Evaluating the 2024 Cardinals has been a balancing act

The Cardinals appear to have found their stride, but it's been a tale of two seasons thus far. Evaluating the Cardinals certainly hasn't been easy in recent weeks
San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals
San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

It's been a wild ride so far for the 2024 Cardinals. Back in May, they found themselves with a record of 15-24, nine games back of first place and at the bottom of the pack in the NL Central.

However, things changed on Mother's Day. The ejections of Oli Marmol and Daniel Descalso seem to have lit a fire under the team. There have been a few bumps in the road since then, but they're a National League-best 25-13 over that stretch.

One moment, the Cardinals looked to be obvious sellers by the time the deadline came around. Now, they look like obvious buyers. But it's been a weird season for sure, and it's made evaluating this team a very difficult task.

Evaluating the Cardinals has not been easy

When I say it hasn't been easy to evaluate this team, I don't mean that it's super taxing. But it has been confusing. Recall last week after the Cardinals moved into the second Wild Card spot. I had briefly jumped off the sell train and onto the buy train.

Then, something happened. The Cardinals got over .500 after winning the first game against the Marlins but proceeded to drop the last two in walk-off fashion, falling back below .500. Also, keep in mind that the National League is incredibly weak this season, weaker than we've ever seen it. I still stand by my statement that the standings don't exactly paint a clear picture of this team.

But you can't deny that they've played better baseball, and while the standings don't paint a clear picture, they are still in playoff position, and this is after a 15-24 start. Still, the Miami series wasn't the first time we were left confused.

After winning five series in a row, including a sweep of the Orioles, they got back to .500. But they proceeded to lose two straight series to the Phillies and the Astros and split with the Rockies, only to get hot again before the Miami series took place.

Now, after the Miami series, the Cardinals have won four in a row and are three games above the .500 mark. But my point is, just when we think the Cardinals are in trouble, they pull it together. And after they seem to have figured things out, they slip again, so that's what has made evaluating this club so difficult this year. You just don't know which Cardinals team you're going to get.

Hopefully, we get the current version of the Cardinals for the rest of the year, a team that finds ways to win games and comes through in key spots, not the team that strands a ton of runners and can't score runs, essentially finding ways to lose. They've gotten Willson Contreras back, and Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar aren't far behind.

But you can never be certain about what you're going to see. This is why I've been going back and forth on whether they should buy or sell at the deadline. Buying looks more likely at the moment, and that's what everybody wants. But something else could happen and change their approach.

As of now, it seems pretty clear that the Cardinals are at worst the second-best team in the NL Central. Teams like the Cubs, Reds, and Pirates have fallen on hard times, and there's a little separation between the Cardinals and Reds, who sit in third place. The NL Central is a weak division, but the Cardinals have at least created some separation from the middle of the pack.

We'll see how the rest of the season plays out. This series against the Braves will tell us a lot, and so too will the month of July as the trade deadline creeps closer. We'll have a better idea of who the Cardinals are by then.