The 7 biggest issues that led to the demise of the St. Louis Cardinals

Over a decade ago, the Cardinals were the class of Major League Baseball. Oh how the mighty have fallen, and these 7 issues are at the core of their demise.
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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#2 - Pitching development woes

Remember when the Cardinals were consistently pumping out exciting young arms? Yeah, I miss that too.

On the 2013 team alone, the Cardinals had Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Jaime Garcia, Kevin Siegrist, and Trevor Rosenthal all at 26 years old or younger on the roster. Since then, names like Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes have risen through their system as top arms. They let talent like Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen go. The Cardinals used to be in a class of their own when it came to developing starting pitching.

And now? Well, you could argue the singular issue that has hurt their Major League roster more than anything else in recent years has been the lack of starting pitching talent developed from within the organization. Who was the last starting pitcher they developed in their farm system and became a staple in their rotation? Jack Flaherty? Dakota Hudson, kind of? If it's not those guys, you have to go all the way back to Martinez, Wacha, and Lynn.

I'll address the lack of quality from those starting pitchers they've relied on internally in a moment, but not even being able to get back-end of the rotation production from your farm system is a major reason why the club has continued to go out and sign veteran starters to fill their rotation.

According to TruMedia, the Cardinals have played 525 games since 2021, and only 200 of those games were started by a pitcher who had less than six years of service time/not signed to an extension or free-agent contract. That means just 38% of the starts they have gotten since the start of the 2021 season came from their own starting pitchers that they have developed and are on cost-controlled deals. That number would drop even lower if you didn't include the second-half starts from Cardinals' prospects in 2023 who would not have been pitching if they were still in contention.

The names won't inspire you either. 96 of those 200 starts from developed arms were Daniel Ponce De Leon, Drew Rom, Zack Thompson, John Gant, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, and Matthew Liberatore. If you include the half-hazard attempt at letting Jordan Hicks start games, over half of those 200 starts came from arms that never really belonged in the rotation in the first place.

For a club that preaches the need to win using their farm system and having a strong pipeline, the free fall they've been on as an organization when it comes to pitching development is baffling. Ownership still hasn't invested in a pitching lab like so many organizations around the game have installed to maximize their talent.

On the bright side, arms like Tink Hence, Tekoah Roby, Cooper Hjerpe, Gordon Graceffo, Sem Robberse, Quinn Matthews, and others have a chance to change this tune over the next few years. But it does not change the fact that St. Louis has lagged in this area for years now and it's hurt their Major League club in a big way.