Just a handful of games have been played so far in 2023 and when it comes to the Cardinals, for the most part, it has been as expected.
The St. Louis Cardinals' lineup looks fantastic so far without any noticeable weaknesses, they are being very aggressive at the plate and are hitting the ball hard. And when it comes to the pitching it has been hit-and-miss. We saw Jack Flaherty throw 5 no-hit innings, but walked seven batters and we witnessed a "death by thousand cuts " like defeat on Opening Day with all the bloop hits surrendered to Blue Jay hitters.
There is one glaring stat that has affected the Cardinals pitchers over the past few seasons, and it may be too early to tell if that will stay the same again this year, but is the lack of strikeouts in the Cardinals staff concerning?
Strikeouts have been a big part of the game of baseball recently with the nasty stuff pitchers have, and hitters have bigger swings trying to match the velocity they're facing to try to drive the ball. Normally I have been saying the past couple of seasons that the Cardinals are the best defensive team in baseball, so just let the opposing hitters put the ball in play and let the defense take care of the rest. The problem, however, especially in 2021 was that we just needed our pitchers to throw strikes and stop walking people.
Now of course it is early, the season just started and the numbers we see in the first week are likely to change drastically a month from now and so on. Here is how some of the current pitchers on the Cardinals' active roster line up based on strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) with the league average in 2022 (hovered around 8.5 K/9 per team)
- Jordan Montgomery: 8.6 K/9 with the Cardinals
- Steven Matz: 10.1 K/9
- Packy Naughton: 8.7 K/9
- Chris Stratton: 9.1 K/9 with the Cardinals
- Jordan Hicks: 9.2 K/9
- Giovanny Gallegos: 11.1 K/9
- Ryan Helsley: 13.1 K/9
7 of the 13 Cardinal pitchers currently on the active roster had a K/9 above league average, as the Cardinals were actually dead last in baseball last year in strikeouts per 9 innings and the year before that. Early on in 2023, the Cardinals are in the bottom third of the league in K/9. Strikeouts do not depict everything when it comes to having success as a pitcher, but ultimately it is the most efficient way to get somebody out because it removes all doubt, anything can happen when a ball is put in play as we saw on Opening Day.
Sure you can blame it on bad luck, you make the right pitch and you won't always get the result, and obviously, the Blue Jays have a great lineup, but it could also be that the Cardinals do not have enough guys that can put hitters away when they need to.
Do we think the Cardinals need more K's from their staff? Or should we just let our pitchers pitch to the defense behind them? And with pitching being known as the weakness of this team, is having more swing-and-miss stuff the answer? Time will tell.