Cardinals' offensive struggles highlighted by Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado

The St. Louis Cardinals' supposed greatest strength has turned into its greatest woe. What's going on with the offense?
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

Before the season started, I conducted a poll on Twitter/X to determine the greatest positional group on the 2023 St. Louis Cardinals. Fans voted very heavily in favor of the infield; Masyn Winn was supposed to save the infield defense, Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan would platoon wonderfully at second base, and Willson Contreras would build upon his strong finish to the 2023 season.

The "hinge" players were Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. The two have been the offensive and defensive leaders of the last few years for the Cardinals. Both have been MVP candidates--one of whom won the award in 2022--for the bulk of their careers. While neither Goldschmidt nor Arenado are spring chickens, they are wily veterans who are dedicated to their craft.

The offense as a whole for the club was projected to lead the team to a rebound season in 2024. Given the underperformance of the pitching staff as a whole and the decline in defensive discipline that was evident in 2023, the offense was figured to be at least in the top 10 across the league. That simply hasn't been the case just 10% of the way through the season.

As a team, the Cardinals rank (at the time of writing this) 27th in the league according to OPS+ (73), 27th in wRC+ (79), 19th in runs scored, 24th in strikeout rate (25.5%), and 23rd in OPS (.635). While injuries to key players like Lars Nootbaar, Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson, and more recently Willson Contreras have lowered the ceiling of this offense, individual players who were supposed to lead the team simply aren't doing that.

Many projected Jordan Walker to take a step forward this year. ZiPS gave him the highest 90th percentile wRC+ on the team this year. Instead, he has started off slowly with a .182/.263/.273 slash line and 11 strikeouts in only 38 plate appearances. This is a microscopic sample size, but his barrel rate of 4.3% and whiff rate of 28.6% are both in the 32nd percentile of the league. It has appeared as though Walker is chasing launch angle, but he also has yet to hit a ball greater than 250 feet in the air this year.

The two cornerstone players, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, were supposed to be forces in the heart of the lineup this year. They are both likely on the back end of their careers, but the assumption was that they would age like fine wine. That hasn't been the case. No matter the stats you pull for these superstars, they're all underwhelming.


Batting average


Extra base hits


Paul Goldschmidt





Nolan Arenado





Neither player has an OPS greater than .600, Areando hasn't walked once, and Goldschmidt's strikeouts are in an uncomfortable zone. An offense in baseball shouldn't depend on two players, but when the team's two top players aren't performing the way they should, the rest of the offense suffers. Goldy has historically started off slowly in April/March (career .845 OPS), but this is a level he's never sunk to. Arenado is streaky historically, but his .851 career OPS in April and March is evidence of his potential.

There are 150 games left; the season is quite young. There's no need to panic...yet. As Oliver Marmol told us, "Those are guys that will tell you they're working through it. My concern level is very low." The offense has plenty of time to rebound. At least the pitching staff is improved this year.