St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado’s playoff struggles are a problem

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Nolan Arenado #28 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 14, 2021 in New York City. The Cardinals defeated the Mets 7-6 in eleven innings. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Nolan Arenado #28 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 14, 2021 in New York City. The Cardinals defeated the Mets 7-6 in eleven innings. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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St. Louis Cardinals star Nolan Arenado’s playoff struggles are becoming a problem.

When the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Nolan Arenado, he made it clear just how much he was looking forward to being an annual postseason contender. But he has struggled when he’s been in the playoffs — and that is something to watch going forward.

Now, let’s make one thing clear. Arenado, 30, has limited postseason experience. He’s been in the playoffs three separate times, advancing no further than the wild card round, and accumulated only 27 plate appearances. But he’s hitting only .160/.148/.280 with one home run and three RBI in those games, going 0 for 4 and leaving five runners on base in a 3-1 loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.

It’s far too early for the Cardinals to press the panic button. After all, he’s only played one postseason game in St. Louis. But if they are going to pay Arenado $35 million per season, they need him to be at his best in the biggest moments. So far, in a small postseason sample size, he has come up small in those moments.

It’s unlikely those struggles continue in the long haul. Arenado, who is hitting .288/.345/.535 with 269 home runs and 865 RBI in nine seasons, is too good of a player to continue to underperform in the postseason. He should have plenty of chances to change that narrative, considering he has prioritized winning a championship in his career and has already committed to returning to the Cardinals in 2022.

And with Arenado returning, the Cardinals should be back in the postseason next season. He has made it clear that he was disappointed with his production in 2021, hitting .255/.312/.494 with 34 home runs and 105 RBI, and it’s reasonable to expect him to be even better next season as he is entering his first full offseason in St. Louis.

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For the Cardinals to not just make the playoffs, but play deep into October, they need Arenado to play at his best. They have every reason to expect him to. So far, however, he has come up small — and that is something that has to be on the minds of the front office entering the winter.

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