I think we all pretty much agree that the 37-37 Cardinals are part of a mediocre pack of teams in the National League.

As of Friday morning, only four NL clubs have winning records. The next team on the list is St. Louis with the fifth-best winning percentage in the NL.

I propose no parades down Market Street, and I’ll hold off on lining up a polka band to give us a chance to dance in celebration of our .500 flock.

This team isn’t all that interesting, per se. But I do find this interesting: the Cardinals should be a helluva lot worse than 37-37.

Based on their minus 38 run differential, their record should be 33-41 right now.

Based on the third-order winning percentage as calculated at ClayDavenport.com, the Cardinals should have about three fewer wins than they do right now.

According to Clay Davenport, In order, here are the three MLB teams that have outperformed their expected winning percentage based on run differential and other underlying factors

Rays, +5.9 wins more than expected.
Mariners, +4.2 wins more than expected.
Cardinals, +4.2 wins above expected.

What does this mean?

Some would say the Cardinals are lucky to be 37-37. Which is true. As we said, they should have an uglier record than .500.

But their batting average on balls in play is slightly below the league average. So the Cardinals are on the wrong side of the luck divide. They’re a little unlucky at the plate.

Their actual team ERA is 3.95, which is tied for ninth in the National League. But their adjusted ERA is four percent above league average and tied for seventh among NL pitching staffs. STL’s team 3.95 ERA is above the league average (4.00), but it should be better than that based on park and league factors. I don’t see how that makes them lucky, because their actual ERA isn’t a true reflection of the quality of their pitching performance.

Let’s take a wider view and look at the 30 teams and where the Cardinals should fit based on their statistical profile.

+ They’re 24th with 3.96 runs scored per game.

+ They are 19th in homers, 18th in average, 18th in slugging, 19th in OPS and 22nd in onbase percentage.

+ The Cardinals are awfully unlucky when hitting with runners in scoring position. They have a RISP batting average of .216 which is tied for 27th. But the MLB average for batting average on balls in play in these situations is .293. The Cardinals’ ball-in-play average with runners in scoring position is 41 points below the overall MLB rate. They’re unlucky … not lucky.

+ As a group, St. Louis position players rank 18th with 6.9 WAR.

+ The Cardinals are allowing an average of 4.47 runs per game, which ranks 24th. Part of that is attributable to defensive mishaps that have led to unearned runs.

+ Their team ERA is 16th overall.

+ The STL pitchers rank 17th with 6.2 WAR. Their starting pitchers rank 18th in WAR; the bullpen is 13th.

+ Using the Wins Above Average (WAA) metric at Baseball Reference, the Cardinals are minus 4.5 below average as a team, which ranks 25th.

+ Their Wins Above Average in starting pitching is minus 2.2 below average, which ranks 27th.

+ The bullpen is slightly below average according to WAA but ranks a respectable 13th.

+ The St. Louis non-pitchers are 19th in Wins Above Average.

+ The St. Louis pitchers – the entire group – are 23rd in WAA.

+ The Cardinals have an above-average defense that’s been good for 10 runs saved in 2024. But even then, that ranks 14th among the 30 teams. So it’s not as if the Redbirds are setting a new standard for excellence in this area. (But they are definitely improved from 2023.)

I took the long way to get here, and I know that numbers can be boring. But I felt I had to use all of these stats to make a point.

If you look at that list, you’ll see that the Cardinals do not rank anywhere among the top dozen MLB teams in the many cited categories. They’re mostly in the high teens, the 20s, and in the bottom five in a few areas.

So think about that for a minute.

This team has outperformed its all-encompassing profile and is ranked fifth in the NL and 12th in the majors in winning percentage. Based on where they’re ranked in pitching-hitting-defense classifications, their record should be flat-out awful instead of average/mediocre.

But a case can be made that the Cardinals are distilling more victories than they should own. They’re pinching a higher win total instead of disintegrating to a lower win total.

How can this be? I ask because from what I read on the interweb and other online cult colonies, Oli Marmol is the worst manager in the history of organized baseball and he’s ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS costing the Cardinals wins. He must be fired now, now, now.

I still try to understand how the same percentage of fans that express anger and disgust over the many front-office failures and the terrible roster construction – valid criticisms, for sure – can also turn around and proclaim that a .500 record is unacceptable and put large heaps of the blame on the manager.

Someone please explain this to me. If we all agree that the front office is an enormous liability, and that the roster is seriously flawed, then why do we raise so much hell about the manager? Why would we expect Marmol to do more with the talent and (and holes) that management handed to him? Can’t make chicken salad out of … well, you know.

COMPLAINING FAN: Front office stinks, front office is the worst, front office put together a hideous roster. Front office is still an epic failure at assembling enough starting-pitching depth. Front office no longer develops quality pitching. Front office cannot put a respectable outfield together.

THE SAME FAN: Damn you, Marmol! You should be winning more games! You stink! Worst manager I’ve ever seen!

Um, no. This makes no sense. As noted, the Cardinals should have a 33-41 record based on run differential and other underlying factors. Instead the team is 37-37. Marmol is such an easy target, it’s comical.

The defense went through a sloppy phase, but Marmol can’t make routine plays for them in the field. The players are to blame for the errors they make. But even with the errors, this defense is much better than the awfulness we witnessed in 2023. Their defensive efficiency rating is 22 percent higher than 2023; a big reason is Marmol making more extensive use of his best defensive players.

According to FanGraphs, the Cardinals rank No. 10 in the majors in effective baserunning. They are second in the majors in bases taken. Their small–ball capability is sound and good. Under Marmol’s supervision, the fundamentals have been cleaned up after the mess of ‘23.

Thanks to advisor Chaim Bloom, Marmol was given a better bullpen to work with this season. But he’s also making the most of it – and, yes, that’s true, despite what the spewing critics snarl. The Cardinals have the fifth-rated bullpen in the majors based on Win Probability Added, and they have not lost a game this season when leading after eight innings. And they’ve lost only two games when leading after seven innings.

The manager is responsible for using, and pulling, relievers. And on many occasions his bullpen is in a short-handed state. He makes do by successfully cultivating largely untested relievers such as Ryan Fernandez, John King, Kyle Leahy, and others.

Every manager makes decisions that can be second-guessed and criticized. People in this town act like Marmol is the only manager out there who screwed up a pitching decision. Hell, you ought to hear what Cubs fans are saying about the $40 million manager, Craig Counsell.

You don’t like the way Marmol puts together a lineup? OK, question: what in the name of Whitey Herzog would you have him do? The bench depth is woeful. Injuries have made the bench even weaker. Offensively the St. Louis outfield ranks 24th in onbase percentage and 28th in slugging and OPS. Their center-field position ranks last in the majors in batting average, OBP, slugging, OPS and home runs – and all of this is somehow Marmol’s fault? Of course not. He can only work with the roster that’s in place.

The 37-37 record doesn’t mean the Cardinals are a good team. But it means their record is better than it should be. That much is absolutely certain. So maybe the manager deserves a morsel of credit? Marmol is holding this thing together, doing the best he can.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

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

Please follow Bernie on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or wherever you get your podcasts. Follow @seeingredpod on X for a direct link.

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