The Cardinals have three candidates for team MVP.

There’s no official team MVP, but we can pretend.

I’m focusing on three hitters but have no objection to those who would simply say “Adam Wainwright” and be done with. I prefer honoring Wainwright by calling him this team’s Cy Young winner for 2021. That’s obvious.

I’m using the Baseball Reference of Wins Above Replacement — also known as bWAR.

Statistics cited here are through the end of the Milwaukee series, and before the Cardinals entered their weekend series at Wrigley Field.


The Overview: O’Neill’s breakthrough season has been entertaining and electric. He’s a formidable source of power, speed and defense. The true believers in the Cardinals’ front office had to wait, but T.O. has come of age in the majors this season.

Show Me The Rankings: Among the regulars, O’Neill leads with a .523 slugging percentage, ,881 OPS, and a 141 OPS+. Second in batting average (.279), onbase percentage (.349) and steals (13.) Tied for second with 29 homers. Third in runs. And he’s the highest-rated left fielder in the majors, credited with 11 defensive runs saved by the Fielding Bible. O’Neill ranks sixth among NL position players with 5.4 bWAR.

What Have You Done For Me Lately: O’Neill put a dull July behind him to go off for his best supply of offense all season since Aug. 1 — a slash line of .304/.390/.584 with 12 homers, 30 RBI and 36 runs.

Nitpicking: The strikeout rate remains high (32.3%), he’s been sidelined by injuries or illness on several occasions this season, and he’s batting only .214 with runners in scoring position.

In Conclusion: BroNeill has provided outstanding value, even though he’s played in 128 games — 20 fewer than both Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.


The Overview: It’s just wonderful to watch him play baseball for the Cardinals. The intensity, the inner drive to be great and to win, and a player who gives max effort to play to the highest standard. It hasn’t always been easy this year; the transition to Busch Stadium has been frustrating at times because the yard deflates fly balls. And the plays he makes at third base. Just spectacular. Nado has been the primary power and RBI bat.

Show Me The Rankings: Tied for 2nd in the NL with 103 runs batted in, tied for 3rd in NL with 69 extra-base hits, tied for 5th in homers (33), tied for 5th in doubles, and tied for 5th in total bases. Leads the Cards in batting average (.326) with runners in scoring position. homers and RBI and is tied for second in doubles. Ranks third on the team in slugging (.500), OPS (.812) and OPS+ (122.) Is a fantastic third basemen who now ranks fourth at the position in Defensive Runs Saved after an uneven start during his transition to a new team. Baseball Reference rates him as the sixth-best defensive player in the National League at any position. Arenado ranks 14th among NL position players with 4.4 bWAR.

What Have You Done For Me Lately: He has seven homers, 19 RBI and a .579 slugging percentage in September, and is 30 percent above the league average offensively this month in park-and-league adjusted runs created.

Nitpicking: Relative to expectations and his established standards, the .312 onbase percentage is on the low side, ranking sixth on the team. This season at Busch Stadium Arenado has batted .228 with a very low .288 onbase percentage and decent (but not great) .432 slug.His road OPS (.897) is considerably higher than his .721 home OPS. Baserunning is average. Which is fine.

In Conclusion: No one on this team has more homers, RBIs or hits for a higher average with runners in scoring position. And he’s even better with RISP and two out, banging for a .361 average and 1.016 OPS. And what about this: 18 of his 33 homers have been struck in game-tied situations to give the Cardinals the lead. Arenado is just a money player. Making the tremendous plays when you really need them. Getting the timely hit when you really need it. The dude loves playing ball, and he sets a great example for teammates — especially the young guys.


The Overview: Having his best season as a Cardinal, displaying the all-around skills and smart play that makes this team better in every way. Has been of the finest players in the majors this season and capable of defeating the opponent in all phases of the game: hitting for average, hitting for power, running the bases, excelling on defense.

Show Me The Rankings: His 139 OPS+ is close to his Arizona-years standard (145 OPS+) and still climbing. He leads the Cardinals in batting average (.291), OBP (.362), runs (96), total bases and is second or tied for second in doubles, homers, RBI (93), OPS (.870), and OPS+. Defensively he’s the highest-rated first baseman in the majors according to Fielding Bible. He has 12 stolen bases, third on the team. His net baserunning gain (+26) is second on the team to Tommy Edman. And Goldy has a .324 average and .855 OPS with runners in scoring position.

Goldy’s name is all over the National League rankings. I’ll put it in list form for easier reading:

1st in defensive runs saved at first base
3rd in bWAR, 5.7
Tied for 3rd in runs
Tied for 3rd in total bases
3rd in hits
4th in runs produced
4th for most times on base
Tied for 5th in doubles
Tied for 5th in runs created
6th in extra-base hits
7th in RBI
9th in OPS+
9th in bWAR fielding (any position)
10th in walks
12th in average
16th in slugging
17th in OBP
Tied for 17th in steals

And I swear, I’m leaving other things out.

Seriously: he impacts the competition in so many ways, it’s difficult to absorb it all. He’s that good. No — he’s that great.

What Have You Done For Me Lately: Since the beginning of August, when the Cardinals began to make their move (if a bit slowly at first), Goldschmidt is batting .341 with a .411 OBP, .637 slug and 1.047 OPS. This explosiveness includes 12 homers, 15 doubles, 40 runs and 38 RBI. Over the last seven weeks he has a terrifically low strikeout rate of 16 percent and has performed 77% above league average offensively in park-and-league adjusted runs created. Moreover he’s hitting .386 with a .972 OPS with runners in scoring position over this time.

Nitpicking: Started slowly at the plate this season before cranking up his numbers in early June. That’s it.

In Conclusion: Goldschmidt is the best all-around player on this team. After Goldy worked through his slow start, no Cardinal has been more consistently good/great and dependable than PG. There are no holes in his game. He’s been at his best in the pressure of September, and during the heat of big moments. He’s just a winning player. And with a little more than a week to go in the regular season, Goldy would be my choice for the team MVP.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. 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 “Bernie Show” podcast at — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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* All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net 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.