If we had polled you immediately before the start of the regular season and asked you to predict the Cardinals’ Rookie of The Year for 2023, I’m pretty sure that Jordan Walker would be the runaway winner.

Not so fast.

As the season unfolds, Walker and fellow rookie Alec Burleson are trending in opposite directions.

Walker was the superior hitter during the first half of the season, putting up a .803 OPS with a wRC+ that made him 23 percent above league average offensively. Burleson, on the other hand, had a .651 OPS and was 21 percent below average offensively based on wRC+. Moreover, Walker had a big edge over Burleson in onbase percentage and slugging.

It’s been a much different look since the All-Star break.

Among the 11 St. Louis hitters that have at least 50 plate appearances during the second half, Walker ranks 10th in batting average (.193), OBP (.253), slugging (.295), OPS (.548), and wRC+ (53). That means he’s been 47 percent below league average offensively since the All-Star break. The only Cardinal to amass poorer second-half numbers than Walker is Dylan Carlson.

Burleson has been very good since the All-Star break, ranking third among Cardinals in batting average (.303), fourth in slugging (.530), fourth in OPS (.854) and is tied for fourth with a 132 wRC+ which translates to 32 percent above league average offensively during the second half.

Though both players are below-average defensively, Burleson is considerably better than Walker. Burleson is a minus two in defensive runs saved this season; Walker is a minus 15 in DRS. That’s a significant difference. And while both rookies have failed to distinguish themselves as baserunners, Burleson rates ahead of Walker. That’s because Burleson has an extra-bases taken percentage of 33% which is nine percent better than Walker’s 24%.

A few things about this:

1. Walker is 21 years old. Burleson is 24 and will turn 25 in November. And while both players played virtually the same amount of games in the minors, Burleson had the added experience of 130 games of college baseball. Walker went straight from high school to pro ball. Both guys were drafted early by the Cardinals in 2020.

2. Walker’s defensive woes can largely be blamed on the Cardinals, who didn’t move him from third base to a corner outfield spot until Aug. 5 at Double A Springfield last season. But Burleson isn’t a terrible fielder. He looks big and burly and too many people make the assumption that he’s awful defensively. It just isn’t true. I’m not suggesting that Burleson is a future Gold Glover, but he’s stereotyped because of his appearance.

3. Walker has had a better overall season offensively than Burleson. Walker has a .721 OPS; Burleson is at .706. But it’s a little closer when we look at wRC+, with Walker (101) a tick above league average and Burleson (93) lurking at seven percent below average. Burleson has been closing the gap. And after being cursed by lousy batted ball luck in the season’s first half, Burleson hasn’t been victimized as often since the All-Star break. Burleson had a .227 batting average on balls in play before the break and is hitting .298 on balls in play during the second half. Walker has been the opposite: a .333 average on balls in play in the first half and a .238 mark in BIP since the All-Star break.

4. Burleson has superior plate discipline. He has a strikeout rate of only 10.6 percent this season including a remarkably low 8.8% strikeout rate since the All-Star break. Burleson is also better at making contact on pitches in the zone – 92.1 percent compared to Walker’s 85.3% Walker’s overall strikeout rate (22.6%) isn’t bad, but he’s striking out 24.2 percent of the time since the All-Star break. Burleson’s bat-to-ball skills have attracted interest from other teams.

5. Burleson doesn’t have Walker’s issue of hitting the ball on the ground so frequently. Burleson’s ground-ball rate is 41.7 percent this season, which is exactly 10 percent lower than Walker’s 51.7% GB rate.

The truth is, both rookies have had below-average seasons if you rely on Wins Above Replacement as a measure. Walker is minus 0.8 below the replacement level; Burleson is slightly better at minus 0.6 below replacement level. But again, the trends are favoring Burleson. He’s a tad above the replacement level (+0.3) since the All-Star break. Walker is minus is still stuck at minus 0.7 WAR since the break.

I don’t think many of us expected the two rookies to be so closely matched this season. But with Walker fading and Burleson heating, it will be a close call for team Rookie of the Year. In all candor, the impact delivered by Cardinal rookies has been rather low key in 2023. That’s disappointing. This doesn’t mean they’ll continue to disappoint in the future, but it’s natural to have some questions.

Final comment: Burleson will hit because he’s always hit and the contact skills are unusually strong. But it would be reassuring for the Cardinals and their fans to see Walker dial back in offensively for a strong finish to the season.

DISTORTIONS IN STARTING PITCHING: This season the Cardinals have an overall starting-pitching ERA of 4.72, but it’s lowered to 4.23 if you exclude Adam Wainwright’s starts in 2023.

Or if we zoom in on more recent trends – starting July 1 – Wainwright has a 12.27 ERA during that time but the other St. Louis starters have combined for a 3.36 ERA.

In August the trend is even more extreme; Wainwright has allowed 15 earned runs in four innings (33.75 ERA) but the other starts have given up 19 earned runs in 55 and ⅔ innings for a 3.07 ERA. There’s been some good starting-pitching performances but the overall ERA is distorted because of Wainwright’s late-career collapse.

This month, through Saturday, Waino has given up 44 percent of the runs charged to St. Louis starting pitchers. Good grief.

CONTRERAS & KNIZNER: Since July 1, Cards catcher Willson Contreras leads MLB hitters in onbase percentage (.505), OPS (1.193) and wRC+ (224) and is second in batting average (.400) and tied for fourth in slugging percentage (.688.) And No. 2 catcher Andrew Knizner has career bests in slugging percentage (.473), OPS (.871), homers (9) and RBI 26. Knizner has packed a lot of that offense into his last 25 starts, slugging .565 with eight homers and 22 RBI.

With Contreras and Knizner swinging hot bats, the Cardinals have prospered offensively at the catcher spot. And that was a priority coming into 2023, which is why they signed Contreras to a five-year contract worth $87.5 million.

Last season, based on park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) St. Louis catchers were 40 percent below league average offensively. This season Cardinal catchers are 17 percent above average offensively. They are tied for third in RBI (65), tied for fourth in homers (20), and is are fifth in slugging .461 and batting average .258. The WAR figure — minus 0.6 at the catcher position in 2022 — is eighth-best in the majors this season (2.7 WAR.)

Sorry for spilling so many numbers but it’s important to note the upgrade (at least offensively) at catcher for the 2023 Cardinals,

THE ARENADO TORNADO: After a poor first month Cards third baseman Nolan Arenado has been one of the most consistently good hitters in the majors. Since the beginning of May, Arenado ranks among the top eight in the majors in multiple categories: homers (22), RBI (68), batting average (.303), slugging (.579), OPS (.932) and wRC+ (149.) That’s 49 percent above league average offensively for Arenado since the end of April.

TOMMY “GUN” EDMAN: Since returning from the IL on Aug. 1, Edman has powered up with authority, slugging .675 with three doubles, a triple and three homers. . As a bonus, in 29 plate appearances vs. righty pitchers this month the switch-hitting Edman has hammered out a .346 average, .414 OBP, .615 slug and a 1.029 OPS. Four of his nine hits vs. RH this month have gone for extra bases.

A rested Edman looks good. But can he hold up physically? Because of his all-out playing style and busy workload, Edman tends to wear down, and that’s usually when you see his bat speed slow against RH pitchers. For what it’s worth, Edman has provided his best offense this season when being utilized at shortstop. In 150 plate appearances at the position he’s performed 38 percent above league average offensively per wRC+.

HAIL CESAR: It’s only been six games, but since second baseman Cesar Prieto joined the Cardinals organization in the trade that sent Jack Flaherty to Baltimore, Prieto is pounding pitches for Triple A Memphis. He’s gone 10 for 27 (.370) with a .433 OBP, .630 slug, plus two homers and a double.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

The “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and B. Miklasz is available at, the 590 the fan app or your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus or Bill James Online.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

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.