Grading the Cardinals lineup, pitching, defense, and coaching staff heading into 2024

After an eventful offseason, how do each of the Cardinals' on-field units stack up going into the 2024 season?
Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals
Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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Coaching Staff Grade: B-

It's obvious things did not go well for the Cardinals last year, and the easiest "fall guys" when a season goes sideways is typically the coaching staff. While I'm not going to argue that Oliver Marmol and his staff did a good job last year, I'm also not someone who is going to put the blame on him.

Why? Well, it seems like there is universal agreement among Cardinals fans that the club had terrible pitching last year, an inconsistent offense (that was significantly impacted by injuries), and just was not good enough to win last year. Well, if that's the case, then how could Marmol have done a better job?

Yes, his seat is hot, and rightfully so, but I have a hard time saying Marmol was the reason things went poorly. If they had fired him, I would have understood (and I believe he would have too), but I also see why they have a lot of confidence in him. People point to the Tyler O'Neill situation, and while I don't love how it was handled, there has still yet to be a single report that it hurt Marmol's standing in the clubhouse. Yes, the Willson Contreras situation was a mess, but that was not just an Oli decision, that was an organizational decision.

Sure, he doesn't always get the pitching changes right, but are we really going to try and act like he pulled starters too early with how bad of a rotation he had last year? If he decided to leave them in for a third time around the order, they often times got shelled. But if he pulled them in the fourth inning like he often times had to consider doing, does Casey Lawrence or Jacob Barnes give you much confidence either? Marmol can't control the arms he has at his disposal, and if you think they should have been better than they were, then I'm not sure that argument co-exists with saying the roster was just bad.

I think Marmol deserves a chance to prove he's the right guy in 2024, and in a contract year, the stakes are high. The Cardinals replaced his bench coach Joe McEwing (who was hired last minute to replace his first choice in Matt Holliday) with former Cardinals infielder Danny Descalso, and created two new positions on his staff, Assistant Pitching Coach and Major League Coordinator of Technology and Systems, whom Dean Kiekherfer and Daniel MacLea will fill respectively.

One of the common threads from the front office, coaching staff, and players last year was that the coaching staff was too spread thin. With the amount of preparation and data they have to use in today's game, most MLB coaching staff had grown to a larger number than the Cardinals had, so they finally expanded their group.

Not to mention, Yadier Molina is now back as well as an advisor, and will work with catchers during the year but is also expected to be in the dugout during various stretches as well. All of these things should be positive signs.

Like the bullpen, I see a lot of potential variance here. We could view this coaching staff in a better light than a "B-" as the season goes on, or we could see things unravel a bit and be closer to a "C-" or in the "D" range. Only time will tell, like all of the groups we discussed.