The storyline is changing for the 2024 Cardinals. At least for now, anyway. Ladies and gentlemen, please update your tired narratives. Freshen up your predetermined script and make the necessary revisions. Let’s rework those angles. Give me rewrite!

Here’s the developing plot line for the Cardinals …

Pitching is a strength. Pitching is a plus. The pitching is a pleasant if unspectacular surprise.

The offense is a weakness. The offense a minus. The offense is primarily responsible for STL’s losing record (6-7) and the breach of good pitching.

It was supposed to be the other way around.

The Cardinals just hosted the Phillies for three games at Busch Stadium. In 28 innings, St. Louis pitchers held the Phillies to nine runs overall, and only six runs were earned. In their 118 plate appearances, Philly had just three extra-base hits, a putrid .295 slugging percentage, and struck out 26.3 percent of the time. Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper went a combined 1 for 23 during their three days in The Lou.

Cardinals starting pitchers stood their ground, even on a soaked and muddied Wednesday afternoon. Miles Mikolas, Sonny Gray and Lance Lynn combined for 16 and ⅔ innings and conceded only two earned runs for a 1.08 ERA. The three starters collectively took on 66 hitters and were nicked for one extra-base hit, a double.

The starting pitchers gave the Cardinals an excellent shot of winning all three  games. Mikolas held the Phillies to two runs in 6 and ⅔ innings on Monday. The Cardinals lost in 5-3 extras. Gray outpitched No. 1 Philly starter Zack Wheeler for a 3-0 win on Tuesday. In Wednesday’s series decider, Phillies co-ace Aaron Nola allowed two runs in six innings, but Lynn did not grant an earned run in his five innings. The only two runs off Lynn were possible because of a dropped fly ball by rookie center fielder Victor Scott II with two outs in the first.

The Phillies won the only numbers game that mattered.

They took two of three games from the offensively impoverished Cardinals to win the series.

Had the Cardinals found their way through the Wednesday slop to emerge with a win, they would have gone into their Thursday day off with a 7-6 record, 4-2 homestand, and a 3-1 ledger in their first four series of 2024. But the Redbirds were denied these pleasantries because of puny run support. The St. Louis batters let their pitchers down, and this has become a trend.

The Cardinals batted .208 in their three tests vs. Philadelphia pitching and went 3 for 22 with runners in scoring position. The home team walloped four homers, but all were solo bombs. That’s it. That was the offense.


1. The Cardinals have scored exactly three runs in their last five games. That’s highly unusual. And for the Cardinals, that’s unprecedented. According to the Stathead search engine at Baseball Reference, this sequence of five straight games scoring precisely three runs had never occurred before in franchise history. That covers the modern era (1901-present.) And until now, a streak of five consecutive three-runs-only games had happened just 13 previous times during the expansion era (1961-present.)

2. The Cardinals scored three or fewer runs in eight of their first 13 games which is tied for the third most in the majors so far. The Cardinals are 2-6 when scoring three runs or less in early 2024. And if we include 2023, the Cardinals have been held to three or fewer runs 83 times over the last two years, and among MLB teams only Oakland and the Chicago White Sox have done worse than that. St. Louis is 14-69 (.169) when scoring three or fewer runs over the last two seasons.

3. The 2024 Cardinals are 14th among the 15 NL teams in average runs (3.85) per game and OPS+ and rank 12th or worse in batting average, onbase percentage and slugging percentage. That 78 OPS+ means the Cardinals are 22 percent below league average offensively.

4. The Cardinals have hit only 11 home runs in 13 games; among NL teams only the Giants and Marlins have gone deep fewer times. But the STL homers are mostly low-impact shots. Seven of the 11 have come with the bases empty. Four were deposited with one runner on. The Cardinals do not have a three-run homer or grand-slam. They are not flexing much muscle in the power-ball game. Home-run tabulation aside, the offense can’t continue giving away at-bats and making so many outs. If there’s an onbase-percentage mechanism, plug it in and crank it up.

STL’s 11 home runs have produced only 15 RBIs. And remember that seven of the RBIs come from the home-run hitter driving himself in. Which means the Cardinals have knocked home only eight other runners via the home run. Good grief.

5. With runners on base, the Cardinals hitting are 20 percent below league average in park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+). With runners in position to score, the Cardinals are 25 percent below league average in wRC+.

It’s a good thing that fans, media and a couple of influential players chased off hitting instructor Jeff Albert, who resigned after the 2022 season. He was the BIG problem, right? Remember that? The scapegoating of Albert was ludicrous and looks even sillier now.


1. Here’s the composite offensive performance by Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt through the first 13 games and 108 plate appearances: .216 batting average, .277 onbase percentage, .320 slugging percentage, and .597 OPS. There isn’t much pop, with only three doubles and one homer and 11 RBIs between them.

Through Wednesday there were 19 MLB hitters that had at least 11 RBIs as individuals. Just to illustrate how poor this is, Brewers hitters Christian Yelich and William Contreras have combined for 22 RBIs, twice as many as Goldy and Arenado. On the home-run front, 112 MLB hitters have at least two home runs this season as individuals. The two Cardinals (Goldschmidt and Arenado) have one homer between them in 97 at-bats.

2. About that combined .320 slugging percentage for Goldschmidt and Arenado: Here are a few (of many) names of light-hitting Cardinals that had a better slugging percentage than .320 during their time with the team: Nick Stavinoah, Joe Thurston, Mike Heath, Mike Matheny, Jamie Quirk, Tyler Greene, Jason LaRue, Roger Cedeno, Lane Thomas and pitchers Bob Forsch and Woody Williams. Goldy and Arenado have to get going. That’s known as an understatement.

3. The Outfield. The Outfield. The Outfield. Isn’t it almost always about the outfield? Through 13 games, the St. Louis outfielders are collectively batting .187 with two homers, a .284 onbase percentage and .321 slugging percentage in 156 plate appearances. That’s a .605 OPS. (These stats include only the at-bats of each player when they were used as outfielders – and not DH or an infield position.) Victor Scott is struggling. But he’ll have to play center unless the Cardinals want to go with Michael Siani instead. Until Tommy Edman and/or Dylan Carlson returns, the center-field depth is an problem — unless the Cardinals reconsider the idea of deploying Lars Nootbaar in center. Side note: it will be great to see Nootbaar back in the STL lineup, preferably batting third.

4. About those two home runs by STL outfielders: former Cardinals outfielders Tyler O’Neill, Marcell Ozuna, Adolis Garcia, Randy Arozarena, Randal Grichuk and Lane Thomas have combined for 20 homers so far this season.

5. Jordan Walker’s languorous start: The second-year right fielder has played in 11 of the first 13 games. In his first 11 games as a rookie last season, Walker batted .326 with an .881 OPS, two homers and a 19.5 percent strikeout rate. In his first 11 games this season Walker is batting .162 with a .481 OPS and 26% strikeout rate. And he hasn’t homered. The problem: too many ground balls (59.3%) and not enough line drives (14.8%).


1. The St. Louis starters aren’t overwhelming, but early on they’ve pitched respectably and have exceeded expectations. This could change of course, and because 92 percent of their schedule is sitting there to be molded. That said, STL’s overall starting-pitching ERA is 4.15. That ranks 17th in the bigs and is better than that of Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto (among others.) Not bad considering that Sonny Gray started only one of the first 13 games.

2. Since losing the first two games of the season, Cardinals starting pitchers have a 3.32 ERA in their last 11 games. That ERA ranks seventh in the majors and third in the NL since March 30. And their 3.32 starter ERA is the best among NL Central teams since March 30. The Cardinals are 6-5 in the last 11. Given the gaunt appearance of this offense, the Cardinals could have a really ugly record right now. But the starters are giving the team a chance to win.

3. Cardinals starting pitchers rank eighth in the majors with their average of 5.3 innings per start, fourth best in the NL. But the starters have been protected by only 2.8 runs of support per nine innings; that’s 14th in the NL. The primary victims have been Mikolas and Lynn.

3a. I want to give a tip of the cap to Lynn. He has a 2.63 ERA in three starts. He’s had one bad inning in three starts. He has struck out nearly 30 percent of batters faced. He’s gotten hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone at a rate of 35 percent — and that would be a career high for the big guy. The swing-miss stuff is intact. As predicted here, Lynn has modified his pitching arsenal and gone with fewer four-seam fastballs and more cutters and sliders. He’s fun to watch.

4. With a couple of exceptions the St. Louis bullpen has taken care of business. (Which Andre Pallante failed to do Wednesday.) The loss reminded us how challenging it will be to win games on days when one bad reliever screws up, the defense has a relapse, and the bats are in the doze mode. Lynn deserved a kinder destiny in Wednesday’s start, but the Cardinals had another annoying three-run output on offense, and Scott’s defensive mistake donated two runs to the visitors.

The Cardinals can’t get away with this stuff. Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Philly showed us what the Redbirds can do when they’re pitching well, the bullpen takes control, and the defense and fundamentals are clean. Wednesday showed us the vulnerability that can be exposed and exploited when the Cardinals lapse in multiple parts of their game.

5. It’s very early in the campaign, but the early-redbird Cardinals are the second best team in the National League at preventing runs. They’re allowing 4.23 runs per game, and only the Pirates (4.17) had done better through Wednesday. Last season the Cardinals were 13th in the NL in run prevention, giving up an average of 5.12 per game. The defense is an important factor in this equation, but this season the Cardinals are sixth in the NL at 16 percent above league average in adjusted ERA. Last season they were 10 percent below league average in adjusted ERA, which ranked No. 13. I can say “it’s early” 1,000 more times, but no one  thought this team would be off to such an effective start at preventing runs.

(Yeah, let’s go ahead and boo John Mozeliak again. How dare the president of baseball operations upgrade the pitching staff under limits set by ownership’s payroll budget.)

Progress is being made in the run-prevention sector in the Cardinals’ factory. That’s swell … especially if it lasts. And it’s too soon to know about that. And now we’re looking at you, offense. It’s time for the run-scoring department to get busy. It’s never too early to bang out a copious supply of runs.

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. on Friday. Stream it live or grab 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.

All 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.