Health was a deterrent for the Cardinals in 2023 but cannot be an excuse in 2024

While injuries can hurt a team's chances of competing in any given year, the Cardinals need to prove they can be healthy in 2024.

Kansas City Royals v St. Louis Cardinals
Kansas City Royals v St. Louis Cardinals / Scott Kane/GettyImages

Injuries are both luck and "skill". Skill might not be the best term here, but for as much as injuries are random and unavoidable, there is also an art to keeping your club healthy or relying on players who know how to keep their bodies in the best condition possible.

The St. Louis Cardinals seemed to always be missing key pieces on the position player side of things, and once again are set to begin the year with five different players on the injured list.

While injuries were a factor in 2023, the Cardinals have to find a way to stay healthy in 2024 or their plans of competing for a division title will fade away quickly.

How much did injuries impact the Cardinals in 2023?

Here are some quick-hitting stats about the Cardinals' injuries in 2023.

- The Cardinals ranked 21st in MLB in days that players spent on the injured list, according to a recent report from Rotowire.

- While that ranking doesn't seem like a major issue, it is notable that seven of the twelve playoff teams in 2023 had fewer days spent on the injured list. You can be competitive with the amount of injuries the Cardinals had, but when you're not as strong (or deep) of a team as other clubs, it does throw things off more quickly.

- It's also notable the number of games that the Cardinals missed from significant players in 2023. Only four Cardinals out of 134 position players in all of baseball played enough to "qualify" for leaderboards last year.

Lars Nootbaar (45 games missed)
Brendan Donovan (67 games missed)
Nolan Gorman (43 games missed)
Tyler O'Neill (90 games missed)
Dylan Carlson (86 games missed)
Nolan Arenado (18 games missed)
Jordan Walker* (45 games missed)

***Jordan Walker spent a portion of the 2023 season in Triple-A.

That's 439 total games missed from that group above. Pitchers like Ryan Helsley, Steven Matz, JoJo Romero, and Giovanny Gallegos missed time as well.

Nootbaar, Donovan, Gorman, and Helsley are all four significant pieces of this team that missed significant time with injuries, and Walker was not fully utilized as well. Injuries were definitely not the reason this club underperformed in 2023, but it certainly contributed to them not reaching their ceiling offensively.

How can health help the Cardinals in 2024?

Obviously, having your best players healthy over the course of the season is hugely beneficial, but one area we directly saw impacted by injuries in 2023 was the offensive production.

Below is a tweet I posted back in October that highlighted the Cardinals' offensive rankings before the trade deadline, which is when the Cardinals...

1. Officially waved the flag on the season, selling off multiple key pieces.
2. Brendan Donovan missed the rest of the season.
3. More players began to hit the IL in the second half, including Lars Nootbaar, Nolan Gorman, Nolan Arenado, Dylan Carlson, and Alec Burleson, with the likes of Luken Baker, Jose Fermin, Taylor Motter, Juniel Querceuto, and company getting more and more at-bats.

When the offense was healthy (which it really only was for 10 games all of last year, which is the number of games that the Cardinals' top-7 hitters played in together), it was a top-8 unit in all of baseball. In the second half, the Cardinals' offense ranked in the bottom third in many of these categories.

The Cardinals need the likes of Nolan Gorman and Lars Nootbaar to stop making multiple IL trips during the year. They need Brendan Donovan to not miss half the season. They need Nolan Arenado's back to be healthier. Can those things happen? We'll see.