The Cardinals actually led Baltimore 4-2 on Monday night but got outscored 7-1 the rest of the way. The Orioles, who have MLB’s second-best record, turned the competition into a blowout, defeating the overmatched visitors 11-5.

This was no surprise. Not for a team that’s been flogged for 10 or more runs by an opponent this season. With the latest defeat that looked similar to so many others this season, the Cardinals thudded to a 63-81 record (.438) with 18 games remaining on their schedule.

This wretched team obviously requires significant roster renovations before 2024. But I wanted to raise another question here today. Can the Cardinals do any worse than this in ‘24? I don’t think so. I’m assuming that ownership and the front office will make a more vigorous effort to turn the damn thing around. The offseason list of things to do is headed by upgrades at starting pitching and a reinforced bullpen. And you can fill in the rest. Everybody has opinions on what the Cardinals should do in the renovation project.

Here’s a reason why I think their performance will normalize in 2024. Don’t ask me to say how many games they’ll win; I can’t even begin to think about that until we see what chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak come up with before the Cardinals open their 2024 spring-training camp.

But I think the Cardinals will be better because I simply cannot believe that they can fail and fall this hard for a second consecutive season. I’m assuming that at least some improvements will be made over the winter, and this should help reduce their amount of flaws. There really is something to be said for THEY CAN’T BE ANY WORSE in 2024.

Let’s itemize this, shall we?

1. The starting rotation can’t be this awful again. I’m not saying it will be great, but the suckage won’t be anything close to the extreme collapse we’ve witnessed in 2023. The Cardinals’ current starting-pitching ERA (5.01) would rank 27th among the 28 seasons that DeWitt has owned the franchise. That’s also true of their current quality-start percentage (31%), adjusted ERA. And the 2023 group of starters has the worst Win Probability Added in a season since DeWitt took over in 1996. The STL starters are 29th among 30 MLB teams in strikeout rate and swing-miss rate this season. That must change. The St. Louis starting pitching won’t perform this poorly in 2024.

2. The bullpen is a huge problem in 2023, and that won’t stand – not unless ownership and the front office want to put another embarrassment on the field in 2024. St. Louis relievers currently rank last – 28th – in Win Probability Added among the DeWitt Era bullpens. The relievers also have the lowest save rate (53.6%) in a season by a DeWitt team. The 2023 Cardinals have coughed up 39 leads.

They’ve lost 12 times when leading after six innings, eight times when leading after seven innings and six times when leading after eight. The Cardinals have a .895 winning percentage when taking a lead into the 9th inning. Sounds good, right? No. It is the opposite of good. Only the A’s (.892), Rockies (.882) and White Sox (.852) have frittered away more ninth-inning leads.

3. I refuse to believe the Cardinals will put a shoddy defense back on the field in 2024. They can’t be this dumb, right? Surely they won’t allow this to happen again. They are 30th (last) among MLB teams in defensive efficiency this season. The Cardinals haven’t had a defensive efficiency rating this horrendous in a season since 1930. The FanGraphs composite defensive rating makes the 2023 Cardinals the lousiest defense of the DeWitt Era. There’s a strong correlation between pitching and defense. I know the Cardinals’ front-office operatives and manager fancy themselves as baseball intellectuals or something, but perhaps someone at Busch Stadium can take a look at this in the planning for 2024. And this has nothing to do with the new limitations on defensive shifting; all 30 teams are competing under the same guidelines. And many, many major-league teams play terrific defense.

4. I believe the fundamentals will be cleaned up. Not just the defense, either. The baserunning has been way off this season. The situational hitting has been dreadful – things like advancing an extra base, moving runners over, taking quality at bats when there’s a runner at third with less than two out, etc. That’s a big reason why the Cardinals rank ahead of only Oakland this season in the percentage (29%) of getting runners home to score. According to the FanGraphs metric, the Cardinals rank 22nd in baserunning effectiveness – and 23rd among the 28 DeWitt teams in the same category. Manager Oli Marmol failed to take anything close to full advantage of the rules changes to push home more runs this year.

5. That’s the other thing: is Marmol really as inattentive on the job as we’ve seen in 2023? He can’t be. It isn’t possible. For Marmol’s sake I hope he inspects himself to learn from the harsh lessons of 2023. The organization’s high standards for playing clean, sharp-minded, opportunistic baseball collapsed this season and there’s no excuse for that. I suppose this is a vote of confidence, but my hunch is that Marmol will improve in 2024. If not – and assuming that DeWitt and Mozeliak are awake – Marmol won’t deserve to last much longer. Accountability must be restored in a baseball operation that’s way too comfortable with mediocrity. That said, this team faces limited media scrutiny so the pressure to change will have to come from within the organization and the fan base.

6. The Cardinals won’t be as appalling in one-run games. They’re 13–24 in one-run outcomes this season; only the Padres (6-22) are worse. Some of this is luck. Some of this can be tied to the pitching/bullpen issues. The team’s unsatisfactory situational hitting is a factor – as is the defensive chaos, ineffective baserunning and flabbergasting managing.

7. With improved pitching, defense and fundamentals, the Cardinals should pull off more comeback wins in 2024. This season they have only 25 comeback victories – which is among the lowest totals in the majors. A large factor is the team’s 5.31 ERA in the first three innings of games which ranks 27th. When trailing after three innings in a game this season the Cardinals are 37-71. And when they’re down in the score through six innings, the Redbirds are 27-78 for a pitiful .278 winning percentage.

8. No way the 2024 the Cardinals will be this terrible at Busch Stadium. As of now the 2023 Cards are 31-40 for a home .437 winning percentage that ranks 24th in the majors. And that .437 winning percentage would be the poorest by a Cardinals team in DeWitt’s 28 seasons as the franchise commander in chief.

9. The clutter will be reduced. The positional logjams will be unclogged. Again (silly me) I believe this because I assume that the people who run and manage the Cardinals have seen the error of their ways and cannot repeat this long-festering roster insanity in 2024. Thin the outfield. That’s where it starts. Don’t rely so heavily on dudes who can’t stay on the field because of injuries.

10. The 2024 Cardinals will have more depth to lean on. That wasn’t the case this season because the front office had allowed the organizational pitching depth to erode. The Aug. 1 trade deadline replenished some of the pitching stock. An important key will be the expedited development of right-handed pitchers Tekoah Roby and Tink Hence and a bounce-back showing from Gordon Graceffo, who was sidetracked by a shoulder issue at Triple A Memphis this season. There’s also Adam Kloffenstein, 23, and a third-round draft choice by Toronto. He has a 2.17 ERA and has allowed a .190 batting average in his 29 innings for Memphis since being traded to St. Louis. Infielder Thomas Saggese, acquired from Texas, could upgrade the St. Louis bench depth in ‘24. And catcher Ivan Herrera is still waiting, off stage, at Memphis.

11. Jordan Walker and Nolan Gorman will be a year older and wiser in 2024. Walker is a rookie, age 21. Gorman, age 23, is in his second MLB season. As I recently noted on “Scoops,” the Cardinals have never had two players age 23 or less hit 15+ home runs in the same season. Gorman has 27; Walker has 15. I’ll add a new one: Gorman and Walker are slugging .477 and .449 respectively this season. The Cardinals haven’t had two hitters age 23 or younger slug at least .449 in the same season since Keith Hernandez and Garry Templeton in 1977. (Minimum 375 plate appearances.) It’s hardly a stretch to believe that Walker and Gorman will hit even better in 2024. And while shortstop Masyn Winn, age 21, has struggled in his first three weeks in the majors, he should have more of a feel for big-league pitching in ‘24.

12. Catcher Willson Contreras will be more acclimated and comfortable in 2024. And significant changes are made to the pitching staff, Contreras will get an opportunity to work with pitchers who are mentally tough and won’t make him the fall guy for their own failures. Hopefully the You’re Not Yadi! garbage will dumped by then, and Contreras can play ball without being held to a preposterous standard defensively.

13. This team should play and compete harder in 2024. The spin coming from the dugout on this topic is comical. The 2023 Cardinals apparently believe that max effort, intensity and hunger are optional attributes. They can’t fool the fans. If this team has any real pride going forward, we’ll see them get after it with more fervor in ’24. This applies to ownership-management as well.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can stream it live or access the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

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.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus unless otherwise noted.


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.