Let’s talk about the Cardinals offense.

Wait. I can’t find it. It’s missing.

The St. Louis offense is doing more croaking than cranking. Their team’s daily display of non-hitting is an ongoing testimonial to MLB’s Dead Ball Era.

Becoming a star early in the 20th century, a .341 lifetime hitter named Wee Willie Keeler would advise teammates to look at how the fielders were positioned, go up to the plate, swing at the baseball, and “hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

The Cardinals tend to hit ‘em where they are.


* The Cardinals (9-10) have scored three runs or fewer in five straight games and in 10 of their last 11. In their first 19 games of the 2024 regular season the Cards have been muffled to three runs or less 13 times, most by a National League team. The Cards have plated five runs or more only five times, and when they do their record is 5-0.

* The Cardinals have hit 13 home runs, the fewest by a National League side. Their rate of 0.68 homers per nine innings is 29th overall and deadball last in the NL. On average, the boys are homering every 48 at-bats. For humorous context, Mark McGwire homered every 7.9 at-bats in his five seasons as a Cardinal.

* Among the 15 National League teams the Cardinals are not only last in home runs but rank 14th in runs per game (3.68), batting average (.226), onbase percentage (.300), slugging percentage (.353), OPS (.653), OPS+ (83) and total bases.

* What about batting average with runners in scoring position? Their average is .217 which is the worst in the NL.

Cards manager Oli Marmol has done an admirable job of using tactics to contrive runs, encouraging his players to use a hitting approach that’s based on each situation. Former Cardinals manager Mike Shildt used to tell his players that “each at-bat is a situation,” and Marmol agrees. That’s why the Cardinals are making the most out of productive outs, sacrifice bunts, sac flies, and pushing for an extra base taken as runners.

As Marmol told me via text message: “The biggest difference or adjustment for me so far has been not waiting for the hits to come around but getting our guys to find ways to create a run or two throughout the game until they start feeling better offensively.”

Marmol firmly believes his team will hit and produce plenty of runs in the conventional way but he’s trying to nudge things along until they do.

“A lot of guys in that lineup don’t feel comfortable in the box at the moment. If we wait for it to start clicking, we will be on the wrong end of several of these games as we were last year.”

Marmol has a point. The Cardinals are 4-9 when scoring three or fewer runs in a game. As I noted yesterday, that doesn’t seem like much of a record but it’s actually good for teams that don’t score more than three runs in a contest.

The Cardinals have a .285 winning percentage in these 3-or-less games by their offense. The other 29 MLB teams have a .208 winning percentage when scoring three or fewer runs.

And last season the 2023 Cardinals were 12-63 (.160) when scoring no more than three runs in a game. This season the Cardinals’ winning percentage in such low-scoring games has improved by 125 percent.


I’ll look at some individuals later in this piece. But from a team standpoint, the Cardinals’ recovery will have to come through a combination of a higher onbase percentage, increased power and timely hitting. And the team’s quality of contact must harden.

Home Runs: No National League team has fewer RBIs via the home run, 22, than the Cardinals. The problem is twofold: the Cardinals (a) don’t hit enough homers, and (b) when they do, the impact is lessened by a shortage of runners on base. The Cards have seven solo homers, five two-run homers, and just one three-run shot in 19 games.

The five highest-scoring teams in the National League – Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago, Arizona and Cincinnati have an average of 36 RBIs on homers.

And those teams have homered more often, producing an average of 11.4 home runs in high-leverage and medium-leverage situations. The Cardinals have six. When you play so many tight games, home runs that fly in elevated leverage situations are the most important.

Onbase Percentage: I sincerely believe this rate will rise as the season goes on, but right now the Cardinals’ .300 OBP would be the lowest in a season for the franchise since Bill DeWitt Jr. and partners became the owners in 1996. And the team’s scoring average of 3.68 runs per game would also be the lowest by a DeWitt Era team in his 29 seasons. And this is no coincidence.

The current mark of .226 would be the lowest batting average by a Cardinals team during the DeWitt years. And this 2024 team isn’t walking much; their 8.2 percent walk rate is the fourth lowest in the NL. When you sorely lack a sufficient number of base runners, how do you expect to score a lot more runs? It won’t happen. Period.

OBP is the No. 1 stimulant for any offense. Onbase percentage is the oxygen for any offense. OBP is the blood of the offense.

The Cardinals’ anemic scoring average in 2024 reflects this. The six highest-scoring Cardinal teams during the DeWitt Era had enriched onbase percentages ranging from .339 to .356. The ‘24 team is a long way from that range.

More Consistency In Timely Hitting: The Cardinals have done surprisingly well in their high-leverage hitting situations, hitting .357. That’s a positive. It’s also erratic, because the Cardinals do a poor job of hitting (.213) in low-medium leverage situations. And as I mentioned they have a .217 average with runners in scoring position. And they’re 15 percent below league average offensively when hitting with men on. The word that comes to mind is inconsistency.

Quality Of Contact: Their hard-hit rate (35.9%) is 25th overall and 14th in the NL. They have the worst barrel rate among NL teams. Enough said. That’s why we can’t attribute their low batting average and slugging percentage to bad batted-ball luck. The numbers the Cardinals have are the numbers they deserve.


Paul Goldschmidt: After going 3 for 4 with a homer on opening day at Dodger Stadium, Goldschmidt is batting .145. His strikeout rate (28.8%) would be the worst in a full major-league season. Incredibly, he doesn’t have an extra-base hit since hitting that homer on his second at-bat of the season. And his onbase percentage over the last 17 games is .264 – which is so unlike him. Goldschmidt’s troubles are big trouble for the St. Louis offense.

With Goldy occupying the hugely important second spot in the lineup and performing so poorly, the Cardinals are gasping to generate offense. Their No. 2 spot ranks near the bottom of the majors park-and-league adjusted runs created – performing an astonishing 43 percent below the MLB average. The Cardinals have only one homer and seven RBIs from the No. 2 slot. Weak contact is a real issue; Goldschmidt’s hard-hit rate – 50.8% last season – is only 29.5% in 2024. Marmol is being patient, and I don’t blame him for that. But this can’t continue. If Goldschmidt doesn’t heat up, the Marmol will have to move him down in the lineup.

The middle lineup is wasting Brendan Donovan’s onbase percentage: Though the number has gone down during his current mini-slump, Donovan has a fine .354 onbase percentage early in 2024. He’s in the top third of MLB leadoff men in OBP (minimum 70 plate appearances.) But he has scored only 10 runs, with teammates stranding him on base in too many instances. Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado each have driven Donovan home only two times. Nolan Gorman has knocked Donovan in only one time. The Cardinals’ 2-3-4 lineup spots are collectively slugging .351 and have only four homers and 23 RBI in 247 plate appearances. Donovan, the leadoff man, has more RBIs than any of the dudes who are batting second through fifth. That’s not supposed to be happening.

Nolan Arenado: He’s starting to cook, and it’s good to see. Arenado is batting .417 with a 1.065 OPS over his last six games. That said, the Goldschmidt-Arenado tag team has combined for two home runs. And this offense can’t function at a high level when two prominent bats are generating such little power.

Jordan Walker: He was 14 percent above league average offensively as a rookie last season (per OPS+) and is 47 percent below average this season. He hasn’t homered, is batting .180, is struggling to get on base, and is slugging .300. His strikeout rate has increased to 26.3 percent. His swing-and-miss rate is up. And he’s hitting ground balls at a disturbingly high rate of 54 percent. I know it’s early but the regression is startling. What the heck happened? The ground-ball habit is eating away his power. His line-drive rate (5.4%) is the worst among Cardinals. The plate discipline is shakier. Walker has only 15 total bases this season. (That’s crazy.) And his Batting Runs Value at Statcast puts him in the bottom 11 percent of MLB hitters. Walker was supposed to propel this offense – along with a few others – but the opposite has occurred in the first month.

Nolan Gorman: I don’t know what to say. After he slammed 27 homers and slugged .478 in his sophomore season (2022), we expected big things from the left-handed slugger. In his third season, Gorman should be soaring. And yeah (again) it’s early. But in his 18 games this season Gorman is batting .191 with a .257 onbase percentage and a .368 slug. And his strikeout rate has jumped to 35.5 percent, up from last season. (It should be going down.) This season, as the primary No. 3 hitter (so far, anyway) Gorman is 3 for 20 (.150) with runners in scoring position and has a 40 percent strikeout rate in RISP scenarios. I thought Gorman was turning things around after he banged three homers over a three-game stretch, but he’s 3 for his last 23 with no RBI. Gorman’s Statcast stuff is alarming, with significant decreases in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate (down to 33%) and barrel rate. He’s walking less. He’s whiffing more. He’s 27 percent below league average offensively this season after performing 17 percent above average in 2023. That ain’t right. Marmol needs to cultivate another source of offense in the No. 3 spot. Nootbaar makes sense.

Related observation: how many batting coaches do the Cardinals have? Do they need to hire five or six more to get Walker and Gorman going?

Victor Scott II: I thought the rookie center fielder would do OK as a first-time major leaguer who hadn’t played above the Double A level until this year. Sure, he would struggle but we’d see gradual improvement and signs of progress. But that isn’t happening. I’m not down on him in terms of the future, but he’s overmatched right now. That much is obvious. He’s batting .089. Despite all of that speed, he’s stolen only two bases. He can’t steal bases if he can’t find his way to first base. And in his 62 plate appearances, Scott has made 53 outs. He hasn’t barreled a pitch. Not one. He’s walked only 3.2 percent of the time. Statcast has Scott at slightly below average defensively, and he (surprisingly) is getting late jumps in tracking airborne baseballs. His reaction time has been slow out there. And for a guy who could benefit from hitting a lot of ground balls to leg out infield hits, it makes no sense to see Scott with a much higher fly ball rate (48.8%) than ground-ball rate (39.5%). It’s weird: Scott should be hitting more grounders but he lofts the pitch too often. Walker should be lifting more fly balls but he hits too many grounders. (Fix it? Someone? Anybody?) Scott should go back to the minors to regroup, and he’ll be a better player when he returns to the majors.

The Cardinals have several hitters putting up good numbers and making a good impression. That list would include Willson Contreras, Masyn Winn, Donovan and Ivan Herrera. Lars Nootbaar will make a difference; he’s already done some positive things since returning from the IL last Friday.

Let’s face it. The offense will continue to sputter when four of the most important hitters they have – Goldy, Arenado, Walker and Gorman – are still trying to get on track offensively. Not for just a few days, but for a few weeks … and a few months.

Thanks for reading …

Please pardon my typos.

It’s been a crazy day.


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 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 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.