With the St. Louis Cardinals eliminated from playoff contention, it would be laughable to call the 2023 season anything less than a massive disappointment. Fans have pointed fingers at all sorts of potential culprits: the front office, the manager, the coaches, and the players. (And Fredbird. We can’t forget Fredbird.) There are almost certainly multiple factors at work that have led this season to be one of the worst in the franchise’s storied history, but the most obvious sign has been the drastic decline in the team’s pitching performance.
Before the season, The Athletic had a piece wondering if the Cardinals’ pitch-to-contact approach would hurt them in the era of the banned shift, and that article has proven to be prescient. The team’s ERA has risen over a full run from 2022, from 3.79 to 5.05 as of Sept. 25. While some pitchers have remained consistent, a few have dropped off noticeably from last season.
The Cardinals have also massively declined in the field. In 2022, the team finished with 48 defensive runs saved. This season, the Cardinals are among the worst in the league, with negative 42 defensive runs saved. Nolan Arenado had a sluggish start to the season at third base; he has a negative 0.5 Ulitmate Zone Rating this season compared with 13.0 last year. A late-season defensive revelation has been Tommy Edman in center field, where he holds a higher UZR than at his previously regular position of shortstop.