Four 20-HR hitters, but just one tops 25
The Cardinals are not a strong offensive club, ranking 26th in runs per game at 4.01. The few teams behind them are either in last place in their respective division (Miami, Texas, Pittsburgh) or have had their offense particularly ravaged by injuries (New York Mets). It doesn’t help to play in a ballpark that has suppressed run scoring by more than 10% below average this season.
When it comes to the long ball, Busch Stadium III makes things even more difficult, reducing home run output by more than 20% this year compared to a neutral ballpark. Despite that, St. Louis has one player – Nolan Arenado – on pace to top 30 homers, with him currently tracking toward 32. Given his history of power production, this doesn’t come as a surprise for Arenado, who has averaged 35 home runs per 162 games played during his career.
Unless someone else gets really hot the rest of the year, Arenado will be well clear of his teammates in terms of big flies. Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill each have 18 homers, which puts them on pace to reach 26-27. However, “on pace” is always a sketchy tool to use, and with both of these hitters prone to hot and cold streaks, the safer bet is neither tops 25 home runs.
Paul DeJong hit home run No. 16 on Thursday afternoon, putting him on track to reach 23-24. That makes 20 homers likely but 25 almost certainly out of reach.
If Harrison Bader, Yadier Molina, and Tommy Edman all can flex their muscles a bit over the last couple of months, they could give the Redbirds a full lineup of eight players reaching the double-digit homer mark.
This year’s Cardinals certainly will never be confused with the Yankees’ Bronx Bombers or the Twins’ recent Bomba Squad. But given their ballpark, a more significant emphasis on speed and defense, and the lack of a DH, no one would have expected them to.
Still, whether by the long ball or other means, St. Louis needs to figure out a way to score more runs – this season and in the future. Not every player needs to be as jacked as O’Neill, but a little more power from somewhere would be a great way for the Redbirds to add to a relatively punchless offense and make the rest of the 2021 campaign a little more exciting.