With a chance to win the series in Detroit the Cardinals scored one run and lost the third and final game. The failure was ridiculous and familiar. This team has played the same type of deflating game many times over this season, and the pattern is monotonous and demoralizing.

The Cardinals flew home with a 14-17 record. Perhaps they left all of their bats behind in Detroit, and that would probably be a good thing.

When I look at the NL Central standings, I see the Brewers on top with a 19-11 record. I see the 14-17 Cardinals a half-game ahead of the last-place Pirates.

Why are the Cardinals looking up to the Brewers again? Understand that I’m talking about the competition on the field. This isn’t a conversation about the front offices and personnel decisions and assessing an organization’s collective intelligence.

That’s an entirely separate issue, one I’ve barked about repeatedly over the last several years. Recently I did a comparison of the Brewers and Cardinals and how Milwaukee has won more games than St. Louis since 2017 despite STL having a substantial advantage in payroll spending.

Right now MLB teams are playing with the rosters they have, and I’m focusing on performance during the first regular-season month or so.

I compared the Brewers and Cardinals in the areas that matter.

The Cardinals have more WAR than the Brewers in both starting pitching and bullpen. Both teams are allowing about 4.4 runs per game, with Milwaukee a smidge better than St. Louis. The Cardinals have a slight edge over the Crew in defensive runs saved. The run prevention for both teams is a virtual draw. The Cardinals have more quality starts than the Brewers. The Cards lead the NL with an 85 percent save percentage and the Brewers are sixth at 71%.

So how is it that the Brewers lead the Cardinals by 5 and ½ games on May 2?

It’s the offense.

All about the offense.

Just the offense.

In the batter’s box – and what comes out of it – Milwaukee has a huge edge over St. Louis in every important category.

The Brewers are third in the NL in runs per game (5.23) and tied for second in home runs (38) The Cardinals are last in the NL in runs per game (3.52) and homers (21.)

* Batting average: Milwaukee, 38 points higher.

* Batting average with runners in scoring position: Milwaukee, 95 points higher.

* Onbase percentage: 38 percent higher.

* Slugging percentage: 38 points higher.

* Stolen bases: Milwaukee, 40 to 12.

* Extra base hits: Milwaukee by 20.

I try to focus on what’s truly wrong with the Redbirds — and obviously it’s the offense. Other criticisms flung at this team are mostly misdirected, wildly off target and gratuitous

I do not push back on any criticism of the front office. I do push back on payroll size, simply because the Cardinals are spending enough money to be successful. They were ranked 11th in the majors in payroll when winning the World Series in 2006 and 2011. And they are ranked 11th in payroll now. Their real problem is clogging the payroll by spending so foolishly.

The Cardinals can’t climb above .500 because of an offense that pulls the entire team down into the muck.

The Brewers blow the Cardinals away in the battle of offenses, and that’s the determining factor in where each team sits in the standings.

The Cardinals are caught up in the worst possible vortex a team could endure on offense: they do not get on base enough, they do not hit for power, and they are abysmal at getting their runners home.

The Cardinals are failing at the most three important phases of an offense, and it’s killing them. So don’t waste your oxygen on nitpicking a manager’s random bullpen decision or other matters that are far less consequential than the damage being caused by this putrefied offense.

Understatement: much went wrong for the St. Louis offense over the first 31 games.

1. The Cardinals have the fewest home runs (21) in the majors. The other 29 teams have averaged 32 home runs. The 10 highest scoring teams in the majors are averaging 34 home runs. The 2024 Cardinals are averaging the fewest home runs per game of any STL team since the Bill DeWitt ownership took over in 1996.

2. The team’s piddling power has produced the lowest number of runs (34) scored in the majors via the home run.

3. When the Cardinals do pop a home run, few deliver significant impact. Only six HRs have come with runners in scoring position. Eight homers have given them the lead and only three NL teams have fewer go-ahead homers. Two homers have tied the game; eight NL teams have done that more often.

4. Three-run homers are a bonanza for any offense. Through Wednesday, MLB teams had combined for 111 three-run homers … and the Cardinals have just three of the 111.

5. Keep your eye on the ball. When I write about the Cardinals’ home-run shortage, the most common response I receive from readers here or on social media goes along the lines of “they’re putting too much emphasis on home runs. There are other ways to score.”

I agree. There are other ways to create runs without the benefit of a home run. But two problems: (a) in this era of baseball you can’t have a robust offense without a steady dose of booster shots from home runs, and (b) the Cardinals are terrible at scoring runs without going deep.

Among the 15 National League teams, the Cardinals are 14th in batting average (.220), 13th in onbase percentage (.300) and slugging (.338) and last in batting average (.202) with runners in scoring position.

6. That ruinous combination of factors will doom any offense. This season only 27 percent of St. Louis baserunners have scored; that ranks 14th in the NL; only the Pirates (26%) are worse.

Here’s part of the problem: more than half (11) of the STL’s 21 home runs are solo shots. That means only 23 teammates have been knocked in on homers if we exclude the 11 RBIs of the home-run hitters driving in themselves on solos.

7. Taking the long ball out of it, the Cardinals have scored only 66 runs this season on batted balls in play. (Home runs aren’t in play.) Pathetic.

8. The small-ball stuff helps, but let’s not get carried away. As effective as the Cardinals have been about advancing extra bases, moving runners over, making productive outs and manufacturing some runs on “small ball” tactics, it just doesn’t matter much. I respect how the Cardinals are capable of using small-ball tools in tight games or to try and get something started, but that will only carry them so far. Extensive power outages during the 162-game season will strip away the muscle and leave the team in feeble condition.

That’s the reality, even for those who want to minimize the importance of home runs. The four lowest scoring teams in the National League – Colorado, Pittsburgh, Miami, St. Louis – also have the four lowest home-run totals. This isn’t a coincidence.

9. No, the Cardinals cannot play a “Whiteyball” style of offense.  I hear that a lot — play some Whiteyball! It’s a wonderful, nostalgia-based sentiment that connects us to a unique time in franchise history. But Whiteyball isn’t a solution in 2024. It isn’t feasible. The Cardinals generally run the bases well but lack the scintillating team speed that personified the thrilling Whitey Herzog teams.

According to Statcast, the 2024 Cardinals rank 21st in the majors in team sprint speed. Via Statcast, St. Louis is last in the NL and 29th overall in “competitive runs” based on speed. They’re ineffective at swiping bags, ranking 28th in the majors in both steals (12) and stolen-base success rate (67%). This is not a track team. This is not a Whiteyball team.

10. It’s a home-run sport. Homers are the most influential component. The Cardinals are a perfect example. Since the start of the 2021 season the Cardinals have a .743 winning percentage when hitting two or more homers in a game. When hitting less than two homers in a game their winning percentage is .395.

This team has the pitching and defense to make a serious run at a playoff spot. But the Cardinals have scored three runs or less in 19 of their 31 games for the most flat tires of any National League team. In the majors only the White Sox, with 20, have scored three or fewer runs more often.

The 2024 Cardinals fail to score more than three runs in a game, they’re 5-14. When the Redbirds score four or more runs, they’re 9-3.

From here on out, the team objective is as plain as it can be: score more runs. Get four or more runs in a game and do it consistently. If that doesn’t happen, this team and the season will wither away.

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.

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.

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.