardinals as the surprise winner in the Central.

“I’ll go with the Cardinals since they have a good chance of making the playoffs—admittedly in a very crowded and uncertain NL Central—and they’ll be motivated to upgrade in-season and have the pieces to do so,” one scout/executive said. “I think the bubble for the NL wild card got softer this offseason as several teams that have been playoff contenders in recent years—Padres, Brewers, Marlins—saw their 2024 competitive outlook dim over the winter.”

Another scout/executive added: “The Cardinals had an unlucky 2023 and still have quality talent. It appears the Reds and Cubs are getting all the attention in the Central.”

Baseball America chose Paul Goldschmidt as the best 1B in the division, Nolan Arenado as the top 3B in the division and picked Sonny Gray as the third-best starting pitcher behind Chicago’s Justin Steele and Milwaukee’s Freddy Peralta.

And Baseball America sees a sophomore-season breakout coming for Jordan Walker: “He was the youngest regular position player in MLB last season, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from his performance,” BA wrote. “As a 21-year-old, he hit .276/.342/.445 with 16 homers in 117 games. As the season progressed, Walker became more adept at driving the ball in the air. Now, it’s only a matter of time before he makes his first all-star team, with 2024 as good a guess as any.”

Here’s the link to BA’s NL Central preview.


The Sporting News projections are unique. How about three teams finishing in a tie for first place with 81-81 records?

That’s how TSN sees the Cubs, Reds and Cardinals. And the Brewers (80 wins) and Pirates (79 wins) are right there. “The NL Central takes a lot of flack as being among the standout divisions in baseball,” The Sporting News wrote. “But it is quietly going to be the deepest in 2024. No team is really running away as the early favorite. The model’s favorite has a 24 percent chance to win the division, while the No. 5 team sits at 14.5 percent. This has all the makings of a thrilling divisional chase in 2024.”

As for the Cardinals: “The model sees them as a middle-of-the-pack NL Central squad, while bet365 has St. Louis as the division favorites (+135) with a much improved win total of 85.5.”


Demetrius Bell, SB Nation

“The most intriguing team in this division is the St. Louis Cardinals … it’s completely alien for the Cardinals to be in the position that they’re currently in. St. Louis is coming off of their first losing season since 2007 and they weren’t halfway crooks about it either as they finished tied for the second-worst record in the NL. It was a genuinely shocking turn of events for a team that boasted two of the three finalists for MVP back in 2022.

“While it would be nice to see both 2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado return to form, it’s really hard to find fault with their performance in 2023 since they both still put up relatively solid seasons when you consider their age. If they can both bounce back and hit a middle ground between their solid 2023 and their otherworldly 2024 then that alone should help boost the Cardinals.

“Still, St. Louis’ lineup was decent enough last season and should be fine once again … the big issue for the Cardinals last season was their pitching staff. They were a bottom-tier pitching staff according to FIP- and they finished second-to-last in ERA- in the National League last season. It was obvious that they realized that this was their downfall in 2023 as they went out and acquired Sonny Gray on a multi-year deal and also picked up Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn on one-year deals.

“Thanks to these additions, it’s hard to imagine that St. Louis’ pitching will suffer the baseball indignities that they went through last year and if it all goes according to plan then the Cardinals should be right back in the postseason conversation where they’re used to being. However, they’re already going to be starting the season without Gray due to injury, so a wrench has already been thrown into those plans very early on.”


Ben Clemens (FanGraphs) believes two NL Central teams will make the playoffs. He bases the opinion on a new model that rates every team’s depth.

“I can’t tell you which Central teams are going to come out on top,” Clemens wrote. “Other than the Pirates, in fact, I think that the division is roughly an even race, and Pittsburgh is far from dead in the water. It’s not a good division by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s an extremely balanced one.

“My guess is that the Reds and Cardinals will end up in the 86-88 win range, but if you asked me yesterday, I might have had the Brewers and Cubs in those positions. Meanwhile, there are five or six other NL teams better than these clubs at the start of the season – but I’m skeptical that they’ll still be better after the year plays out. It’s a fitting last prediction, in my mind. Baseball is full of endless possibilities to start the year. At the end of the season, though, plenty of those possibilities won’t happen – injury, underperformance, and so on. This one is a bet that some squads are built better than others to take advantage of that natural attrition.”



At CBS Sports, five of six panelists picked the Cubs to win the NL Central. The other selection, made by Kate Feldman, has the Cardinals taking first place. Feldman also picked Oli Marmol to win the NL manager of the year award.

—  According to the projections done by analyst Austin Mock at The Athletic, the Cardinals will the NL Central, defeat the Padres in the wild-card round, and lose to the Braves in the division-round series.

— A panel at MLB.com chose the Cubs to win the NL Central and went with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Giants as the NL’s three wild-card entries.

  A panel of six USA Today baseball writers made their predictions for the NL Central. Three tabbed the Reds to win the division. The Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals each received one vote.

Back to Schoenfield of ESPN and his “bold but realistic” prediction for the Cardinals: “Nolan Gorman cracks 40 home runs and Jordan Walker hits 30 — but the Cardinals still miss the playoffs with 80 wins, recording their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1994-95.” If Schoenfield is right about the Cardinals it would be their first back-to-back losing records in a full season since 1958-59.

— Jeff Carr (SI.com) picked the Reds to win the Central and isn’t impressed with the Cardinals.  “The Cardinals finished in last place last season,” he wrote. “Sure, they added Sonny Gray, but what else has happened? They added two other aging starters who led the league in hits and homers allowed last season. They traded away Tyler O’Neil and didn’t add any consequential hitters. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are only getting older and their bullpen has gotten slightly better than the horribleness it was last year. All in all, this is a below average team.”

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Spotrac, Sports Info Solutions and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.



Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 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. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 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.