Losing a series to start the season isn’t what fans want to see, but compared to previous years, the St. Louis Cardinals’ offense looked better.
If you had to ask fans what the number one issue for the St. Louis Cardinals has been for the previous three seasons, most would answer with the offense. Despite players with potential and talent, it hasn’t flowed together well, but you already knew that.
In their biggest move since acquiring Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals made a big swing at their offensive issue this winter by trading for Nolan Arenado. Arenado, coming off a down year plagued by a shoulder injury, didn’t have a great spring. He hit just one homer (on the final day of spring) and finished with a .690 OPS.
This wasn’t a cause for concern for most, and after the first weekend of games that count, Arenado’s impact was noticed and the overall offense showed better than it has in a while out of the gates.
Let’s take a look at how the team has fared offensively in their previous opening series of the year.
|Year||Opponent||Runs Scored||Strikeouts||Contact >100 mph||Wins|
This last weekend’s series was the most runs the team has scored in the first series of the year in the past five years, and they did so on the strength of 22 instances of contact over 100 mph.
It seems it has been a common theme for the Cardinals to start the year by striking out way too much. However, in 2021, they were 10th in the league in strikeouts through the first three games. As far as runs go, they were 11th in the MLB in runs scored over the first season. Both of these are great, the only problem is that the Reds were better in both categories this first weekend.
The strikeouts in this first series were in the middle of the pack as far as the last few years were concerned, but it’s important to keep in mind how the game has changed. In 2017 and 2018, strikeouts were less prevalent than they are right now.
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The two top hitters in the Cardinals’ lineup carried the weight as they are supposed to. Through the first three games, Goldy and Arenado are both batting .385 and they have a .957 and 1.077 OPS, respectively. Batting in Great American Ballpark might have helped the team’s home run numbers some, but the weather was also fairly cold for the series, specifically in the opener when the Cardinals put up 11 runs.
The team’s pitching was viewed as the strong point and the batting as the weak link coming into the year, but this first series showed the opposite. Coming into the year, it was clear that an improved offense would easily keep the Cardinals at the top of the division, but that was assuming their pitching wasn’t going to get worse.
The Cardinals may have a good enough offense to be in the top half of the league in hitting rather than the bottom 10, but that won’t be enough to get far if they pitch as they did this weekend.
This is one series at the beginning of a 162 game series, but if some get to freak out over three games, I get to at least argue why you shouldn’t. The team won’t be without Kwang Hyun Kim and Miles Mikolas for too much longer, but they still need to have their top three starters be better than they were in the opening series.