This is a follow-up to something I wrote on Monday. So let’s get back to that and go straight to the heart of the matter.

The Cardinals won’t have a productive offense unless their hitters wake up and take smarter at-bats. Everyone keeps talking about how hard the St. Louis hitters are working, it’s only a matter of time before their efforts pay off in positive results.

Here’s a suggestion: work smarter.

I appreciate hard work, but all of that sweating and caring doesn’t matter if you’re working on the wrong thing.

And at the heart of this particular matter, the fellows must start doing damage when the pitchers come right at them with generous offerings over the middle of the plate. These are the fattest pitches, the kind that hitters dream about, wanting to jump out of their cleats to attack.

Except for one team.

The 15-20 ballclub based in St. Louis that is last in the National League in runs per game.

By this point, opposing pitchers don’t particularly care if they go straight down the middle and dare the Cards hitters to do something about it. These pitchers have little if any fear of the St. Louis batters because of the early-season trends.

Take a look:

* In their first pitch to a Cardinal batter, opponents have gone right to the heart of the strike zone at a rate that’s the fifth highest in the majors against any offense. And what do the Cardinals do with these first-pitch temptations? They watch a lot, ranking 15th for most called strikes on the first pitch of an at-bat in the attacking zones.

And when the Cardinals do swing and connect on attack-zone pitches, they’re batting .267 (29th) and slugging .444 (28th). That’s ridiculous.

* Now let’s talk about any count during an at-bat. In their first 35 games, the Cardinals were served 1,426 heart-of-the-plate pitches. But here’s the thing: pitchers threw into the attack zone on 28 percent of their offerings to Cardinal hitters … making STL the fifth-highest recipient of the finest pitches for hitters to bash. The Cardinals took a called strike 8 percent of the time; only four teams were worse than that. Where is the aggressiveness, fellas?

* And what have the Cardinals done when connecting on attack-zone pitches this season? Through Monday, their .244 batting average is the worst in the majors on juicy-zone pitches. Their .408 slugging percentage is also the worst in the majors against the most inviting pitches.

* And when a pitcher throws a four-seam fastball over the heart of the plate? The Cardinals rank 12th for the most called strikes. And when they make contact against these ripe, attack-zone pitches they’ve hit .234 (29th) and slugged .368 (30th).

After Monday’s 4-3 loss to the Mets, manager Oli Marmol fielded a question about the Cardinals’ situational hitting – specifically their terrible hitting performance with runners in scoring position.

Marmol correctly expanded his answer to get to – sorry – the real heart of the matter. The Cardinals aren’t just bad at hitting with runners in scoring position. They’re just bad at hitting, period. Especially the attack-zone pitches that a team of hitters should wallop and make the opponents pay.

Monday night the Cardinal hitters saw 33.3 percent of pitches thrown by the Mets arrive at the heart of the plate.

Right into the attack zone.

The Cardinals did go 5 for 16 on those pitches (.263), which is pretty good. But here’s the frustrating thing: Fifteen of the heart-zone pitches ended in called strikes. That’s too high of a rate, 11.6%. The Cardinals had opportunities to do more damage but declined to swing. Mets pitchers saw no reason to avoid the heart of the strike zone. The Mets attacked the attack zones. The passive Cardinals made it easy for them.

“When you look at our ability to drive the baseball and slug and actually swing at pitches in the heart of the plate, hit them hard and hit them far – that’s more of an issue than just situational hitting,” Marmol said. “They both have their place. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a believer in situational hitting. That’s not the story here.”

Thanks for reading …


All stats used in this column were sourced from Statcast or FanGraphs. Follow Bernie on X (twitter) @miklasz … on on Threads @miklaszb

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.