The Cardinals have no choice but to be patient amid their offensive struggles

The Cardinals' offense has been awful to begin the year, but all they can do is wait for their bats to come alive at this point.
Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

This week, the St. Louis Cardinals finally made some major changes to their lineup and their roster in order to fix their offensive woes. Now all that that there is left to do is wait.

Wait? Yeah. Wait. Be patient. See how things unfold. Whatever synonym you want to use.

The Cardinals have all of the pieces to be a very good offense. I've talked about this time and time again on the site, but their offense, when healthy last year, was among the top seven in all of baseball. In fact, the Cardinals only played 10 total games in 2023 with their best seven hitters. No team can bank on perfect health, but it was clear that when the Cardinals had most of their bats in the lineup, they could score with the best teams in baseball.

Well, even after getting a bit more offense in their series victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cardinals still rank poorly in most offensive categories.

Cardinals Offensive Ranking:
.220 AVG (26th)
.302 OBP (25th)
.337 SLG (28th)
.639 OPS (27th)
16 HR (29th)
87 R (25th)

Yeah, not good.

Those rankings mean the Cardinals need to clean house, right? Make some major moves! Rebuild and revamp the offense!

No, those would be major overreactions, and quite honestly, the Cardinals have no other option than to be patient with this offense.

The Cardinals have to be patient with their offense as their only hope of turning things around is with the guys they have

That's the crux of this conversation. There is no trade to be made, no signing they could pursue, and no top prospect that's waiting in the wings to save this team (unless you count Jordan Walker after his recent demotion to Memphis).

The Cardinals have already cashed all of their early-season chips. Here are the changes they have made to their lineup just 25 games into the season:

1. Moved Paul Goldschmidt down in the lineup.
2. Optioned Jordan Walker and Victor Scott II to Memphis.
3. Started playing Ivan Herrera every day.

The only thing they could really do at this point to maximize their offense further would be to move Lars Nootbaar to center field and allow Alec Burleson to play more often, but outside of that, there are no more changes to be had.

Sure, they could fire-hitting coach Turner Ward, and that very well could make a difference. But I'm focusing on player personnel here. For the Cardinals offense to get back to being the unit many of us thought it would be prior to the season, they just need to keep playing games.

Outside of Willson Contreas, who has posted a .951 OPS on the year so far and continued his incredible run at the plate since July 1st of 2023, there's not a single hitter on the Cardinals roster with an OPS above .800. Paul Goldschmidt has a sub-.600 OPS on the season and has just three extra-base hits. Nolan Gorman has a .634 OPS and has struck out 34 times already. Brendan Donovan, even after his hot start, has seen his batting average drop all the way down to .217.

For the Cardinals to get to where they want to go, they need to let their guys figure things out.

I did this exercise on the most recent episode of the Dealin' the Cards Podcast (formerly known as Noot News), and if you are something who really doubts the Cardinals offense can get things back on track, I encourage you to do this exercise as well.

wRC+ is a stat that helps measure how good a hitter is, while factoring in things like the ballpark factor, and compares them to the league average. 100 on the scale is league average, meaning if a player posts a 120 wRC+, they are 20% better than the league average hitter, and a 80 wRC+ means the hitter is 20% worse than league average.

In 2023, six different Cardinals (Willson Contreras, Paul Goldschmidt, Brendan Donovan, Nolan Gorman, and Lars Nootbaar) were at least 16% better than league average at the plate in 370 or more plate appearances. In 2024, only Willson Contreras and Masyn Winn have posted a wRC+ higher than that thus far.

In fact, only four Cardinals hitters are hitting above league average right now. Herrera, Donovan, Siani, Gorman, Burleson, Goldschmidt, Walker, Scott, and Crawford have all been below-league-average hitters this year, with Burleson, Goldschmidt, Walker, Crawford, and Scott being at least 29% below the league average.

Do you really think that's going to last? Well, let's try my exercise.

  1. Write down each of the Cardinals' position players. We honed in on the 10 that should play the most significant role for the club this year (Donovan, Contreras, Nootbaar, Arenado, Goldschmidt, Gorman, Herrera, Walker, Winn, and Edman).
  2. Now, write next to each of their names if you think they'll be league average or worse in 2024 (no need to specify yet if they'll be better than a 100 wRC+, but mark if they'll be league average or better, or if they'll be worse). For context, a league-average OPS in 2023 was about .710 on the season, a number that 12 different Cardinals were able to surpass in 2023.
  3. Now, count how many players you thought would be league average or better. When I did this exercise, I had nine of the ten players. My co-hosts each had eight.
  4. Now, go through a pinpoint which guys will be 110, 120, and 130 wRC+ guys on the season. For context, those OPS numbers would look something like .790, .815, and .829.

When I did the exercise, I had one player with a sub 100 wRC+, one player at a 100 wRC+, four players with a 110 wRC+, three players getting to a 120 wRC+. and one (Contreras) posting a 130 wRC+. It's really not that hard to see how much better this offense should be than it is right now.

I went back and looked, and in 2023, the 14th and 15th ranked offensives in baseball by team wRC+ were the Angels and Mets, both tired with a 101 wRC+ as a team. Out of their top 10 hitters, the Angels had five players that were below league average, one that was right at league average, three that were 10% above league average, and two that were 30% above league average or better. As for the Mets, they had three hitters below league average, three at league average, and four that were 20% above league average.

Even if the Cardinals can't rebound to being a top 10 unit in baseball, it's so easy to see how they can get back to being a middle-of-the-pack lineup, rather than one of the bottom five in all of baseball.

If the Cardinals want to be a top-10 unit in baseball this year, they can look at what the Phillies did in 2023 when they posted the 10th-best team wRC+ of 105.

They had just two hitters that were 20% above league average or better out of the ten hitters who got the most at-bats (Bryce Harper and Brandon Marsh). They had one hitter who was between 119% above league average (Kyle Schwarber), five hitters who were between league average and 9% above league average, and two hitters who were below league average.

Again, with the talent this Cardinals offense has, that's not a crazy goal by any means.

All of this to say, I know the offense has been rough in 2024. There's no doubt about that. But to throw in the towel on this team now is way too premature. This rotation has been about league average and a massive step forward from what they got in 2023. The bullpen has been one of the best in all of baseball. The defense is much improved. Once this lineup gets going, the wins will begin to stack more often.

The Cardinals are not one of the best teams in baseball, but they are certainly talented enough to win 85 or so games and get into the playoffs, depending on how the rest of the National League shapes up. And if they are in the race come July, I would bet they add more to this team as well.

Last year, when John Mozeliak asked fans to be patient, it was in regards to a flawed pitching staff we had little reason to believe it would magically get better. This year, the Cardinals are asking fans to trust that their very talented offense will begin to hit like they have in the past, rather than a bottom-five unit in baseball. I think that's a fair ask and one that will begin to show fruit, hopefully, sooner rather than later.