I was happily surprised to see Matt Carpenter batting leadoff for Sunday’s series wrap at Milwaukee. It seemed like old times for the oldest player on the Cardinals.

It was a smart move by manager Oli Marmol to go with Carpenter at the top of the lineup. The Cardinals have received little from the leadoff spot this season, and that’s a significant part of the problem with their cryonic offense.

Before Carpenter was repurposed in the lineup, St. Louis leadoff men were 27th among 30 MLB teams in leadoff batting average (.204) and 29th in leadoff onbase percentage (.277). Per park-and-league adjusted runs created, the No. 1 spot in the Cardinal lineup was 21 percent below league average offensively. Someone had to key the ignition to get this hooptie car running.

Why not Carpenter?

Carpenter is one of the greatest leadoff men in Cardinals franchise history. Unlike Lou Brock and Vince Coleman, Carpenter has never been a base stealer, but I never downgraded him because of it. Speed isn’t his game. And speed isn’t the most important part of a leadoff man’s assignment.

About 10 years ago or so, I came upon a regression analysis of the leadoff spot and was a little surprised by the primary conclusion: speed was a negative trait for a lead off hitter. I know this goes against everything we were told by the old-timey sportswriters, sportscasters and our dear elderly relatives and friends.

Think about it … historically managers love to use fast guys at the top of the lineup. Which is swell if you have Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson or Tim Raines batting leadoff.

But in many cases managers went with speed first and pretty much disregarded their onbase skill. What’s the purpose of having a track-star speed at the top of the lineup if the guy can’t get on base to create run-scoring opportunities? As the old saying goes: you can’t steal first base.

The late Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver was adamant about this. Whenever a writer asked him about lineup construction, Weaver would bark out his rigid priority for a leadoff man.

“I want someone with a high on-base percentage,” he said. “That’s the most critical thing. Give me a lot of walks and a good batting average. That gets us a better chance of setting up the next hitters in line – the guys I have in there to hit homers and drive in runs.”

As Weaver preached repeatedly: “Your most precious possessions on offense are your twenty-seven outs.”

Later in his life, I asked Weaver how the leadoff man figured into his “precious possession” thinking. Aren’t stolen bases a part of the job?

Earl just snapped off an end-of-discussion answer: “What good is it to have a leadoff man making too many outs?”

Weaver didn’t hate stolen bases. It just had to be a high-percentage endeavor. If the percentages made sense, Weaver would go with it.

Let’s return to Matt Carpenter.

The Cardinals clearly needed an OBP boost at the top of the lineup and Marmol made a good call by installing Carpenter there. Based on history Carpenter has the necessary credentials.

According to the StatHead search engine at Baseball Reference, Brock and Coleman had a combined 1,276 steals when used as leadoff men. But Carpenter was highly effective in a different manner during his peak seasons with the Cardinals.

Carpenter brought a rare combination of onbase skill and power to the job. Weaver would have loved him.

Twenty three Cardinals have logged at least 1,000 career plate appearances as the leadoff hitter. Here’s where Carpenter ranks among the 23.

No. 1 in slugging percentage, .482

No. 1 in OPS, .864

No. 1 in home runs, 111

No. 2 in extra base hits, 348

No. 2 in RBIs, 371

No. 3 in runs scored, .550

No. 3 in walks, 464

No. 3 in hits, 812

No. 4 in onbase percentage, .382.

No. 12 in batting average, .279

* Only Miller Huggins, Solly Hemus and Ray Blades have a higher leadoff onbase percentage than Carpenter.

* Only Brock has more extra base hits than Carp as the leadoff guy.

* Only Brock has more RBIs than Carpenter among STL No. 1 hitters.

* Only Brock and Coleman scored more runs than Carpenter from the leadoff perch.

* Only Brock and Coleman have more hits than Carpenter when batting 1st.

* Only Brock and Huggins drew more walks from the top lineup slot.

The Cardinals have won two in a row since Carpenter was moved to leadoff. He helped the cause by reaching base four times in 11 plate appearances (.364 OBP), driving in two runs, and scoring one. He’s a steadying presence at the top of the order.

I don’t know how long this will last; obviously Carpenter could stall out. But I’m just reacting to the instant impact of Marmol’s decision, and what comes next is a separate issue. The lineup had a better look with the 38-year old Carpenter batting first.

Overall, Carpenter has a .304 batting average and .360 OBP in 26 plate appearances since signing with the Cardinals and returning to St. Louis.

In Monday’s 10-5 victory over the Angels in Anaheim, Carpenter reached base twice on a single and a walk. His two-strike, two-out, bases-loaded single lifted the Cardinals into a 4–4 tie, and they kept piling on during a stunning eight-run inning.

According to the win expectancy and win probability metrics at Baseball Reference, Carpenter’s tying single was the most important play in the game. Well done, Carp.

In two games with Carpenter as their leadoff man, the Cardinals have banged out 21 hits and walked 15 times. A spark? You decide.

ABOUT THAT EIGHT-RUN INNING: Where did that come from? Eight runs, seven hits, three walks, a hit batsmen. The first five hitters of the inning reached base on a Nolan Arenado solo homer and four straight singles.

Hits on two-strike counts. Hits with runners in scoring position. Hits with the bases loaded. There was also a bases loaded walk, and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. Eleven of 14 batters reached base. What a spree.

An eight-run inning?

* The Cardinals scored only six runs, total, in 28 innings while suffering a three-game sweep by the Brewers in St. Louis.

* They scored only eight runs, total, in 18 innings while losing both home games to the Mets last week.

* The eight runs in the seventh were more than the Cardinals scored in 38 of their entire games this season.

* Their seven hits in the eighth inning were more than the Cardinals had in 20 entire games in 2024.

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: By winning Monday the Cardinals (17-24) picked up a game in the standings. They’re tied with the Reds for fourth place in the NL Central, trail the Pirates by 1 and ½ games, trail the second-place Cubs by 6 and ½, and are 7 games behind first-place Milwaukee … In a related note, nine NL teams had losing records through Monday and another (the Padres) were at .500. Going into Tuesday’s action, only NL teams with winning records were the Phillies (29-13), Braves (25-13), Dodgers (28-15), Brewers (24-17) and Cubs (24-18.) The National League is waiting for the Cardinals to put together some wins and enter the fray.

MATT CARPENTER, LOAD ‘EM UP: Carpenter delivered a big hit in the team’s seventh-inning eruption, coming through with a two-strike, two-run, bases-loaded single that tied the game 4-4.

This was a Carpenter special.

In 93 career bases-loaded plate appearances as a Cardinal, Carpenter is 31 for 66 for a blistering .470 batting average. He’s also contributed 18 sac flies, 12 extra-base hits and eight walks for a total of 93 RBIs.

Among the 48 Cardinals that have at least 70 career based-loaded plate appearances here’s where Carpenter ranks in the important categories:

+ .470 batting average, No. 1

+ .430 onbase percentage, No. 2 to Matt Holliday.

+ .727 slugging percentage, No. 2 to Albert Pujols.

+ 1.157 OPS, No. 1

Here’s a related note that will make you smile: among Cardinals that have a minimum of 50 career plate appearances with the bases loaded, the highest batting average belongs to the one and only So Taguchi. He had 20 hits in 40 at-bats for a sparkling .500 batting average.

The Cardinals had been only 4 for 33 with the bases loaded this season before Monday’s seventh inning. But in ambushing the Angels in that fateful 7th, the Cardinals went 3 for 6 and drove home seven runs with the bases loaded. Two of the RBIs came on a walk and hit a batter.

TWO-STRIKE HITTING: Before Monday, the Cardinals had the third-lowest batting average in the majors (.146) on two-strike counts. But in defeating the Angels in the series opener the Cardinals had five two-strike hits overall. In their eight-run seventh inning, the Cardinals went 4 for 5 on two-strike counts and drove in five runs. That was huge.

THE MASYN WINN FILE: Masyn Winn: He played in 37 games late last season after his promotion from Triple A Memphis. In those 37 games, Winn batted .172 with a .467 OPS. Well, he’s played exactly 37 games this season and is hitting .283 with a .718 OPS.

Winn recently turned 22 and shows a calm, intelligent approach to hitting. Winn isn’t easy to defend because he hits to all fields. He’s 10 for 33 (.303) when hitting to the opposite field. He’s done well when hitting to center. He stays within himself, and doesn’t try to do too much. The power will come later. He’s just an impressive individual.

In Monday’s victory Winn went 2 for 4 with a walk, double, an RBI and a run scored. His OPS+ is seven percent above league average offensively. Winn is tied for the major-league lead among shortstops with eight defensive runs saved.

VALUABLE BULLPEN WORK: Kyle Leahy did an outstanding job of keeping the Cardinals in the game after starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore was dragooned for five hits, two walks, a two-run homer and four earned runs in 3 and ⅓ innings. The Cardinals were in a 4-0 hole at the time and couldn’t afford to have the deficit increase. Leahy subdued the Angels with 2 and ⅔ scoreless, hitless innings to give his teammates a shot at a comeback. And after Leahy retired the Angels in the bottom of the sixth to end his evening of work, the Cardinals gushed for eight runs in the top of the seventh.

John King allowed nothing in his 1 and ⅔ innings. Ryan Fernandez relieved King with two outs in the eighth and should have been out of the inning but Dylan Carlson misjudged a fly ball in center that fell for a hit. Trouble ensued, the Angels scored a run, and Andrew Kittredge came on to end the threat with a three-pitch strikeout. Nick Robertson shut down the home side with an incident-free ninth inning.

ABOUT NICK ROBERTSON: The Cardinals had a five-run lead when Robertson entered for the ninth inning, so it was a low-pressure gig. Robertson did his job with ease, putting the Angels down in order.

Robertson – acquired from Boston in the Tyler O’Neill offload – has pitched well in his limited relief opportunities. In 7 and ⅔ innings for the Cardinals, the righty has allowed six hits, two walks and an earned run for a 1.17 ERA. Robertson has a 26.7 percent strikeout rate to go with it. He’s limited opponents to a .222 batting average without yielding an extra-base hit. Is Robertson making a case for a more significant role? Here’s the concern, though it’s a small sample: Robertson has faced left-handed hitters 61 times in the majors and they’re strafed him for a .370 average, .400 OBP and .593 slug.


Here’s Tim Britton of The Athletic:

“The Cardinals responded to last year’s brutal last-place finish with some aggressive rhetoric their conservative approach in the offseason didn’t live up to. And this year’s team is underperforming to the same extent but in a way that’s maybe even more concerning.

“The offense is an absolute mess, and it might get worse after Willson Contreras broke his arm. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado look their age, and the younger pieces supposed to step up in their stead moving forward have instead taken steps of varying lengths backward (or have spent chunks of time on the IL). The outfielder they traded in the offseason has excelled elsewhere, which is a sentence you can write about a lot of recent Cardinals iterations.

“The winter’s rotation additions have actually been good, but the holdovers haven’t. There’s still a temptation to look at the talent and expect better, but we’re in Month 8 of thinking the Cardinals are just about to turn it around. A more wholesale revamp may be in the cards.”


– Lars Nootbaar: he’s starting to get the results we’ve been waiting for. In his last eight games Nootbaar is hitting .286 with a .429 OBP and .536 slug. The hits are coming, the walks are coming, and he’s banged two homers in his last 22 at-bats. Noot contributed to Monday’s melee with two walks and a run scored. His OBP has inched up to .311. That isn’t where he wants to be, but if he holds steady his 14 percent walk rate will take him to a much higher OBP.

– Nolan Gorman is ramping up: In his last four games (three starts) Gorman has reached base nine times in 15 plate appearances for a .600 onbase percentage. He’s 5 for 11 for a .455 batting average and has ripped a double and a homer to knock in three runs.

– Ivan Herrera has rebounded from a down phase with three consecutive two-hit games. In his last six games Herrera is 10 for 22 (.455) with two walks for a .520 onbase percentage. He’s driven in four runs during the turn-it-up streak.

– On Monday Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado had an RBI in the same game for only the fourth time this season. Arenado had a two-hit game, scored twice, and opened the bombastic seventh with a pull shot to left for a solo homer. Goldy had a hit, scored a run and was credited with an RBI when getting plunked by a bases-loaded pitch that brought in a run for a 5-4 STL lead.

– Cardinal starting pitchers averaged 5.4 innings in their 30 starts during the opening month. But in the first 11 games in May the starters have averaged 5.06 innings and failed to go six innings in seven of 11 starts. This means more work for the bullpen.

– Dylan Carlson is 0 for 17 since returning from a shoulder injury. In 84 games since the start of last season Carlson is batting .203 with a .309 slug and .612 OPS. His OPS+ over that time is 31 percent below league average offensively. When facing right-handed pitchers over the last two seasons, Carlson has batted .187 and .571 and is 38 percent below league average.

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 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.