At least the 2023 Cardinals have set one record this season … well, sort of. This malfunctioning unit is the first St. Louis team to be submerged as low as 14 games below .500 at the All-Star break since Bill DeWitt Jr. took over the franchise in 1996.

Per FanGraphs, the Redbirds have a teeny-weeny 5.8 percent chance to win the NL Central, and an itty-bitty 6.4% probability of making the playoffs. They’ll open the second half in last place in the division, 11 and ½ games in arrears to first-place Cincinnati and 10 ½ behind second-place Milwaukee.

Before looking ahead to the remainder of this dispiriting campaign, let’s review how the 38-51 Cardinals were thunderstruck by a brutal 90-game span in the first two-plus months of the season.


1. The bizarre overconfidence by team ownership/management. The Cardinals made only one move during the offseason, signing free-agent catcher Willson Contreras to a five-year deal. For some reason president of baseball operations John Mozeliak thought his roster was all set and ready to dominate even though the Cardinals posted a mediocre 45-43 record against non-division opponents last season. That mark includes two straight losses to get swept by the Phillies in the NL wild-card round. The front office has a terrible habit of overrating its own players, and complacency was a substantial factor in the first-half eradication.

2. Dreadful, demoralizing starting pitching. This is on Mozeliak for coming into 2023 with rotation returnees Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Steven Matz and the 41-year-old Adam Wainwright. Inexplicably no upgrades were made to this iffy-at-best group, leaving the team to rely on a vulnerable rotation that rates among the worst in the majors this season. Cardinals starting pitchers rank 25th in ERA, 25th in quality-start percentage, 27th in Win Probability Added. And the starters’ first-inning 6.35 ERA frequently puts the Cardinals in an early hole.

3. Bullpen devastation: No MLB team has failed in more save opportunities (21) than the Cardinals. They’ve blown 28 leads overall and have lost 10 games when transporting a lead into the seventh inning. The St. Louis bullpen has a 5.56 ERA since June 1, and is 29th in the majors in Win Probability Added.

4. Collapse of the fundamentals. Jose Oquendo must be shaking his head, and the late great instructor George Kissell could be cursing from the ballpark in the sky. The Cardinals rank 30th in the majors in defensive efficiency, converting only 66% of batted balls in play into outs. Last season they ranked 12th in this category. In 2021 and 2022 combined, the Cardinals were credited with 148 defensive runs saved, a total matched by few teams. But in 2023, the Cardinals are minus-18 in defensive runs saved, ranking 24th overall. And with a pitching staff that’s low on strikeouts, a substandard defense is ruinous. The team’s baserunning has slipped to a bases-taken rate of 28 percent that ranks 28th in the majors. Manager Oli Marmol and his coaches have let this team slide in its fundamental-related discipline in a way that’s sadly reminiscent of Mike Matheny’s years as manager.

5. Ownership. Bill DeWitt Jr. has allowed his team’s standards to fall, abiding over a team that’s inadequately constructed and makes too many mistakes. It’s easy to blame Mozeliak for the pitching shortfall, and the criticism is warranted. But keep this in mind: Mozeliak doesn’t have freedom to do whatever he wants to do; DeWitt has to sign off on proposed signings or trades. As one team source theorized: Mozeliak isn’t as aggressive as he should be because he’s accustomed to DeWitt using the veto.


1. The Offense: The Cardinals strand too many runners on base, which holds back their average runs per game (4.61) total that ranks 11th in the majors. But overall the hitters are doing a good job. They’re sixth in the majors in park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) and rank seventh or eighth overall in homers, onbase percentage, slugging and OPS. Per wRC+, the Cardinals have good balance, ranking above-average against righty and lefty pitchers. Marmol is effective at gaining platoon-split advantages for his batters.

2. Jordan Montgomery: The brawny lefty has a 1.70 ERA in his last eight starts and a 3.23 ERA in 18 starts overall. He ranks 17th among MLB starting pitchers in ERA and WAR and has supplied 41.6 percent of the team’s 24 quality starts. He’s the only effectively reliable starter in the house.

3. Paul Goldschmidt: Sure, his numbers are down from his 2022 MVP season. But he’s still 33 percent above league average offensively per wRC+, runs the bases very well, and is among the leaders at first base with +3 defensive runs saved. Goldy leads the Cardinals with 2.6 WAR, and he makes them better in every area. He doesn’t ham it up or make himself the story in a hunt for celebrity … another reason to like him.

4. Jordan Walker: The rookie has been outstanding since the Cardinals recalled him from Triple A Memphis on June 2, batting .288 with a .858 OPS, five doubles, six homers and 14 RBI in 124 plate appearances. For the season Jordan ranks third among St. Louis regulars in batting average, .OPS and wRC+. Though he’s learning as he goes along, Walker is 23 percent above league average offensively per wRC+. Walker’s defensive problems are the fault of an organization that failed to move him to a corner outfield spot until late in the 2022 season at Double A Springfield.

5. Nolan Arenado: After a pokey opening month he’s made up for it with a .306 average, .979 OPS, 14 doubles, two triples, 17 homers and 48 RBI in his last 58 games. His wRC+ is 60 percent above league average offensively and ranks 9th in the majors since the end of April. Arenado would be the first to tell us that he needs to sharpen up defensively, but even with the glitches he’s still one of the best players in baseball.


1. Brendan Donovan: Since May 21 he has a .324 average, a beautiful .418 onbase percentage, and a .897 OPS – plus six homers and 16 RBI over that time. During this 40 game stretch – and including days when he played at more than one spot – Donovan has logged 13 games at second base, 10 in left field, six at first base, six in right field, five at third base, and five at DH. Including his pinch-hitting appearances, Donovan has filled multiple roles in 16 games this season.

2. Willson Contreras: After an unsettling, frustrating beginning to his St. Louis career, Contreras is rolling. It was just a matter of time. In his last 16 games he’s batting .404 with a 1.194 OPS and 11 extra–base hits. The surge has moved him up to 7th among regular MLB catchers in WAR. And his wRC+, which puts him 11 percent above average offensively, ranks 6th among regular catchers. And Contreras is above average defensively in FanGraphs’ composite defensive ratings. Did you know that Contreras has more WAR (1.4) this season than J.T. Realmuto (1.1)?

3. Jack Flaherty: Even with a couple of clunkers in there, Flaherty has a 3.09 ERA in his last 10 starts including 12 and ⅔ scoreless innings over his last two outings. Too many walks, too many hits allowed, but he’s still trending favorably.

4. Jordan Hicks: He’s taken to the closer role. Loves it. Since June 14, the righty reliever has a hold and seven saves in eight opportunities. In the 10 appearances he’s walked only two hitters and has a 1.80 ERA and 32.5% strikeout rate. He figures to be a popular man among contending teams that need at least one more strikeout-punch reliever for late-inning bullpen duty.


1. Adam Wainwright. The future Cardinals Hall of Famer has a 7.66 ERA in 11 starts this season and has been pummeled for 17 earned runs in eight innings over his last three assignments. This is the opposite of a happy ending to a distinguished career. But if Waino’s shoulder responds to treatment, we should see him again – and hopefully on the mound as the starting pitcher for the regular-season finale at Busch Stadium on Oct. 1.

2. Nolan Gorman: On May 25 the second-year slugger had a .613 slug, 1.002 OPS, 10 doubles and 13 homers, plus 40 RBI. And his strikeout rate was a reasonable 26 percent. And based on wRC+, Gorman was 69 percent above league average offensively at that time. Since reaching the high point, Gorman is batting .142 with a .212 OBP, .258 slug, and .470 OPS. He’s homered only four times and has just 12 RBI in 120 at–bats. He’s getting owned by pitchers for a 39.4% strikeout rate. These numbers require no elaboration. Gorman needs to regroup and power back up.

3. Lars Nootbaar + Dylan Carlson: I put them together because the Cardinals and their fans are still waiting on break-out type performances. Each outfielder has been on the injured list this season – Nootbaar was on it twice – and their combined 61 days missed has disrupted their continuity. Moreover, Nootbaar’s spring training was cut short by his participation in the World Baseball Classic. This season Noot and Carlson have combined for a .350 onbase percentage, and a .378 slug. The OBP is good, but they’ve combined for only 10 homers in 451 at-bats, and the power is lacking. Averaging out their performances, Carlson and Nootbaar collectively are around five percent above league average offensively per wRC+. We expected more – especially from Nootbaar. And the Cardinals need more from both of them going forward.

4. Andre Pallante: The right-handed reliever has been smacked for a 4.40 ERA and can’t establish consistency. While his work against LH batters is fine, opposing managers know that Pallante does poorly when facing RH hitters, and they put as many right-swinging batters against him as they can. This season righty batters are clubbing Pallante for a .367 average, .484 OBP and .469 slug. And Pallante has an awful 17.7% walk rate when facing RH batters. I’m not sure why the manager and pitching coach and Pallante himself are so incapable of making him more effective in these righty vs. righty confrontations, but this is Cardinals baseball in 2023.


1. Tyler O’Neill: the friendly ghost! Rumor has it that he’ll be reappearing soon.

2. Matthew Liberatore + Steven Matz. The disappointing trade that sent outfielder Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay for Liberatore looks worse by the day. As for Matz, he did some nice work out of the bullpen, but Mozeliak gave him $44 million as a free agent to be a solid starter. And in 20 starts for the Cardinals over the last two seasons Matz has a 5.40 ERA and opponents have punished him for a .804 OPS.

3. Giovanny Gallegos: I have immense respect for this durable righty reliever, but the hard innings and heavy usage have caught up to him. His ERA went from 3.05 last season to 4.25 this year. His home-run rate has increased in an alarming way. And after carving for a 31 percent strikeout rate last season, his strikeout rate has dropped to 24% this year. And the 45.5 percent hard-hit rate is a massive increase from 2022.


Paul DeJong. Yeah, he strikes out too much. But absolutely nothing was expected from DeJong in 2023, and he’s given the Cardinals a boost with 12 home runs, a .434 slugging percentage, plus defense at shortstop and an overlooked performance with runners in scoring position. In 49 at-bats with RISP this season DeJong is batting .286 with a .333 OBP, .612 slug, .945 OPS, four doubles, four homers and 20 RBI. DeJong has 1.4 WAR for his all-around play which puts him 17th among MLB shortstops. DeJong’s defensive presence at shortstop enabled Marmol to use Tommy Edman as a defensive upgrade in center field.


Miles Mikolas: I’m sure many of you will disagree, but hear me out on this. The Cardinals gave Mikolas a generous two-year, $40 million contract extension earlier this year, and he was expected to step up as the rotation leader-in-waiting to Adam Wainwright. And while Mikolas supplies a good amount of innings – there’s obvious value in that – the inconsistency brings him down. Mikolas had a 5.97 ERA in the first month, improved for a 1.89 ERA in May, but relapsed for a 5.02 ERA in his seven starts since the beginning of June. He should be better than that.


That would be tonight’s 2023 All-Star game that features former Cardinal prospects Arozarena, Adolis Garcia and starting pitcher Zac Gallen. All three are starting in the midsummer classic. And then there’s NL starting catcher, the phenomenal Sean Murphy; the Cardinals could have acquired him a trade with Oakland but passed. And don’t forget about White Sox strong man Luis Robert Jr.; the Cardinals finished second in the bidding when Robert became available in the international talent pool. Another miss.

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.