I often get asked about the Cardinals’ offense and what’s gone wrong.  Why are they so futile and feeble with the bats in their hands?

I spent some time over the weekend, looking into some performance factors that explain the crux of the problem. I’ve touched on some of these flaws before, but haven’t put them in one package.

I’ll do this today.

Here’s what I found, and I apologize in advance for throwing so many numbers at you. But it’s the only way to explain the combination of problems that have shaped an offense that is 29th in the majors, and last in the National League, in average runs scored per game. I’ll show you four factors. That isn’t everything – but these are the most important things.

1. The Cardinals aren’t aggressive about swinging at the juiciest pitches. This makes no sense. Let’s go to the statcast info. This season the Cardinals have been offered a “meatball” on 8.2 percent of the pitches thrown to them. That’s the second-highest meatball percentage among the 30 teams. But their hitters aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to hammer so many choice-cut pitches. They’ve swung at meatball servings only 73 percent of the time, the third lowest rate among the 30 teams. This is absolutely crazy. What the heck are they looking for?

2. The Cardinals don’t hit the ball hard. That’s deflating them. The Birds currently rank 25th in hard-hit rate and 26th in barrel rate. That translates into a .330 slugging percentage that ranks 29th overall and last in the NL. And their expected slugging percentage (.386) ranks 22nd. This is a substantial change from 2023. Last season the Cardinals were tied for third in the majors with a 41.6 percent hard-hit rate and ranked ninth in barrel rate. The Cardinals pretty much have the same set of hitters as they did in 2023. So what’s happened? Why has there been such a dramatic change?

3. The Cardinals are weak against four-seam fastballs: Opponents have figured it out, because 33 percent of all pitches thrown against the Cardinals are four-seam fastballs. And that’s the sixth highest rate in the majors against a team. The Cardinals are batting .202 against four-seamers this season. That ranks 29th overall and last in the NL. The Cards are slugging .303 against the four-seam fastball. That’s also 29th overall and last in the NL. Only three teams have struck out more often than the Cardinals against four-seamers. If Cardinal hitters are easily overpowered by the most basic and extensively used pitch in the majors, then why would we expect them to suddenly erupt for big runs-scored totals?

4. The Cardinals aren’t pulling the ball in the air. And that’s unplugging their power. I wrote about this after the 2023 season when addressing Paul Goldschmidt’s drop in power. From a hitting-approach standpoint, it came down to one thing: Goldy wasn’t pulling enough pitches and launching them. And too many of his teammates are doing the same thing now. It’s a strange epidemic.

Pull-side power is the most lethal power. That’s nothing new. It’s been the case for as long as the stats people have been tracking it. So why are the Cardinals so poor at doing this?

* This season the Cardinals have pulled only 50 fly balls into fair territory. That’s the lowest number in the majors by a team. Not surprisingly, the Cards have the fewest home runs in the majors (13) on pulled fly balls.

* Here’s the individual scorecards on pulled fly balls:

Nolan Arenado 9, with one homer.
Brendan Donovan 8 , with three homers.
Willson Contreras 5, with two homers.
Paul Goldschmidt 5, with one homer.
Ivan Herrera, 5 with 3 homers.
Nolan Gorman 3, with one homer.
Lars Nootbaar 3, with one homer.
Masyn Winn 3, no homers.
Victor Scott 3, no homers.
Alec Burleson 2, with 1 homer.
Jordan Walker 1, no homers.

That’s right. Walker pulled only one fly ball to left field this season before his demotion to Triple A Memphis. Last season Walker pulled 23 fly balls to left and 11 went for home runs.

Arenado pulled 68 fly balls to left last season and 20 soared for home runs. Gorman pulled 34 fly balls to right field, and 17 went bye-bye for home runs. Goldschmidt pulled 37 fly balls and 15 landed for homers.

So what’s going on here?

I don’t understand why their hitters fail to recognize strikes as frequently as they do. I don’t understand why such a basic and simple premise — pull in the air for power — is so unattainable for them. I don’t know why four-seam fastballs conquer them when baseball people constantly tell us this is the easiest pitch to hit. I don’t know why they’ve stopped hitting the ball as hard as they used to. Last season, for example, this same group of hitters had a 41.6 hard-hit rate that was fourth best in the majors. Go figure.

I do know this: when Jeff Albert was the batting coach from 2019 through 2022, the Cardinals ranked third in the majors for the most pulled fly balls. And accordingly, they ranked eighth in the majors in pulled home runs (413). The hard-hit rate wasn’t outstanding, but the Cardinals knew how to activate their power by pulling pitches and sending them airborne.

With Albert as the lead hitting coach in 2021-2022, the Cardinals led the majors in triggering the most pulled fly balls. And their 265 homers on pull shots was tied for sixth in MLB.

I’ll be keeping an eye on other factors as the season goes on. But with these four seriously poor trends – combined with a drop in major-league offense so far in 2024 – it won’t be easy for the Cardinals to reinvent themselves to thrive offensively. Not unless they can zero in on the biggest problems and do something to correct them.

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. Friday. Stream it live or access 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.

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions, Spotrac 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.