There’s an old but true statement that applies to all teams in all sports: Your best players have to be your best players. And this adage certainly applies to the 2023 Cardinals.

If their best players fail to come through, then how can the Redbirds play consistent, winning baseball? The best hitters are expected to lead the way with their production and timely hitting under pressure when the team is desperate for a huge hit. The best starting pitchers must work deeper into games and be strong and unyielding when they have two strikes on an opposing hitter. Your best relievers can’t spit up save opportunities and let victories slip away.

Today I’ll focus on the offense.

The Cardinals (27-39) have lost 12 of 18 games since going 11-3 in what could have been a turning-point stretch of the season.

And one of the most glaring problems in the Redbirds latest relapse into losing centers around four hitters that take most of the at-bats in the middle of the lineup.

Consider this, and I assure you I triple-checked the numbers.

During this 6-12 downturn that’s pushed the Cardinals deeper into irrelevancy,  here’s how Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Willson Contreras and Nolan Gorman have performed with runners in scoring position:

+ Goldy, 0 for 9 with three strikeouts.

+ Arenado, 1 for 11 with three strikeouts.

+ Contreras: 0 for 10 with six strikeouts.

+ Gorman: 2 for 15 with seven strikeouts.

If you add that up, it’s rather stunning.

Goldschmidt, Arenado, Contreras and Gorman are collectively 3 for 45 with runners in scoring position over the last 18 games. That’s an .066 batting average. They’ve combined for only two extra-base hits (both doubles.) And to top it all off, the foursome collectively has a 36 percent strikeout rate with runners in scoring position in the team’s last 18.

When your 2-3-4-5 hitters are that futile after being set up for RBI opportunities and can’t cash in, your offense is doomed.

We can pick on other hitters. After doing great for a while, Paul DeJong is in a deep slump that raises questions about his place in the starting lineup. That said, among regulars, he has the team’s second best batting average with runners in scoring position over the last 18 games. Pauly is 4 for 17 (.235.) Brendan Donovan is hitting .400 with RISP over this stinker of a stretch.

The Cardinals went 2 for 22 with runners in scoring position over the weekend. And the failure in RISP situations has been ruinous over the last 18 games.

They’ve batted .164 with runners in scoring position, with a .236 onbase percentage and .270 slug for a .506 OPS. And their strikeout rate during this time was 26 percent.

The St. Louis offense continues to slide into the tank. In their last 16 games they’ve scored three or fewer runs 12 times. MLB teams are averaging 4.64 runs per game this season, and I checked to see how many times the Cardinals have scored four runs or fewer – below average – in the last 16 games. The answer: 14 times. In 16 games.

The starting pitching has improved as of late, posting a 3.03 ERA in 15 games since May 25. But that hasn’t made much difference because the Cardinals batted .206 and averaged only 2.9 runs during over those 15 games. And that’s the No. 1 reason why they managed to win only 5 of the 15.

During the 6-12 collapse the Cardinals are hitting .215 with a .676 OPS and rank 26th in the majors in both categories.

This can’t go on. Slumps are inevitable, but the Cardinals have too many quality hitters to fall apart like this.

I hate to say it, but this reminds me of the way Cardinal hitters have succumbed to pressure and collapsed in their postseason performance going back to the 2019 NLCS.

Too many key dudes are trying to reemerge from substantial hitting funks:

In his last 16 games DeJong is batting .125 with a .353 OPS. He hasn’t homered, has one RBI and has a 27.4% strikeout rate.

Since May 19, Contreras is 5 for 60 (.083) with a .182 slug and .362 OPS.

Gorman is 6 for 47 (.128) with a .255 slug and .415 OPS since May 27. Worst of all, his strikeout rate over that time is 40 percent.

Paul Goldschmidt has a .298 onbase percentage, .302 slug, .600 OPS and only two RBI in his last 11 games.

Tommy Edman is hitting .123 with a .194 onbase percentage since May 24.

The problems aren’t limited to offense. Third baseman Nolan Arenado, who has won 10 Gold Gloves in his 10 MLB seasons, is a subpar minus 2 in defensive runs saved this year.

And I do believe that Goldschmidt, Arenado and Contreras will heat up. Gorman’s strikeout plague is back, and that’s a concern. They’ll need more from Edman, and when he returns from the IL, Lars Nootbaar. Dylan Carlson is capable of providing a boost, and the Cardinals need a boost.

On the season the Cardinals have scored three runs or fewer in a game 31 times – more than all but nine other teams. Their record in those games is 7-24.

They’ve scored four or fewer runs in a game 42 times, tied for fifth-most in the majors. And when it happens the Cardinals are 9-33.

These little droughts explain a lot. We can see the impact on their overall record.

As we try to figure out why the Cardinals are so terrible to this point in 2023, we can point to several things: a shaky starting rotation (until recently); a bullpen that has blown 13 saves and ranks 25th in save percentage; an undependable defense; shoddy baserunning; and questionable decisions by manager Oli Marmol.

But we can’t overlook the most recent trend. In winning only six of their last 18 games, the team’s best players haven’t come through. When your best hitters look more like your worst hitters, your team will sputter and suffer.

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

Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.