Don’t give up on the St. Louis Cardinals just yet

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18: Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on April 18, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Cardinals 2-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18: Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on April 18, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Cardinals 2-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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The last month has been tough for the St. Louis Cardinals. There are a few key signs, however, that show the Cards might be ready to breakout in a big way.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster of a season so far for the St. Louis Cardinals. With the All-Star Break approaching, the Cardinals are hovering right around .500 for the year. Stuck in third place in the NL Central, surely the team wants to be in a better position. However, there are a few important stats that show the state of the St. Louis Cardinals isn’t as bad as it may look.

First, the projected Opening Day lineup has rarely been the team on the field. Due to injuries to Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, and Tyler O’Neill, manager Mike Shildt has been scrambling to field the best possible version of the Cardinals all year. Before Bader returned from the IL on July 1, the starting nine of Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman, DeJong, Nolan Arenado, O’Neill, Bader, and Dylan Carlson hadn’t all started a game together since May 12. You might remember that as the middle game of a crucial 2-1 series win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

After that game, the Cardinals were 22-15. They led the NL Central and had the second-best record in baseball. Since that game, the Cards have gone 21-29. It’s no coincidence that 29 of those 50 games were on the road, too. The Cardinals were playing their best baseball, and while they unfortunately followed that big series win with some of their worst play, injuries and travel have only accentuated the team’s struggles.

Now let’s look at the results since Bader came back. The regular lineup was finally rolled out again on July 1. In the past week, the Cardinals are 3-3, with two losses on walk-offs, and a run differential of +4. All of this, of course, was against the Rockies, who are a major league-leading 31-17 at home this season, and the Giants, who boast the second-best record in all of baseball.

Besides starting your best lineup, having these eight healthy deepens the bench. Edmundo Sosa has performed admirably (and we can get into the Sosa vs Paul DeJong starting shortstop debate), but the Cardinals lacked a true bench spark with him thrust into an everyday role. Now, Tommy Edman can settle in at one position. And don’t look now, but Matt Carpenter has a .754 OPS with 8 RBIs since June 6th.

All of this, of course, has coincided with the Cubs going on an 11-game losing streak. The Brewers are desperate enough for offense that they just traded for Rowdy Tellez, who is batting .209/.272/.338 in 151 plate appearances this season. And the Reds have become perpetual deadline sellers, with their lack of pitching forcing them out of the division race.

Is all of this simply viewing the Cardinals through rose-colored glasses? Possibly. This season has been one of the most frustrating in recent memory. I’m not trying to ignore the flaws of the roster or the lack of wins in June. As is always the case, however, there is more to the story. In fact, there is one more set of numbers that shows how a rough patch from the last month and a half might be a low point as opposed to the norm.

Let’s take a look at Paul Goldschmidt. He’s had one of his worst seasons to date, with career lows in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. He’s on pace for his first sub-30 home run season (excluding 2020) since 2016. Underneath those numbers, however, is one of the unluckiest batters in the league.

All of these guys are All-Stars except Goldschmidt. In addition, Goldy is 11th in average exit velocity in the MLB. As for the 10 guys ahead of him? The only ones that aren’t All-Stars are superstars Manny Machado and Pete Alonso. Exit velocity and hitting the ball hard don’t equal success. But if you look at Paul Goldschmidt’s numbers, they are in line with the top players from the rest of baseball, and some of the best of his entire career.

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Has Goldy struggled this season? Sure. But if anything is emblematic of a Cardinals rebound during the second half of this season, it will be Goldschmidt’s luck turning. It’s only a matter of time before these hard-hit balls start landing for hits.

Yes, I’m aware that my predictions this season have been anything but accurate. But I firmly believe that Paul Goldschmidt will have a strong second-half. And with a healthy team around him, there’s no reason this Cardinal offense can’t return to their high levels of production from the start of the season.

More than any set of numbers, the win on Tuesday against the Giants is why there is still hope for this team after such an awful stretch of baseball. Just watch how Dylan Carlson and Harrison Bader embrace after Carlson’s game-winning catch at the wall. Clearly, this team believes in themselves. And who are we to doubt a group led by Yadi, Waino, and Arenado? The road will be difficult, and without much room for error. But maybe, just maybe, the Cardinals are rounding back into form.

Next. Cardinals are beating the Giants the way they’ll have to. dark

A tweak or two at the trade deadline still needs to be made, but The St. Louis Cardinals know they have the talent to make a run. Immediately following the all-star break, the Cardinals take on the Giants, Cubs, and Reds. Despite their struggles the team remains in the thick of the playoff hunt. We’ll know very soon if that holds true.