For the Cardinals, three encouraging trends are evident in Camp Jupiter 2024. I think they’re positive developments. This doesn’t mean I’m predicting the Cardinals will win 90+ games this season and romp to a National League pennant.

That isn’t my point. But after a bummer of a season in 2023 – the Cardinals were ranked 26th in the majors with a .438 winning percentage – changes were mandatory. We’ll see how it goes in 2024. But a team can’t fix things unless it’s committed to real change.

On Tuesday one fan told me this: the Cardinals will be the same “unwatchable” team in 2024 as they were in ‘23. That’s an interesting viewpoint. At least a percentage of the fan base has somehow concluded this is the same team coming back for a repeat of last season’s miserable failure. To quote Marvin Gaye: Ain’t that peculiar.

That’s why I disagree with the same-old-Cardinals nonsense.

Three reasons:

1. The roster remix is pretty dramatic. The 2024 Cardinals will have many familiar names. (Well, as long as you can actually see the names on the grotesque, newly designed uniforms that are trash.) Those names include Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker, Miles Mikolas, Willson Contreras, Tommy Edman, Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, Ryan Helsley Helsley, and Giovanny Gallegos. Yeah, the Cardinals are keeping some of the same players around. How crazy of them (not.)

Evidence of change:

* In 2023, the Cardinals had 21 hitters make at least 30 plate appearances, and seven are no longer on the 40-man roster.

* Last season the Cards had 20 pitchers work at least 27 innings, and 11 are gone from the 40-man roster.

* To put that another way: 44 percent of the talent utilized most often by St. Louis in 2023 are no longer Cardinals.

* In their 2024 spring-training camp the Cardinals have 17 pitchers-players on the 40-man roster who weren’t members of the organization before last summer’s Aug. 1 trading deadline. That means 42.5 percent of the current 40-man roster is new.

* Eight of the Cardinals’ Top 30 prospects (per MLB Pipeline) were acquired at the 2023 trade deadline. That list includes four that are ranked among their top 14: pitchers Tekoah Roby and Sem Robberse plus infielders Thomas Saggese and Cesar Prieto.

* Sixty percent of the starting-pitching rotation is new for ‘24. Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn have joined innings-chewer Miles Mikolas. Last season those four pitchers combined for 61 quality starts. That total can grow. Down the stretch in 2023, a healthy Steven Matz contributed five quality starts in his final seven outings, and the Cardinals went 6-1 in those games.

Why does this matter? The poor 2023 Cardinals combined for only 48 quality starts. And for as sorrowful as the Cardinals were last season, they went 33-15 when their pitcher supplied a quality start. And now the 2024 Cardinals have more guys capable of stacking the solid starts that make such a huge difference between winning and losing. Moreover, the top four STL starters in this year’s rotation averaged 190 innings in 2023. So the 2024 Cardinals already are ahead of the game. And what if Matz has an effective season?

2. Manager Oli Marmol seems serious about improving the team’s defense. That matters. If he follows through on this, it’s actually a pretty big deal. In 2023 the Cardinals defense converted only 67 percent of balls in play into outs. (That was their worst performance in defensive efficiency since 1930. Yes. I said 1930.) The 2023 defense didn’t make enough plays. Period. And the shift limitations had little to do with the lousy showing on defense.

Last season Cardinals pitchers yielded a .320 batting average on balls in play. FYI, that was the highest BIP average against a Cardinal pitching staff in a season in FRANCHISE HISTORY. (Since 1900.) That covers 124 seasons.

The 2023 Cardinals starting pitchers had a 5.08 ERA – the worst by the team over those 124 seasons. Their fielding independent ERA was lower at 4.83. What’s the significance? For STL starting pitchers, the gap between their standard ERA and the fielding-adjusted ERA was the largest in the majors last year. The pitching was ugly, and a terribly porous defense made it even worse.

Marmol and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak are speaking the proper language this spring. And they’re backing it up so far. If they stick to what they’re saying and doing early, the Cardinals won’t be so hyperactive about hopscotching players all around the diamond at different positions. This was a problem in 2023.

The signing of shortstop Brandon Crawford was part of the revised thinking. On Tuesday Marmol and Mozeliak have each stressed the importance of keeping Tommy Edman in center field instead of shuttling him between center and shortstop. The Cardinals coveted Crawford – a winner of four Gold Gloves – to support starting rookie shortstop Masyn Winn in a reserve role. And Crawford is the designated No. 2 shortstop for 2024.

“When we talk about our defense being steady, part of it is them playing in the same spots more often than they have,” Marmol said. Using Edman in CF and short “isn’t optimal,” according to Oli.

“One of the things we are trying to do is not move Tommy all around,” Mozeliak added. “Having the ability to bring in someone like Brandon can allow (Edman) to just focus on center field.”

This is an important step. But the Cardinals still have to reestablish lasting credibility in this area. And the only way to do so is to remain dedicated to defense over a 162-game season. It won’t happen every day — but the emphasis on defense must be visible much of the time.

Good team defense was an immense part of the STL success in run prevention. According to Fielding Bible, from 2019 through 2022 St. Louis led the majors with 228 defensive runs saved. They had a 3.87 team ERA over that time – sixth overall and second in the NL – and made the playoffs every season.

Other notes on the defense initiative …

In an effort to make him a much better right fielder, the Cardinals provided young Jordan Walker with extensive, dedicated instruction from coach Willie McGee and minor-league coordinator Jose Oquendo.

MLB sophomore Nolan Gorman was a more capable second baseman last season and should be even better in 2024. Brendan Donovan will also be playing second base, and he’s solid.

Among other duties, special assistant Yadier Molina will be working with Willson Contreras to improve pitch-framing skills. And Molina will make an impact on rookie catcher Ivan Herrera.

With Crawford in place the move likely means a return to the minors for clumsy corner outfielder Alec Burleson. He’ll have to work harder on his defense. And that’s how it should be on a team that’s striving for more steadiness defensively.

How much will Matt Carpenter play in the field? This seems to scare a lot of folks. And he can’t DH all of the time. But after checking the numbers, I suggest we try to relax a bit here. Since the start of the 2016 season, Carpenter hasn’t damaged his team defensively unless he played second base. Over the last eight seasons Carpenter has logged 2,119 innings at first base and 2,259 innings at third base. And according to the Fielding Bible he’s +10 in defensive runs saved at third base over that time – and a +2 at first base. He’s been about average at both spots over the past three seasons.

The reaffirmed commitment to Winn is another reassuring sign of a team that wants a better defense. He’ll be a superb defender at shortstop once he settles in. And though Winn will need time to develop offensively, the Cardinals will live with that because they value his defense. As they should. The front office hired an ideal mentor for Winn by signing Crawford.

3. The vigorous roster churn should create stronger leadership and an enhanced environment. By my count the Cardinals have brought in five guys with established leadership credentials: Carpenter, Crawford, Gray, Gibson and Lynn. The holdover leader types – Goldschmidt, Arenado, Contreras and Mikolas – will benefit from having so many new teammates willing to do their part to help fill the leadership void. Leadership shouldn’t be about just two or three guys; the buy-in must be more comprehensive and involve more players.

The Cardinals clubhouse needed a renovation – and I’m talking about the people, not the facilities or furniture. In their 93-win season in 2022 the leadership group was led by Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. All three will be Cardinals Hall of Famers. Pujols and Molina will be enshrined in Cooperstown. All are retired now.

That’s life. Athletes age and retire and move on to the next phase. Still, losing all three franchise legends over a two-year period is a tremendous blow to the St. Louis team culture. But the front office is doing something about that.

Here’s an update on something I wrote about on Tuesday.

Let’s zero in on the nine players I just cited here: Goldschmidt, Arenado, Contreras, Carpenter, Crawford, Lynn, Gray, Gibson and Mikolas.

* The nine have appeared in 42 combined postseasons

* The nine have combined to compete in 202 postseason games.

* The nine resumes are packed with a combination of division titles, playoff berths, pennant winners and World Series titles.

* The four pitchers in this group have received Cy Young votes in seven different seasons.

* The list of nine have a total of 34 selections to the All-Star team.

* And 18 Gold Gloves.

* And 12 Silver Slugger awards.

Why is this important? Let’s remove those nine distinguished players from the logbook and look at the rest of the team that will do most of the playing and pitching in 2024.

There isn’t much along the lines of postseason experience or individual accolades.

Pitchers: Steven Matz, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, Andre Pallante and Andrew Kittredge have competed in a combined 25 postseason games – and 18 of the 25 were made by Helsley-Gallegos. In 2022 Helsley was selected to the NL All-Star team and received one down-ballot Cy Young vote. That’s it.

Position players: Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson, Brendan Donovan, Lars Nootbaar and Nolan Gorman have competed in only 26 postseason games. And 21 of the 26 postseason appearances belong to Edman (15) and Carlson (6.) On the award side, Edman and Donovan have one Gold Glove apiece. That’s it.


After so many changes, the composition of this Cardinal team is a helluva lot more different than people assume … or are even willing to acknowledge.

At some point some of us will realize that 2023 is over. Done. History. Into the garbage heap. Gone.

If nothing else at this pivot in time, the 2024 Cardinals deserve to be viewed through a different lens. They’ve brought in reinforcements. They’re working hard on defense. They’ve been given an opportunity for a fresh start.

Call me wacko, but here’s a radical idea: why don’t we wait and see what the 2024 Cardinals can do instead of burying them in February? And if you’re already fretting over the potential of a slow start — SEASON IS OVER!!!  — just go to Baseball Reference and have a glance at the early game log of the 1985 Cardinals.

Before the ’85 season Sports Illustrated rated the Cardinals 15th among the 26 MLB teams (at the time) in its annual preview issue.

SI quoted a scout who backed that assessment.

“The Cardinals have nothing but ifs,” the anonymous scout said. “And when you have to use the word ‘if’ too often, you’ve got problems.”

Or maybe you win 101 games, the NL pennant, and get to Game 7 of the World Series.

That’s why they play 162 games, my friends.

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. on Friday. Stream it live or grab 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. We’ll be recording a fresh podcast on Monday, March 4.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Fielding Bible, and Sports Info Solutions 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.