The St. Louis offense isn’t bad or even substandard. Not when the Cardinals rank sixth among the 30 major-league teams with an average of 4.74 runs per game.
If you want to holler about the inconsistency of this Cardinals offense in 2022, that’s more on target. But the opinion is usually overstated by those who fail to put the numbers in context.
Here’s why: only 10 teams have scored three runs or fewer in a game less often that St. Louis this season – and only five teams have scored four or fewer runs in a game less frequently than the Cards. What about all of the times we’ve seen the Redbirds held to two runs or less? That’s happened 19 times (too many) but that isn’t as awful as it seems. Only 10 MLB teams have scored two or less runs in a game fewer times than STL this season.
I think we can agree on this much: the Cardinals are capable of having a better and more inconsistent offense, and it’s time to kick up the run-scoring production.
Left fielder Tyler O’Neill and right fielder Dylan Carlson are back in action after their stays on the IL, and both have the talent to make a difference.
O’Neill had a chance to rest a sore shoulder and reset his mind after a hideous start to the season. He looked more wired in at the plate in his first three games since returning – 4 for 13 with a homer and three RBIs. This is the same dude who ranked second among MLB outfielders last season with 6.3 WAR, and he was 7th overall in OPS+, and he cranked 26 doubles and 34 homers and slugged .912.
Carlson clicked in after the All-Star break last season, slugging .505 with a .847 OPS and 15 homers and 11 doubles in 220 at-bats. And after a surprisingly sour start to 2022, Carlson was back in form until straining a hamstring on May 21. In his last 19 games before the injury, Carlson batted .333 with a .371 OBP and .515 slug.
O’Neill and Carlson will reunite with center fielder Harrison Bader, who all but set his hair on fire over his last 20 games, putting up a .342 average and .811 OPS with five stolen bases. Since the start of the 2020 season Bader has performed 12 percent above league average offensively and doesn’t receive enough recognition for his improvement at the plate.
Do you remember what happened last season when O’Neill and Bader put their injury troubles aside and joined Carlson in a near-daily role in the lineup?
From the time that Bader returned (July 1) to the end of the regular season, the St. Louis outfield ranked second in the majors in batting average (.273), fifth in OBP (.347), third in slugging (.502) and fifth in OPS (849.) If you adjust for park-and-league effects, the Cards outfield was the best in baseball over the final three regular-season months by performing 29 percent above league average offensively.
That three-man crew is back now, and it’s hardly a crazy and foolish dream to expect O’Neill, Bader and Carlson to put up good numbers offensively as the season moves closer to summertime.
Not only that, but the three starters are supported by quality depth. Rookies Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez can fill corner-outfield spots when needed. Lars Nootbaar was sent to Triple A Memphis to make roster room for Carlson’s return, but he’s only an email away if the Cardinals want to bring him back. Corey Dickerson is on the IL. (I have nothing to add there, which is preferable to taking a cheap shot at him.)
In large part because of the terrific contributions made by Donovan and Yepez so far, this offense has more potential, more upside, more depth.
Going into the weekend series against Cincinnati the Cardinals have eight starters or semi-regulars that are above the league average in OPS+. The eight: Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Tommy Edman, Bader, Albert Pujols, Yepez, Donovan and Nolan Gorman.
Carlson likely will have an above-average OPS+ soon. And then it’s up to O’Neill to power up and reestablish a formidable presence in the lineup. That’s huge. That’s essential.
And perhaps we’ll even see other talented hitters arrive from the minors during the final three months.
Even though Yepez is cooling, and despite some soft spots on the roster offensively, the Cardinals have enough pieces to form an exceptional offense. And that begins by plugging in O’Neill and Carlson and getting them going. And if Gorman can adjust and come up with more dependable plate discipline … watch out.
When your team already is sixth in the majors in runs per game, and you add a rejuvenated O’Neill and Carlson to the mix, and with a rookie slugger (Gorman) swinging away, and with the all-purpose Donovan reaching base at a high level – well, fireworks seem inevitable. But these guys have to make it happen.
Thanks for reading!
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical 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 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.
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.