Willson Contreras was the lionheart of the St. Louis offense. Before breaking a forearm on Tuesday night, Contreras was the team’s finest hitter. The most feared hitter. He had the most confidence and the least amount of fear. His competitive intensity was unmatched. At this time of the season, his imposing presence is impossible to replace

Among regular Cardinals, Contreras was …

No. 1 in slugging percentage, .551
No. 1 in onbase percentage, .398
No. 1 in doubles, 11
No. 1 in homers, 6
No. 1 in extra-base hits, 17
No. 1 in OPS, .950
No. 1 in wRC+, 171
No. 1 in walks, 18
No. 1 in runs scored, 20
No. 2 in batting average, .280
No. 3 in RBIs, 12

With Contreras gone, the Cardinals are left with a band of hitters that collectively has batted .211 with a .285 onbase percentage and .318 slug. In other words, they’re just a little better offensively than Pete Kozma during his career with St. Louis.

Or look at it this way: the Contreras OPS this season is a virtual match with Jim Edmonds (.948) during his career as a Cardinal.

The non-Contreras 2024 Cardinals have an OPS (.603) that’s close to a match with the team’s 1996-1997 backup catcher Danny Sheaffer (.598).

Contreras had extra value because of the rich offense he provided at the catcher spot. In his 20 games while in the lineup at catcher (not DH) this season, Contreras batted .294 and led all major-league catchers in onbase percentage (.415), slugging (.588) and OPS (1.003). His wRC+ as a catcher was 84 percent above league average offensively.

The Cardinals have averaged 3.50 runs per game this season, the fewest in the National League and 29th overall. And if that’s all they could muster with Contreras in the lineup, then what the heck can the weak-hitting Redbirds do with Contreras recuperating on the IL?

It’s a scary thought, eh?

Well, some other St. Louis hitters must step forward, emerge from the catacomb, and come to life offensively. It’s that simple … not that it will be easy.

Here’s my look at 10 Cardinals who must handle the responsibility of making up for all that was lost when Contreras went down …


He’s next in line to start at catcher. And he’s still developing as a catcher. There’s a lot of work to be done. Opponents are 17 for 17 in steal attempts against Herrera this season. He ranks 42nd among 56 catchers in arm strength. He’s a tad above average in pop time. His exchange rate – getting the ball out of his mitt to throw – isn’t quick. And he has below-average metrics in pitch framing, ranking 39th among 57 catchers that have received at least 250 pitches. Contreras had a strike rate of 49.1 percent; with Herrera that’s 44.3 percent. I expect manager Oli Marmol to go with Pedro Pages – skilled defensively – behind the plate more often than anticipated and utilize Herrera as a DH. Then again, Herrera won’t improve defensively unless he plays a lot.

Offensively, Herrera has strong pull-side power. But he’s batted .184 with a .262 OBP and .211 slug in his last 15 games. Pitchers have gone after Herrera with four-seam fastballs more than any other pitch, and he’s batted only .154 against it with little power. Herrera got off to an impressive start this season – three homers and a .559 slugging percentage in his first 10 games – but pitchers have a better read on him now. Herrera hasn’t homered in a month. And unlike Contreras, Herrera doesn’t walk much. I’m not down on him – I’m just pointing out the reality of an inexperienced catcher and hitter. There is nothing unusual about Herrera’s ups and downs.


This would be a swell time for Goldschmidt to make a positive impact offensively. Truth is, we don’t know if he’s capable of doing it. And even if Goldy heats up, can he sustain it? He hasn’t put together a lengthy stretch of good hitting this season. Goldschmidt is hitting .195 with a .287 onbase percentage and .263 slugging percentage for a .550 OPS. He has a career-worst 31 percent strikeout rate. And based on his OPS+, he’s 40 percent below league average offensively.

Goldchmidt’s alarming signs include a low (4.7%) barrel rate, and he has a whiff rate of 37 percent on four-seam fastballs and 43 percent on sliders.

Pitchers do not hesitate to go after him in the juiciest part of the strike zone. When he won the MVP in 2022, Goldschmidt batted .360 with a .699 slugging percentage on pitches to the heart of the plate. This season, in those came attack-zone pitches, he’s batted .208 with a .321 slug and 29 percent whiff rate. Clearly he’s not the same hitter.


He’s doing some good things. With runners in scoring position Arenado is batting .344 with a ,625 slugging percentage. In his last 23 games, the third baseman is batting .313 with a .398 onbase percentage and .446 slug. He’s drawing more walks to create RBI opportunities for others. But he’s having career-low numbers in hard-hit rate and barrel rate. Going back to Aug. 20 of last season, Arenado has just two homers in his last 236 at-bats.

His pull-side power isn’t there:

* Last season: sixth in MLB for the most pulled fly balls and 20 homers on those swings.

* This season: tied for 58th in pulled fly balls with one homer on those swings.


Noot has the ability to play a major role in helping the offense compensate for the loss of Contreras. As usual, he’s a Statcast star this season with a 50 percent hard-hit rate that’s shaped an “expected” .268 batting average and .472 slugging percentage. That looks great and all, but his actual batting average is .183 and his actual slugging percentage is .329.

Despite his elevated walk rate and outstanding plate discipline, Nootbaar has reached base in only 29.5 percent of his plate appearances. The metrics tell us that we can expect vigorous offense from Nootbaar. Here’s what we would tell the metrics: maybe so, hope so … but we’ve heard it all before. Noot’s process is effective, but the results matter.


This offense would be so much better and more dangerous if Gorman gets straight at the plate. After slugging .478 with 27 homers last season, big things were expected from him in 2024. But the early results are discouraging. This is his third major-league season – when he should be getting better – but Gorman has regressed. He has very disappointing numbers in batting average (.175) and slugging (.325).

Gorman has problematic results in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, chase rate, whiff rate, and strikeout rate. Gorman is an enigma, because he also ranks among the top five percent of MLB hitters in making sweet-spot contact, and his barrel rate puts him in the top 21 percent.

A real concern this season is Gorman’s relative helplessness against four-seam fastballs. Pitchers are using it 36.4 percent of the time – and utilizing no other pitch more than 14 percent. The four-seam attack is working, and that’s why they keep going after him with it. This season Gorman is batting .147 with a .265 slug and 37.4 swing-whiff rate against the four seam. That must change.


Look, he has to play more. His season numbers don’t jump out at us, but his current trend has gotten my attention. In 59 plate appearances since April 8, Burleson is batting .309 with a .356 onbase percentage, .491 slug. During that time he’s batted .308 with runners in scoring position. Burleson has three home runs and 10 RBIs in his last 10 games. His focus on pulling hittable pitches is starting to pay off; during the current 10-game streak the left-swinging Burleson is 5 for 9 with two homers when on pull shots. These are small-sample stats but the progress shouldn’t be disregarded. Here’s another thing to like about Burly: he does damage to pitches thrown in the heart of the plate, batting .310 with a .571 slug. Meatball-zone hitting has been an atrocious weakness for the 2024 Cardinals and that’s another reason to go with Burleson more regularly.


Relative to other Cardinal hitters, Donovan looks good when you see four home runs and 19 RBIs. But the truth is, he’s among the most disappointing hitters on the team based on what he did during his first two MLB seasons. But I think he’s a smart hitter that will make corrections and get his offense in a positive working order. We’ll see. But Donovan has what it takes to help raise his team’s onbase capability, and that’s why I’m fairly optimistic about him going forward.

In his first two years with the Cardinals, Donovan hit .283 with a .381 onbase percentage and .398 slug. Compared to those two-season rates, in 2024 he’s dropped 60 points in batting average, 84 points in onbase pct., and 17 points in slugging. After being 20% above league average offensively (per OPS+) in his first two seasons, Donovan is six percent below average in 2024. His batting-run value (minus 3) puts him in the bottom 26 percent among major-league hitters.

On the plus side, Donovan has slugged .452 on pitches to the heart of the plate. He limits strikeouts. He doesn’t chase much. But Donovan’s walk rate (7%) is down from his 12.8 percent mark as a rookie in 2022. What’s his top priority? Getting on base at a high rate? Hitting for power? A combination of both? I’m not sure, because Donovan isn’t thriving in any of those categories.


All in all, Winn is doing fine as a rookie hitter. Solid batting average (.265.) Decent onbase percentage (.333). He’ll take his share of walks. That said, his contact quality isn’t good. That’s evidenced by a hard-hit rate of 27.8 percent that ranks among the bottom seven percent of major-league hitters. And Winn has not barreled a single pitch this season. He doesn’t go crazy chasing pitches out of the zone and is generally under good control as a hitter. But there’s too much soft contact, and that will prevent him from supplying more power. Winn has slowed offensively, batting .173 with a .290 OBP and .231 slug in his last 18 games. I’m trying to have realistic expectations for the rookie shortstop. For now, that amounts to getting hits, drawing walks and churning a solid onbase percentage. The power can come later.


It’s too soon to rule him out as an impact hitter for 2024. The demotion to Triple A Memphis was a real setback, but if Walker is receptive to coaching and can adjust by launching skyward baseballs, he’ll give himself an opportunity to become an important hitter in this lineup. Walker is picking up the pace at Memphis, going 6 for 14 with four walks in his last four games. (But with only one extra base hit.) Walker and Gorman are even more important with Contreras missing from the lineup for the next two months or so.


He’s 0 for 8 since returning from a shoulder injury. That isn’t enough to go on. But the switch-hitting outfielder has a lot to prove after hitting .196 with a .288 OPB and .304 slug against right–handed pitching last season. If the Cardinals are counting on Carlson to fill the Contreras void in a meaningful way … well, good luck with that.

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.

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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.