Can the offense bounce back?
The answer to this question will likely be the biggest determinant in how the 2020 season goes. The Cardinals could have the best pitching staff on the planet, but if they can’t score runs, they will not win games.
In 2019, the offense was suspect, but coming into the season it wasn’t perceived as such at the beginning of the season. Bringing in Paul Goldschmidt should’ve energized everyone around the lineup and added a ton of production himself.
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Instead, Goldschmidt had his worst season in the MLB and the offense was a black hole half the time.
Looking at the regular lineup, Fowler, Bader, Ozuna, Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Goldschmidt, and Yadier Molina all performed below their career norms in terms of OPS+. The odds that this happens again statistically are next to nothing. That is 88% of your regular starters all performing worse than their own average. Tommy Edman and Kolten Wong were the only players who performed better than their career norms.
Edman will likely take a step back in 2020 (at least in terms of slugging as he has never slugged as well as he did in 2019), but the rest of the lineup should step back forward. You can claim that I have no evidence, but all the evidence needed is simple statistics and the law of averages.
This doesn’t go for everyone as players like Fowler and Molina probably won’t be able to hit their career norms again due to their age, but for Bader, Carpenter, DeJong, and Goldschmidt, I would bet money that all four of them have better years in 2020 than in 2019.
I mean that in terms of total offensive value provided. DeJong may not hit more than 30 homers and Goldy may not beat his 34, but they will both have better offensive value as a whole.
If, somehow, the law of averages decides to ignore the bats of the 2020 Cardinals, this year could go very poorly and the team could easily find themselves in fourth place in the NL Central.
There are plenty more questions that can be asked about the 2020 Cardinals. These are my top three, but that doesn’t mean they are the best three. The Cardinals aren’t sitting very high on any preseason lists because there is so much mystery surrounding what this team will look like. Depending on how things go, 2020 could see the Cardinals go just as far as they did in 2019. A lot of things need to go right though.