Welcome To The Redbird Review. 

A pretty simple question: What’s wrong with the St. Louis offense? 

A fairly simple answer: Power pitchers. Four-seam fastballs. 

Opponents are going after Cardinals’ hitters with the most basic of all pitches, the four seamer. And this aggressive approach is working well. 

The problem is illuminated even more by a look at the Cardinal performance against the “power pitchers” category. 

As defined by Baseball Reference, “power pitchers are in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks.”

(As in many strikeouts, and few walks.) 

Hint: the Cardinals do not handle these pitchers very well. I’ll get to that a little later. 

Let’s dive in, starting with data delights from Baseball Savant: 

>  The Cardinals have the worst batting average among the 30 MLB teams against four-seam fastballs this season, .207. 

>  The Cardinals also have the lowest slugging percentage in MLB against four-seam fastballs, .354. 

> The Cards have the third-worst strikeout rate in the NL and the fifth-worst in the majors (25.4%) against four-seamers. 

> When four-seamers are thrown over the heart of the plate — aka meatball — the  Cardinals have the lowest batting average (.253) in the majors. 

> Same with the slugging percentage on four-seamers over the heart of the plate: an MLB-worst .431. 

> The STL strikeout rate on four-seamers over the heart of the plate (21.2%) is the worst in the NL, and second-worst in MLB. 

> Against all varieties of fastballs, the Cardinals rank among the bottom eight of MLB teams in batting average (.245) and slugging (.413.) And the Cards are in the bottom eight of MLB in all heart-of-the-plate fastballs for average (.294) and slugging (.513.) 

Based on quality of contact, the Cardinals have higher expected batting averages and slugging percentages than the “real” BA and SLG. But for now, I’m just sticking with the actual numbers that explain why the offense continues to sputter.

The expected batting average and slugging percentage represent at least some hope for an upturn in production. Of course, we all said that about the Cardinals’ early-season hard-hit rate that rated among the top three in the majors for a while. And…poof! Forget about it. 

As for the team’s performance against power pitchers… yikes. When the Cardinals have gone against the pitchers that have high K rates and low walk rates, the results are rather bleak. 

Against power pitchers (via Baseball Reference) the Cardinals are batting .195 with a .271 OBP and .327 slug. The best way for me to put that into proper perspective is to use adjusted OPS, which shows how much better (or worse) a team is relative to the league average. 

All you need to know is that 100 is average, so you don’t want to be on the wrong side. And the Cardinals are most definitely on the wrong side. 

Their adjusted OPS against power pitchers is 16 percent below average (84), which ranks 13th among 15 NL teams and 27th overall. 

OK, so how do the Cardinals fare against pitchers in the “average” category in strikeout and walks? The pitchers that are somewhere between the “power” and “finesse” groupings by Baseball Reference? 

Not good. 

Specifically: 19 percent below average. That’s 14th in the NL and 28th overall. The Cards have a batting average of .217 with a .654 OPS vs. so-called average pitchers. Ugh. 

FanGraphs reaffirms the Cards’ trouble with the fastball. In the FanGraphs metric fastball pitching runs, the Cardinals rank 29th in the majors and are 28th if we exclude the at-bats by pitchers.

Cardinals hitters seem to be off in their hitting approach. They’ve been served a higher percentage of strikes than all but nine teams. But 17 teams of hitters have a lower percentage of called strikes than St. Louis. 

And if the message is to hunt for strikes, and be aggressive in jumping on strikes early in the count … well, the message is being lost in translation or something.

The Cardinals haven’t exploited counts that should work in their favor. When their hitters have a 1-0 count advantage, the at-bat ends with a .232 average that ranks 26th in MLB. After being up 2-0 in a count, the Cards bat .241 in those at-bats; that’s tied for 25th. After being up 2-1 in the count, the Cardinals rank 20th with a .221 average and a middle-of-the pack OPS. 

They’ve had a count of 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 in 1,066 plate appearances this season. And despite having a huge edge over the pitcher in those situations, the Cardinals have batted .235 (26th) with a .755 OPS (27th.) 

Friends, I know there isn’t much entertainment value in wading through these numbers. But I just think it’s important to make an effort to understand why the Cardinals rank so poorly in the majors in runs per game (26th), batting average (28th), onbase percentage (28th), slugging (24th) and OPS (.674.) Sure, I could just say “they stink” and leave it at that. But I’m always motivated to pinpoint the specific flaws that form the larger picture.

And if Cardinal hitters continue to be overmatched by four-seam fastballs, it will be a long, hot summer in St. Louis. And I ain’t talking about the weather.

Thanks for reading …

I really appreciate it. 

–Bernie 

Check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com  … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

The weekly “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is also available at 590thefan.com.

 Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

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.