The Cardinals say pitching, pitching, and pitching. Why not hitting too?

Without bringing in more top-tier pitching, the smart move may have been to add to the lineup.
World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Five
World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Five / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

Baseball at its core is a simple game. If your team scores more runs than the other team, you win. Some teams will accomplish that by outscoring the other team with a dominant offense. Other teams will try to keep the opposition from scoring with excellent pitching and defense. Teams with the highest run differential will usually be the teams in the playoffs.  

The top teams in this category in 2023 were the Braves (1.4), Dodgers (1.3), Rays (1.2) Rangers (1.0), and Orioles (0.8). Every single team reached the playoffs. The Cardinals last year ranked 25th with a -0.7 run differential.

How did the playoff teams do it? The top five teams scoring runs last year were the Braves, Dodgers, Rangers, Rays, and Astros. The Cardinals ranked 21st. 

The top five teams allowing the fewest runs were the Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Twins, and Rays. The Cardinals placed 24th. 

Four of the top five teams in run differential were also the best offensive teams. The Astros placed sixth in run differential and were in the top five in runs scored. If you placed in the top five in either category, you had a pretty good chance of making the playoffs. However, there was a substantial tilt in favor of the high-powered offenses. The Cardinals were bound to finish last with rankings of 21st and 24th.  

The Cardinals probably won’t be able to climb twenty spots this year to become one of the top five teams in the league in either category. Trying to win the division is now the goal. But how can they prosper in the Central division?

In terms of runs scored, we saw these numbers - Cubs (5.1), Reds (4.8), Brewers (4.5), Cardinals (4.4) and Pirates (4.3).

In terms of runs allowed the numbers were - Brewers (3.99), Cubs (4.6), Pirates (4.88), Reds (5.07), and the Cardinals (5.12). 

The Brewers and Cubs were the division’s top two teams last year. The pattern remains consistent within the division. Be a strong offense or prevent opponents from scoring with pitching and defense. 

To catch the Cubs in hitting, the Cardinals must climb from 21st to 6th. To compete with the Brewers’ pitching, the Cardinals must go from 24th to 1st. It’s problematic when you use the same lineup again and only improve your pitching incrementally.

Instead of an emphasis solely on pitching, could the Cardinals have benefited from prioritizing signings for hitting? Would this team have a better shot at regaining the top position if they had signed someone like a Jung Ho Lee? If the Cubs lose Cody Bellinger and don’t replace his bat, then the Cardinals could close the gap on the hitting column if they had gone in a different direction.  

Without creativity, the Cardinals face a challenging task in catching up in this division.