After splitting Tuesday’s doubleheader in Detroit, the Cardinals closed their first month of the season with a 14-16 record and .467 winning percentage through 30 games. That isn’t a horrendous start, but it’s not what they wanted. And if history means anything this 14-16 will make it more difficult for St. Louis to get to the postseason. But can it be done? Absolutely.

Big picture:

* This 14-16 beginning is tied for the fourth worst among the first 28 seasons of the Bill DeWitt Jr. ownership era that began in 1996.

* The 2023 Cardinals were 10-20 (.333) through 30 games and finished 71-91.

* The 2007 Cardinals were 12-18 (.400) and ended up 78-84.

* The 1997 team was 13-17 (.433) and had a final mark of 73-89.

* However: the 1996 and 2002 Cardinals were also 14-16 in their first 30 and proceeded to make the playoffs.

* In Tony La Russa’s first season as manager here, the 1996 Cardinals opened 14-16 but overcame it to go 88-74, win the division and advance to the NLCS. The ‘96 Redbirds had a 74-58 record (.560) over their final 132 regular-season games. TLR’s first team defeated the Padres in the NLDS and lost to the Braves in a seven-game NLCS.

* The 2002 Cardinals went 83-49 (.628) after starting out 14-16. That admirable team had to overcome something much more severe and devastating than a mere losing record. On June 22 rotation ace Darryl Kile, died of a heart failure at age 33. From that point until the end of the regular season, the 2022 Cardinals were 57-34 for a .626 winning percentage in a tremendous display of character.

The 57 victories in wake of the tragedy had meaningful symbolic significance for La Russa and the players. Kile’s uniform number was 57.

That season the Cardinals rotation had to cope with injuries to Woody Williams, Andy Benes, Bud Smith and Garrett Stephenson. They made it through the season by using 14 different starting pitchers, won the division, knocked off the defending-champion Diamondbacks in the NLDS and pushed their way into 2002 NLCS before losing to the Giants.

A 14-16 start is far from ideal, but it doesn’t prevent the 2024 Cardinals from rebounding to win the NL Central or a wild-card playoff spot.

Here’s another note to support that:

During the wild-card era, which began in 1995, a total of 31 MLB teams have qualified for the postseason despite starting out with a 14-16 record or worse. That list includes eight league pennant winners and three that went on to win the World Series: 2009 Yankees, 2019 Nationals, and 2021 Braves.

And since 1995, five of the 31 teams that overcame a pokey start to make the postseason had records worse than 14-16. The 2005 Astros were 11-19. And the 2007 Rockies, 2018 Dodgers, 2019 Nationals and 2022 Phillies each went 13-17 in the first 30 games.

That’s all swell … but unless the 2024 Cardinals can start hitting four-seam fastballs and increase their runs-scored production — forget about making the playoffs.

The Cardinals have scored three or fewer runs in 18 games, tied for the most by a National League team. And they’re 5-13 when held to three or less runs. That trend can’t continue.

With a 12 p.m. start for Wednesday’s Cardinals-Tigers game, let’s move this along. The Cardinals had an exciting ninth-inning rally to beat the Tigers 2-1 in the first game Tuesday, then got thumped 11-6 in the second game. Here’s my Good Stuff and Bad Stuff …


* Rallying Redbirds: The 2-1 victory was the seventh comeback win by the Cardinals this season. That’s good. After a futile day at the plate I didn’t anticipate a dramatic rally in a two-run ninth but the Cardinals came through. This season seven of their 14 wins (50%) were staged in comebacks. Last season comebacks represented 39% of the team’s victory total.

* Kyle Gibson is a good starting pitcher: He was exceptional in the opener, keeping the Cardinals close and in position for a comeback win by allowing just one run in seven innings. In his last three starts Gibson has given up only three runs in 19 innings (1.42 ERA) with a strikeout rate of 23.6 percent.

* K. Gibson II: The righthander has gone at least six innings in all six starts this season. Only one other starter, Toronto’s Jose Berrios, has gone 6+ innings six times. Gibson has allowed no more than two runs in four of his six starts. He got roughed up by Miami on April 7 but has a 2.53 ERA in his other five starts, and his ERA for the season is down to 3.79. Gibson is tied for ninth in the majors with four quality starts and ranks 11th in most innings pitched.

* The impact of Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Gibson: I like that the three new starters added by the front office last season have collectively pitched to a 3.04 ERA so far this season. I like that the Cardinals are 10-6 in games started by Gray-Gibson-Lynn. (But only 4-10 in games started by other Cardinals … which I don’t like.) These free-agent signings prevented the Cardinals from having a frighteningly poor record in the first month of the season. If the team is 4-10 in games started by Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz and Zack Thompson, then what the heck would their record be without Gray, Lynn and Gibson?

* Alec Burleson’s burly ball: He had a heckuva day against the Tigers, going 3 for 9 with a three-run homer and five RBIs. In the first game his RBI single tied the game 1-1 in the ninth. In the second game the big fella banged a three-run homer in the fifth to give the Cardinals a temporary 5-4 lead. On the current road trip Burleson is 5 for 15 (.333) with a pair of three-run homers and eight RBIs. He’s batting .368 with a 1.139 OPS in his last eight games.

* Burleson II: His power is coming on. Through Tuesday, Burleson has an average exit velocity of 92 mph, which puts him in the top 13 percent of MLB hitters. His hard-hit rate (49.1%) ranks among the top 15 percent. Based on the quality of his contact, Burleson has an expected batting average of .313 and an expected slugging percentage of .509. This is what the Cardinals have been hoping for. Burleson doesn’t chase many pitches, and he has excellent bat-to-ball skills. But he needed to convert those positives into a display of increased power.

* Paul Goldschmidt is improving: There are good signs from Goldy over his last 10 games, and that is an encouraging development for a Cardinals team that is famished offensively. His performance in 39 at-bats during the 10 games is highlighted by a .359 average, .419 onbase percentage, and .513 slug. Goldy’s 14 hits over this time include three doubles and a homer. He went 5 for 9 in the doubleheader including a four-hit fusillade in the second game.

* Oli Marmol’s lineup change: In 20 games as the No. 2 hitter in the lineup, Goldschmidt batted .173 with a .279 onbase percentage and .213 slug with one extra-base hit in 88 plate appearances. Since Marmol moved Goldschmidt to the No. 5 spot, the first baseman was 11 for 24 through Tuesday (.458) with a .500 OBP, .667 slug and three extra-base hits. It’s a teeny sample size, but so far the switch to the fifth slot is working. Per wRC+, Goldy was 51 percent below league average offensively as a No. 2 hitter. As the 5 hitter, he’s 123 percent above the league average offensively. Let’s see if he can keep rolling after changing his address on the lineup card.

* Ryan Helsley’s hellfire efficiency: He swiftly terminated the Tigers with a 10-pitch ninth inning to secure the save in game one. Helsley’s 10 saves tie him for the most in the majors with San Diego’s Robert Suarez. Helsley has saved 10 wins in 11 opportunities for a 91 percent save rate. The St. Louis bullpen leads the National League and is third in the majors with a save rate of 85%. Helsley struck out two Tigers in sealing the win and has a 30.7 percent strikeout rate on the season. That’s down from last year’s 35.6%, but don’t be concerned.

Helsley has a 48.8 percent ground-ball rate that would be the best of his career, and the increased number of grounders make him more efficient. And that’s a plus, because Helsley is averaging 13.5 pitches per relief appearance this season, down from his average of 18 pitches per outing in 2023. Helsley has used 13 or fewer pitches in 10 of his 16 appearances this season. That includes throwing 10 or fewer pitchers in six appearances. Helsley’s 10-save total is notable. He had only 14 saves in 2023 because of a lengthy injury absence that limited his opportunities. His 2024 efficiency should help protect him from arm trouble.

Other stuff on the list of likes: In only his fourth plate appearances in the big leagues, rookie catcher Pedro Pages got down 0-1 in the count before launching a deep drive to dead center for the game-winning sacrifice fly … I like the way lefty reliever Matthew Liberatore responded to Sunday’s walk-off loss to the Mets by pitching a scoreless eighth inning (striking out two) to keep the deficit at 1-0 and give the Cardinals a shot of coming back. Libby has a 2.93 ERA in 11 relief appearances this season.


* More Steven Matz drama: Enough already. This time, the lethargic lefty felt some back soreness while jogging, and went into Tuesday’s game-two start at less than 100 percent because of a stiff back. The result was predictable: 3 and ⅓ innings, seven hits, three walks, a homer, and four earned runs to put the Cardinals in an ealy 4-0 hole. After the inspiring 2-1 win in the first game, Matz went out there and deflated everything. The Cardinals rallied to take a 5-4 lead but had to use a couple of their lesser relievers to cover the middle innings left vacant by Matz. And that ended badly. Matz has a 6.18 ERA in six starts this season. In his last three starts he’s been busted for an 11.37 ERA. And before that, on April 12, he fell apart after making an error. He gave up four runs overall, but three were unearned because of his own error. Matz lost all of his poise and was removed after notching just 14 outs. At least the Cardinals survived the Matz collapse to win that game 9-6.

Can Matz recover in time to make his next scheduled start? Or maybe this should be the question: why would the Cardinals WANT him to make his next start while weakened by yet another injury? Sem Robberse, please. The prospect obtained from Toronto last summer in the trade for Jordan Hicks has a 1.82 ERA in his five starts at Triple A Memphis. But the Cardinals can turn to Zack Thompson. This is the third season of a four-year deal that’s paying Matz a total of $44 million.

* The struggles of Nolan Gorman: After defeating Arizona on a walk-off homer on April 22, Gorman had slugged .333 in his last seven games through Tuesday. Before Wednesday, he was batting .196 with a .261 OBP and .363 slug. His home-run rate – 5.8 percent last season is 3.6% now. His slugging percentage is down 115 points from last year’s .478. And through Tuesday Gorman had the highest strikeout rate (34.2%) of his big-league career.

* Rough doubleheader for WC: In the two games against the Tigers, Willson Contreras went 0 for 9 with six strikeouts.

* Brandon Crawford: He had two at-bats game two before Masyn Winn pinch hit in the sixth. Crawford was 0 for 2 and is now 2 for 19 (.105) this season.

* The Cardinals: overpowered by fastballs. This season St. Louis ranks last among National League teams in batting average (.203) and slugging percentage (.305) against four-seam fastballs. The list of guys who struggle the most against four-seamers include Gorman (.161 average), Walker (.181), Willson Contreras (.182), Ivan Herrera (.182), Nolan Arenado (.212) and Brendan Donovan (.222.) Gorman is slugging only .290 against four seamers this season. Arenado is even lower with a .272 slug against the pitch. If a team is weak against four-seam fastballs, well, that’s a real problem.

* The Decline of Giovanny Gallegos: I’ve admired this reliever since the Cardinals acquired him from the Yankees in 2018 and gave him a full opportunity in 2019. He was an exceptional reliever through the 2022 season, but a heavy workload is a likely factor in his reduced effectiveness.

From 2019 through 2022, Gallegos logged the fourth-highest innings total (228.1) among MLB relievers. He was very good, posting a 1.84 ERA and 32 percent strikeout rate and limiting opponents to an average of 0.9 home runs per nine innings.

But since the start of 2023, Gallegos has a 5.06 ERA in 68 appearances, with a noticeable decrease in strikeout rate (26%) and a large increase in hard-hit rate (47%.) The other glaring weakness is Gio’s vulnerability in allowing homers; opponents have smashed an average of 2.1 HRs per nine innings over the last two seasons.

Gallegos was defenseless in Tuesday’s second game in Detroit. He faced four batters without getting an out. The Tigers got to him for two hits (including a HR) and two walks. The four-run bombardment of Gallegos put the Cardinals in a five-run deficit. Ballgame.

Gallegos has a 9.00 ERA this season. He still gets a high rate of swings and misses on his slider, and his overall strikeout rate (29%) is up some from last season.

Here are the disturbing and unmistakable signs of trouble in 2024:

Opponents have barreled 20 percent of his pitches. Until this year, his barrel rate had never been higher than 10 percent in a season.

The Gallegos walk rate is jacked up to a horrible 15.6 percent. Before this season, Gallegos had a career walk rate of 6.3%.

His home-run rate has soared to a preposterous 4.0 per nine innings. From 2019 through 2022, only 2.5 percent of batters faced by Gallegos punched him for a home run. This season 9 percent of batters have rocketed a home run off Gallegos. Goodness.

In 2021, Gallegos averaged 94.4 miles per hour on his four-seam fastball. It’s down to 92 mph this season. In both 2019 and 2021, his four-seam fastball had a positive Run Value of plus 15. It was one of the best pitches in MLB. This year the Run Value on his four seamer is minus 5. That’s a massive decline. And there are consequences. This season Gallegos has been hammered for a .357 average and 1.071 slugging percentage on his four seam. Three of the four home runs against him have come on the four-seam. His swing-whiff rate on the pitch is a poor 7.1 percent. His strikeout rate on the pitch is down to 21 percent after being around 28% from 2019 through 2022.

Since 2021, the speed of his slider has decreased by two percent, down to an average of 83.6 mph. His slider has a negative Run Value (minus 1) this season. That’s down from plus 15 in 2019, a plus 11 in 2021, and a plus 11 in 2022. But the Gallegos slider is a much better pitch than the Gallegos fastball. This season opponents have a .250 average and .458 slug on the slider. But the swing-whiff rate (43%) and strikeout rate (34.6%) on the slider are impressive. He just has a hard time landing his pitches for strikes. His 35.4 percent strike rate is a career low. Before this season his career strike rate was around 44 percent.

I thought that Gallegos was coming along, and would be fine. But I appear to be wrong about that. He’s free falling, and that began last year. His ineffectiveness leaves the Cardinals short of formidable options in high-leverage situations. Perhaps Keynan Middleton can fill the void when he returns from a forearm strain – but he’s not close to being ready.

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.

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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.