The Cardinals' lineup lacked this key feature compared to the league's best team

Consistent rosters year-to-year and consistent lineups each game lead players to success. St. Louis teams have lacked these qualities in recent history.

St Louis Cardinals  v Pittsburgh Pirates - Game One
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates - Game One / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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Lineup stability and consistency are key for baseball players. They gain confidence and get comfortable in their spots in the batting order, knowing where and when a player is playing will help him prepare better, and a player's mental fortitude and stability won't be tested due to inconsistency.

The St. Louis Cardinals haven't been the best at fielding a consistent team or keeping players in certain spots in the batting order. Since 2017, the team has not started the season off with the same three outfielders as the previous season. While plenty of talented outfielders have come and gone, the organization has failed to maintain consistency among its three outfielders at the start of each season.

Injuries (Carlson, O'Neill), underperformance (Fowler, Carlson), and trades (Pham, Bader, Piscotty, Grichuk), have made it challenging to maintain the same three outfielders each year, but it really felt like the 2022 starting trio of Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader, and Dylan Carlson would be the outfield for a long time in St. Louis.

In 2023, there were only ten games in which eight of next year's projected nine starters played together. In those ten games, only Masyn Winn and Brendan Donovan were absent.
If you stretch out the numbers to seven of the nine projected starters for next year, it accounts for sixty-five games, less than half of the season. The team had a record of just 27-38 in those games, a 41.5% winning percentage. Consistency in who plays is key to team success.

Another aspect of consistency that the Cardinals have lacked is in the batting order construction. Once again, injuries limit what a manager can do, but when every player is healthy, each batter should hold the same position in the lineup to maximize his potential. The chart below details how many different players hit at various spots in the lineup. This volatility limits a player's ability to get comfortable. I've included the Atlanta Braves, last year's best team in the National League, batting orders as well.

Batting Position

Leadoff

Second

Third

Cleanup

Fifth

Sixth

Seventh

Eighth

Ninth

Braves

3

6

4

6

6

8

10

9

12

Cardinals

3

8

10

10

13

15

16

18

14

It makes sense to have some volatility toward the back of the batting order, but to see eighteen different players bat eighth is jarring. Alec Burleson hit in every spot in the lineup at least once last year. While players such as Willson Contreras, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado settled into key spots in the lineup, the rest of the batting order was in flux so often that players couldn't be prepared for anything.

Defensively, things were just as muddled. While defensive flexibility is more of an advantage than batting order flexibility, when a player knows exactly where he will be playing, he sees more success. Brendan Donovan, Tommy Edman, Richie Palacios, and Alec Burleson all logged innings in both the infield and outfield. Once again, it is perfectly fine to have players play multiple positions; in fact, this versatility allows teams to make up for injuries, but there is a distinct benefit to knowing where you'll be playing each day.

One focus for the Cardinals in 2024 should be consistency in its batting order and defensive alignment. This stability will set players up for success. With better health and more consistent play, the opportunity for constancy in both the batting order and positional assignments opens up.