Communication is still a swing and a miss for the Cardinals in 2024

Some hitters are finding success in rebelling against outdated philosophy
Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals
Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

When something isn't working, it's common to make adjustments. For example, if strategies must be communicated to professional baseball players more clearly, it's common to adjust the explanation. For some reason, this has not been common for the St. Louis Cardinals. And it's time to make some changes.

Luckily, some of the Cardinals players seem to be making some adjustments on their own, and the results have been impressive.

In a recent episode of The Lou Sports Talk, Cardinals' broadcaster Mike Claiborne discussed the team's struggles with hitting.

The team's hitting philosophy has been a hot topic since John Mabry's time as hitting coach with then-manager Mike Matheny. Hitting came under immense fire during the Jeff Albert era when Mike Shildt managed the Cardinals. Albert resigned from his position with the team in 2022 after sharp criticism of his teaching style became too much for him. Now Turner Ward is the team's hitting coach, and some of the team's top young prospects have yet to find their swing.

Dylan Carlson, Nolan Gorman, and Jordan Walker were each top-hitting prospects expected to succeed at the major league level. However, all three have struggled mightily. Walker was demoted in April for a second time since his call-up in 2023 to regain his swing. Gorman has struggled to find consistent success at the plate. Carlson has seen his fair share of struggles, even opting to work with an outside coach during the offseason.

The team's top bats, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Lars Nootbaar, have done this but have also struggled to get right at the plate during the season. Matt Carpenter has struggled over the years but found some success again after leaving the organization. He's brought what he learned with him and is doing well.

The common philosophy from the top of the Cardinals organization, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, is to generate power by swinging up and gaining a launch angle. Claiborne told The Lou Sports Talk that philosophy doesn't work for everyone. However, that hasn't stopped those in power from thinking this should be the philosophy, no matter the decline some top hitters face.

As Claiborne noted, some players have abandoned this philosophy and pursued what has brought them success. Since the Los Angeles Angels series, there has been an evident change in how the Cardinals approach their at-bats. They are working counts and getting good swings now, whereas a couple of weeks ago, it would have looked like the players were overthinking their at-bats and getting defeated.

Ward seems to go over things for the hitters to keep in mind from a three-ring binder he keeps close by, much like Mabry. It's been nice to see the return of a tablet so players can view video of their at-bats. This was missing in 2023 after the 2022 season when it was commonplace to see Jeff Albert and Albert Pujols get the tablet and review things for themselves and their teammates. It was a real team effort.

Alec Burleson, Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, Masyn Winn, and Nolan Arenado all have better at-bats now. Nolan Gorman has had two consecutive games with home runs but still seems to be working to put consistent at-bats together. Paul Goldschmidt is slowly climbing out of his struggles, which is nice to see. Once he breaks from his struggles, it will be nice to see the team get on a nice pace at the plate.

Mozeliak does seem to have some awareness that his voice isn't as highly regarded. It's sad to see after all his success with the Cardinals. The hitting issue, however, shows how deeply the Cardinals have fallen off course. The team has been struggling to do what is asked of them even when it's impossible for them to succeed with swinging up.

Why management has been steadfast on this philosophy and not allowing adjustments where needed is a real mystery.

It's nice that some players are rebelling to help the team start winning. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this mini-rebellion. If they succeed in what works for them as hitters, why change what they do?

It is frustrating to see hitting philosophy remain an issue after multiple seasons. While pitching was a primary issue in 2023, hitting was a huge problem that wasn't addressed. Mozeliak sent the message that he thought things would fall into place while preaching a philosophy that wasn't working.

Simply put, this can not be the philosophy moving forward. The team is at a turning point and how the organization proceeds from this will be critical to their future.