The 2022 St. Louis Cardinals had the lowest strikeout rate in all of baseball. At 7.38 K/9, the Cardinals were over one whole strikeout behind the next playoff team– the Cleveland Guardians– and over two strikeouts behind the MLB-leading New York Mets.
Some of that is by design. The Cardinals pitch to their strengths, forcing contact into their stellar defense. However, in today’s game, you need to have the ability for a punch out. The Cardinals can continue to rely on their defense and pitch to contact without being dead last in strikeouts.
Enter Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani was second in all of baseball this season with a K/9 rate of 11.87. The highest qualified Cardinal, Miles Mikolas, had a K/9 of 6.81. Expanding the leaderboard to include Cardinal relievers, Ohtani would still rank third on the team, behind only Jake Walsh, who pitched 2.2 innings, and all-star closer Ryan Helsley.
Ohtani isn’t just a strikeout pitcher. In 28 starts this season, Ohtani pitched 166 innings– that’s 5.9 innings per start. His 2.33 ERA ranked sixth in all of baseball, and his .203 average against ranked tenth. He’s going to get more than a few Cy Young votes.
It’s important to remember that Shohei Ohtani pitched as part of a six-man rotation. But the St. Louis Cardinals have the pitching depth to thrive in that system. Imagine Ohtani as the ace, followed by Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, and Jordan Montgomery. That leaves Steven Matz, Matthew Liberatore, and others to compete for the sixth spot. That’s quite a rotation.
The St. Louis Cardinals are looking for strikeout pitchers to complement and lead their current staff. Ohtani is a perfect fit.