Note from Bernie: this column was written before Thursday’s home-opener between the Cardinals and Marlins. The observations included here are based on the seven-game road trip through Southern California that produced a 3-4 record for the Redbirds.


1. The Cardinals aren’t as good as the Dodgers. But we knew this already, right? Not a discovery — just the obvious reality. We can say the same about every team except, maybe, Atlanta.

1a The defense and baserunning has improved. The fundamentals are sharper. This team seems to have a better collective mind for baseball, and part of that is the significant increase in baseball talk around the clubhouse before and after games.

2. Manager Oli Marmol wasn’t faking it and telling us what we wanted to hear. Last offseason, when Marmol told me he was “embarrassed” by the team’s poor defense, baserunning and fundamentals in 2023 – he really meant it. He accepted full responsibility for it. He wasn’t faking it. He was serious about it. He did something about it. He led the cleanup. The Cardinals are 5th in the majors in outs above average defensively, and I don’t think that will fade. The commitment to quality defense is there.

“I love this bunch, and we’re in a good spot in a lot of different areas,” Marmol told our friend John Denton of “We’re taking pride in our defense and how we’re running the bases. Those little things add up over 162 [games], and our guys are locked in on them.”

3. The offense must get going. Heading into Thursday’s home opener, the Cardinals ranked 21st in the majors in average runs per game (3.86) and were 21st in onbase percentage (.290), 23rd in batting average (.212), and 26th in slugging percentage (.303). Through the first four games the Cards managed only four home runs – two by Willson Contreras and one apiece from Paul Goldschmidt and Brendan Donovan. Their wRC+ was 34 percent below league average offensively, and the boys had MLB’s fourth worst strikeout percentage (27.7%). This must change. And they’ll improve. The hitters’ performance in high-leverage situations has been pretty good.

4. The starting pitching has legit potential to be a stabilizing force. I’m not saying that this is an ideal rotation. It could be stronger with a more capable No. 2 starter, with Miles Mikolas sliding into a No. 3 role. Like many of you, I was positive about the signing of free-agent starter Sonny Gray. And unlike many of you, I respect the heck out of Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn and was confident in their ability to provide innings. I’ve already written this about 2,000 times, but I’m a stubborn fellow. But when the Cardinals get at least six innings from their starting pitcher in a game, their winning percentage soars.

Last season: in six-inning starts, the Cardinals were 10 games over .500. With less than six innings in a start, the team was 30 games under .500. I also have more optimism that Steven Matz will be healthier in 2024. In their last six games, the STL starters have combined for a 2.96 ERA.

5. Victor Scott II is like no other player on this roster. I’m not going to sit here and claim that he’s crushing it offensively. In his first 28 MLB plate appearances Scott batted .120 with a .214 onbase percentage. But the rookie center fielder  covers acres of ground defensively. For the most part Scott has taken good at-bats and isn’t frazzled by his first experience facing MLB pitching. He had never played above the Double A level of the minors before now.

Here’s what I like about Scott, and yeah, this is all small-sample stuff. But that’s all we have to go on right now, and a few things definitely jump out.

+ Scott II has the fastest sprint speed by a major-league player so far, covering 30.6 feet per second. He leads the majors in “jolts” as a runner.

+ Because of his extreme speed, Scott has scored 83 percent of the time when reaching base. He just needs to get on base more often.

+ Scott’s name is on the early-season leaderboard among center fielders in outs above average, and runs prevented. According to Statcast, Scott has made 100 percent of the plays he was supposed to make. Actually, he was supposed to make the play 96 percent of the time and therefore is 4% above league average in success rate.

+ Underneath Scott’s weak baseball-card numbers, this is what we’ve learned from early Statcast readings: a 43 percent hard-hit rate. A 92.2 mph average exit velocity. A 35.7% rate of connecting on the sweet spot part of the bat. Defensively, Scott ranks in the 82nd percentile in outs above average. And he’s in the 100th percentile in running speed.

6. Willson Contreras has improved in the art of catching. Near the end of last season, “Willy” said he would spend the offseason working hard in an effort to refine his pitch-framing skill. Last season he had a called-strike rate of 43.3 percent which ranked 43rd among innings-qualified MLB catchers. Early on this season, Contreras ranks 10th with a strike rate of 51.1 percent.

7. Brendan Donovan is the leadoff man, and absolutely should remain in the role. Seven games into the new season, Donovan has a .308 average and .438 onbase. He will do what it takes to get on base; he’s been hit by more pitches (4) than any guy in the majors so far. When your leadoff man leads the team in RBIs (6) and runs scored (6) he’s getting the job done. Through Wednesday, Donovan ranked third in the majors in OPS (.938) among leadoff men, trailing only Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve. And he had performed 58 percent above league average offensively per wRC+.

8. Masyn Winn looks good. The rookie shortstop Masyn Winn was batting .313 through Wednesday. He’s near the top of the early-season leaderboard for defense at the position and rates among the 92nd percentile among all hitters in sprint speed.

9. When healthy and reasonably rested, the St. Louis bullpen has a chance to be very good. The bullpen was overworked against the Dodgers – that couldn’t be avoided – but settled in nicely during the three-game series at San Diego. Their relievers handled eight innings and 30 batters, allowing only five hits, two walks and no runs. The Padres hit .185 against Cards relievers, who had an excellent 0.88 WHIP. And the bullpen crew had a 30 percent strikeout rate in the three games.

10. The Cardinals are better equipped to play small ball and manufacture runs. Old-school stuff! Through Wednesday the Redbirds were fourth in the majors with a productive out percentage of 40.7%. They were near the top of the list for combined sacrifice bunts, and sac flies (7). They were second in the rate (82.4%) of advancing a runner from second base with no outs.

The immediate priorities, in no particular order: more innings from starting pitchers, less work for the bullpen. Offensively: more runs produced by St. Louis hitters, with a surge of power and fewer strikeouts.

Hitters that need to heat up: again, this was written before the Cardinals opened their series against the Marlins. In the seven-game road trip, Cardinals had no home runs from Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker or Nolan Arenado. Gorman and Arenado had combined for only five RBIs, and Walker hadn’t driven in a run. Alec Burleson was 3 for 18 with seven strikeouts, and Gorman had struck out in 42.8 percent of his plate appearances. The first St. Louis homestand of the season would be a fine time to show a more explosive offense.

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.

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