The St. Louis Cardinals enter this weekend’s series against the Chicago Cubs with a record of 15-14. They are scoring around 3.6 runs per game. Their team earned run average is 2.87. They have pitched well. The team ERA isn’t likely to stay this low. The offense has not been as good as advertised. What if it continued to under-perform? Who’s doing well? Where is there room for improvement?
The Cardinals will score 584 runs at this pace. That would put them well back in the pack in most seasons. They allowed 596 runs in 2013. They are scoring more than one run per game fewer than they did in 2013.
Baseball Prospectus projected the Cardinals to win 88 games before the season began. That would be a stretch right now, though their run differential of +14 bodes well going forward.
Adam Wainwright can’t sustain his 1.20 earned run average. Their fifth starter, Tyler Lyons, is allowing four and half runs per game. Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha are holding their own, or better. Wacha leads the staff in strikeouts. There’s not much room for improvement with Cardinals pitching.
Cardinals fans would be surprised to know that Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta have been two of the best hitters for the club, if one goes by WAR, wins above replacement. Peralta’s six homers and Carpenter’s .366 on-base percentage put them near the top of the team in offense. Carpenter is not giving the team the head start he provided so often last season, as his extra-base power is down. Yadier Molina has been the best player on the team, with a 1.1 offensive WAR, according to ESPN.
Allen Craig broke out on Wednesday. He will contribute more going forward. His numbers are well below his standard. Matt Holliday has a history of getting better as the weather warms up. Matt Adams is under-performing his past power numbers, with only two home runs in 2014.
Second base and center field–the areas the Cardinals addressed in the off-season, are still problems. Neither Jay nor Bourjos get on base enough to catalyze the lineup near the top. The Cardinals don’t know who their second baseman is at the moment: Mark Ellis? The rookie Greg Garcia? What can we expect offensively from second base?
Individual records dictate that the Cardinals’ ability to score runs will improve. The organization’s inability to solve riddles at two everyday positions, and questions about who will actually man one of those positions, raise concerns about their chances to be elite as an offensive group in 2014.