The Cardinals are hot, but is it different than when they caught fire last May?

Despite similar situations surrounding their improved play for the second consecutive May, we may have reason to believe the Cardinals are for real this time.
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals got off to an awful start to their season, sitting in last place and looking like they have no chance to compete. Fast forward to the latter part of May, and the Cardinals are playing awesome baseball, taking multiple series from competitive teams and giving fans hope that all is not lost.

Sound familiar? Well, that's not just the story of the current Cardinals team, it's also what we saw from this club in 2023. Let's acknowledge the similarities, and then I'll tell you why this story may not end the same way.

I wrote about this on the site recently, but the best month of baseball the Cardinals played in 2023 was during the month of May. They were 10-23 going into May 7th and snapped an eight-game losing streak that day. While many people were writing them off completely at that time, the Cardinals went on an 11-3 stretch, sweeping the Red Sox in Boston and collecting series wins against the Cubs, Brewers, and Dodgers.

It was hard to believe, but the Cardinals went from 10-23 to 21-26, and hope was real once again. Even so, the Cardinals managed to go 50-65 the rest of the way, selling at the deadline and looking ahead to 2024.

The Cardinals snapped a seven-game losing streak on May 12th and have gone 8-2 since that day. They took two from the Angels, two from the Red Sox, and just swept the Orioles with the Cubs coming to town next. The Cardinals went from 15-24 to 23-26. It all feels eerily similar.

Well, sort of. When you look at the context of what is going on, I believe the 2024 Cardinals are giving us more reasons to believe than the 2023 club ever did.

The Cardinals' turnaround is due to their offense finally playing like a strength

Since beating the Brewers on May 12th, the Cardinals offense has played like one of the best units in all of baseball, a stark contrast to the results they got before that.

Cardinals offense




Before May 12th

132 (29th)

.338 (29th)

.633 (28th)

Since May 12th

57 (4th)

.445 (5th)

.804 (4th)

Sure, the Cardinals' rotation isn't special (ranking 20th in ERA and 18th in FIP thus far), but it has kept the club in games, and if you remove the random blow-up starts, their rotation has been better than expected. The bullpen has been dominant for St. Louis, with the trio of Ryan Helsley, JoJo Romero, and Andrew Kittredge shutting down games and supplemental arms emerging around them.

The Cardinals' defense is much improved as well. Lars Nootbaar returned to a corner outfield spot, Michael Siani and Masyn Winn's emerging at key positions up the middle, and general improvements all around the field have helped them go from a leaky unit to one that saves their pitching staff frequently.

It was the offense this year that time and time again let this team down. Last year, it was the terrible rotation, shaky bullpen, and frustrating defense that lost them games more often than not. Sure, their lineup wasn't living up to its potential all the time either, but it was supposed to be their strength this year, but it hasn't been.

Now that the Cardinals lineup is producing at a high level, the club is winning games at a high rate. Even with some regression (playing more like a top-10 offense than a top-5 unit), this lineup is proving it can propel this team into competitive baseball. The talent has been there, past production told us there were brighter days ahead, and now it's finally coming together.

And to drive the point even further, the Cardinals are without Willson Contreras (who has been their best hitter this year), Jordan Walker (who is uber talented but figuring things out in Memphis currently), and still are not getting the kind of production you'd expect from Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. There are multiple ways this lineup can get even stronger in the coming weeks, something we could not stay about the Cardinals pitching last season.

Yes, we've been fooled by the Cardinals going through a hot stretch before, but I think fans have every right to be cautiously optimistic about what this team can do for the remainder of the season.