Will health be in the Cardinals favor over the course of the season?
While injuries weren't the reason the Cardinals did not contend in 2023, they certainly did not help their cause. I mentioned Arenado's nagging back issues last year, but a variety of other contributors faced the injury bug as well:
- Nolan Gorman played in just 119 games with his own back issues that stem from an injury in 2020.
- Lars Nootbaar hit the IL three times, twice due to freak injuries, and played in just 117 games.
- Brendan Donovan had season-ending elbow surgery at the end of July, finishing with just 95 games played.
- Ryan Helsley missed 3 months of the season due to injury, contributing to the void they felt at the back of the bullpen.
- Dylan Carlson (76 G) and Tyler O'Neill (72 G) could not bring stability to the outfield and created a revolving door out there for most of the season.
- Steven Matz, after catching fire in his seven starts returning to the rotation, only made 17 starts.
- Not to mention the demotion of Jordan Walker during the month of May, which was great for his development, but contributed to a void in their lineup for a month of the season.
Health is something that every team has to battle, so there is a very, very slim chance that the Cardinals don't have to face some sort of injury adversity during the course of the year. But it's fair to wonder if they'll have so many key contributors miss significant stretches of games once again. In particular, the combination of Goldschmidt, Arenado, Contreras, Walker, Gorman, Donovan, and Nootbaar played in just 10 games together in 2023. It's difficult to be a top offense in baseball when you miss multiple key contributors in 152 games.
Over on the Noot News Podcast, we made some bold predictions for the 2024 season, and a lot of them had to do with the potential this lineup has if their impact guys can stay healthy this year.
Looking at the rotation this year, Matz has been an injury risk in recent years, but the health of the other four arms will be important to watch as well. The Cardinals have stronger rotation depth than they've had in past years, but they ideally want to avoid dipping into it too much throughout the year. Health will be important in 2024, can they have better luck than last year?