The Cardinals had a starting-pitching problem to solve last offseason, and they had a starting-pitching problem early in the 2023 regular season, and they still have a starting-pitching problem in late June, and they almost certainly will have a starting-pitching problem at the All-Star Break.

It’s a chronic weakness that keeps the Cardinals down, all but closing off the possibility of sustained winning and a comeback in the NL Central.

Yeah, but Bernie … haven’t the Cardinals won five of their last eight games?

True. But let’s look a little closer. In the eight games the Cardinals had a starting-pitching ERA of 6.43 and were blasted for a .331 average, .382 onbase percentage and .568 slug. And their starters had a flimsy strikeout rate of 12.4 percent. Not exactly fooling the hitters, eh?

So how did the Cardinals win five games?

They pulled it off by averaging 7.4 runs per win, a total that pretty much ensures a victory. And this jibes with their 32-45 record this season. The Redbirds have averaged seven runs in their 32 wins, and 2.7 runs in their 45 losses. Sure, all teams have a fairly predictable run differential when you tabulate their runs scored in wins and losses – but the Cardinals take it to the extreme.

The Birds with the bats generally have to put up a bunch of runs to compensate for the shortage of quality pitching among their starters. And you can’t ask a team’s lineup to go wild by scoring six or seven runs per contest. That’s not feasible.

Cardinal hitters have squeaked for no more than four runs in 12 of their first 20 games in June. This obviously is an inconsistent attack – which is why it’s even more ludicrous to expect the hitters to pile up six or more runs per game.

It’s unrealistic. And the St. Louis pitching staff doesn’t give the team’s offense enough opportunities to win tight, low-scoring games. Among the 30 major-league teams the Cardinals have given up three or fewer runs in only 20 games. That’s bad. Only Oakland, with 19, has fewer games of three-or-fewer runs conceded than St. Louis.

What would the Cards record look like if they limited the other side to three or fewer runs more often? Considering that the Cardinals are 16-4 when yielding three runs or fewer in a game, we can assume their record would look a lot better.

Hey, but at least Jordan Montgomery is pitching well. Why don’t you talk about him? Why are you so negative?

Indeed, Jordan Montgomery has an outstanding 1.80 ERA in his four June starts. But he stands alone. This month Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Matthew Liberatore collectively have been plundered for 55 earned runs in 82.2 innings for a 5.98 ERA. That’s kind of negative, right?

A few facts:

* St. Louis starters have a 4.87 ERA for the season, ranking 25th overall.

* The team has a 26% quality-start percentage that ranks 25th overall.

* When the Cardinals receive a quality start, they’re 16-4. But there’s a shortage of quality starts, and there hasn’t been enough of them to make a substantial difference in the team’s record.

* Cardinal starters have collected 17 wins, which is 25th overall.

* The starting pitching has been consistently poor, ranking 21st in ERA (4.94) in the opening month, 23rd in May (4.68) and 26th so far in June (5.02). And that’s led to a losing record for the Cardinals in every month this season including their 7-13 mark in June. And since June 10, STL starters have a 6.27 ERA.

The trend arrow is pointing down, not up.

This substandard starting pitching doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when Cardinal manager Oli Marmol and players tell us they believe their team can comeback to capture the NL Central. The bravado would be significantly more effective if supported by first-rate starting pitching.

Statistically the first-place Reds are worse than the Cardinals this season with a starter ERA of 5.91. But Cincinnati averages more runs per game than St. Louis and has coughed up six fewer blown leads in the late innings. The Reds are also more relentless than the Cardinals, having a preposterous 27–11 edge in comeback victories. The Brewers, Cubs and Pirates have a better starting-pitching ERA than the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are paying – dearly and painfully – for Mozeliak’s latest offseason neglect of the team’s starting rotation. Sadly, this is nothing new.

Warning: this may make you feel ill.

Per Spotrac, the 2023 Cardinals rank third in the majors in starting-pitching spending ($66 million) which trails the Mets ($116 million) and Padres ($77 million.)

And according to Spotrac, no major-league team has allocated a higher percentage of total payroll to starting-pitching expenditures than St. Louis, which is at the top of the table at 41.2 percent.



1. The Cubs bludgeoned Adam Wainwright in Saturday’s 9-1 victory over the Cardinals. Wainwright has a 6.56 ERA this season. But in his last 15 starts since Sept. 3 of last season, Wainwright has been shelled for a 6.81 ERA. Opponents have socked him for a .352 average and .925 OPS over the last 15 starts. Those numbers are even worse – .386 average, 1.067 OPS – against left-handed hitters.

2. Wainwright II: Among 138 MLB starters that have pitched at least 40 innings this season, Wainwright is No. 138 in strikeout rate (10.9%) and No. 137 in swinging-strike rate (5.8%.)

3. Wainwright III: If you genuinely believe Oli Marmol and John Mozeliak have ideas of pulling Wainwright from the rotation unless he’s injured – well, please seek medical attention immediately.

4. Matthew Liberatore: I’m a Libby honk, having implored the Cardinals to put the young pitcher in the rotation and let him fly. Um, well .. Liberatore, 23, has a 5.13 ERA in six starts this season with a terrible strikeout rate (16%) and a poor walk rate (10.4). In 13 starts over the last two seasons he has a 5.30 ERA with a 17% strikeout rate and a 11.7% walk rate. And each time Liberatore has a subpar start, we hear about how he didn’t have a feel for this pitch, or that pitch. OK, so when will he develop a feel for his pitches?

5. In a related question: do the Cardinals actually have a pitching coach? I see a dude in the dugout with a tablet. I think he has the title of pitching coach.

6. Think of Jordan Walker and put on a happy face: It’s such a delight, watching the 21-year-old rookie get better by the day. In his 19 games since his call-up from Triple A, Walker is hitting .333 with a .413 OBP and .561 slug and .974 OPS.This stretch includes Walker’s .385 average and 1.131 OPS in his current 15-game hitting streak.

Among Cardinals that have at least 50 plate appearances in June, Walker ranks first in batting average, onbase percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+ and is second to Nolan Arenado in slugging and OPS+. Per wRC+, Walker is 70 percent above league average offensively in June – and 34 percent above average for the season.

7. Per Derrick Goold, the Cardinals have decided to use Walker at DH and give him time to work on his outfield defense (before games) with coach Willie McGee. It’s the right decision. It should have been made sooner, but at least Oli Marmol and Mozeliak have finally come to realize that the Cardinals won’t have a solid outfield defense with Walker struggling to learn out there. The organization made a huge mistake by not moving Walker from third base to outfield until early August last season at Double A. As for now, Walker will still see time in the outfield, but it’s better for the Cardinals to keep him at DH as much as possible and go with a capable outfield alignment in Lars Nootbaar, Tommy Edman and Dylan Carlson.

8. Jordan Hicks came through again, rising from a sick bed and fighting through a fever and strep throat to close out Sunday’s 7-5 win over the Cubs. Sure, he allowed a run in the ninth but can be forgiven. Hicks was so sick on Saturday, he stayed in his hotel bed during Saturday’s game. He unexpectedly made himself available for Sunday’s game, and the Cardinals were thrilled to have him back so soon. In his last five appearances Hicks has four saves and a hold, pitching to a 1.29 ERA with a killer strikeout rate of 45 percent. And kudos to long reliever Jake Woodford for his valuable work in Sunday’s win.

9. Super-utility dude Brendan Donovan keeps going, getting at least one hit in 14 of his last 16 games. During the torrid stretch Donovan is batting .368 with a .446 OBP and .474 slug. He’s stopped that off with three doubles, a homer and eight RBI.

10. Willson Contreras: One of the best things to happen for the Redbirds during the London trip was seeing Contreras break loose for his four-hit day Sunday. That came soon after his three-hit day at Washington last Tuesday. In his last seven games Contreras is batting .357 with a .571 slug. Good days ahead for WC.

10a. Tommy Edman: During the Cardinals’ current 5-2 warming trend, the slick center fielder is batting .318 with a bunch of walks that gives him a .483 onbase percentage. And he’s slugging .500.

Thanks for reading …


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

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz



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.