The numbers suggest the Cardinals' offense has been unlucky this year

The Cardinals offense is due for some positive regression at some point.
Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals
Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages
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If you told me before the season that the St. Louis Cardinals' offense would be as bad as it was for the first six weeks or so of the season, I would have called you crazy.

But then it happened, and even though the names on the lineup card should have been producing more than they were, the Cardinals just kept lacking production from the part of their team that was supposed to be their strength.

It's been a bit of a tail of two seasons for the Cardinals though offensively, and the advanced metrics seem to indicate that the Cardinals offense is better than we saw early in the year. First, let's look at how it's faired thus far. Here are the Cardinals' offensive metrics on the season, and then broken down before May 12th and after May 12th, the day the Cardinals season turned around.

Cardinals offense

OPS

wRC+

R

SLG

OBP

Season Stats

.687 (17th)

97 (16th)

311 (26th)

.381 (18th)

.306 (20th)

FIrst 39 games (through May 11th)

.633 (28th)

83 (25th)

132 (29th)

.338 (29th)

.295 (27th)

Last 38 games (since May 12th)

.740 (11th)

112 (10th)

179 (12th)

.422 (9th)

.318 (12th)

On the season, the Cardinals' offense ranks below average. For the first half of the season thus far, they were bottom three in all of baseball. The second half of the season up until this point, they've been a top-12 unit. So what's the deal with this offense?

I wrote about this during the height of their offensive struggles, but it's not unheard of for a team to have a top offense in the league over the course of an entire season but have a long stretch during the season where they struggle as badly as the Cardinals' offense did. It's infrequent and rare, but it has happened before, with the most recent example being the 2023 Philadelphia Phillies.

So on the surface, I look at the names on the Cardinals roster and expect them to be more like a top 12 offense than the bottom three unit they were to begin the year or even the below-average group that their season numbers show. But if you look at the advanced numbers, they'll back up that take as well.

The Cardinals have been one of the unluckiest teams offensively this season

If you compare the expected stats to the actual stats for St. Louis this year, they sit firmly in the "unlucky" tier when it comes to offensive production.

It is interesting to note that their pitching has been a hair lucky, but their offense has really underperformed compared to the expected numbers. That doesn't mean the Cardinals should be a top 5 offense in the game, but it does back up the feeling that the Cardinals had internally that the offense would come around, and the numbers in the last 38 games have shown that as well.

While there are a few players who have had a positive difference between their wOBA and their xwOBA like Masyn Winn and Willson Contreras, there have been a number of Cardinals who have been unlucky when it comes to the results

Cardinals' hitters

wOBA

xwOBA

Difference in wOBA vs. xwOBA

Brendan Donovan

.331

.333

-0.002

Matt Carpenter

.291

.310

-0.019

Nolan Gorman

.299

.319

-0.020

Dylan Carlson

.227

.253

-0.026

Paul Goldschmidt

.294

.323

-0.029

Lars Nootbaar

.328

.368

-0.040

Ivan Herrera

.319

.359

-0.040

Gorman, Carlson, Goldschmidt, and especially Nootbaar and Herrera have been very unlucky at the plate this year. Remember last year when the Cardinals and many of us were talking about how unlucky Alec Burleson was? He has a -0.037 difference in his wOBA and xwOBA, and for what it's worth, Masyn Winn had a -0.039 difference in his during his short sample size last season.

The point is that the Cardinals could see even more positive regression for their lineup in the performances of Gorman, Carlson, and Goldschmidt, as well as both Herrers and Nootbaar when they return from injury. Both Nootbaar and Herrera have some of the better xwOBA outputs in the league, so positive regression toward their expected numbers would give the Cardinals two more highly productive bats for their order.

Maybe I'm too optimistic, but the quality of this offense seems to reflect more their recent numbers than their putrid start of even mediocre season-long results, and if that's the case, this team is going to run away with the Wild Card and could get back into the mix for winning the National League Central crown.

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