The St. Louis Cardinals can't hit the fastball

The St. Louis Cardinals are being scorched by the heater in 2024.
St. Louis Cardinals v Oakland Athletics
St. Louis Cardinals v Oakland Athletics / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals' offensive woes have been well documented to begin the season. They rank 29th in home runs, 26th in batting average and 28th in slugging percentage. Beyond the surface numbers lies a frightening statistic: The Cardinals collectively have a major issue hitting fastballs.

Today's fastballs aren't the same ones your grandparents saw. Pitchers are regularly pumping triple-digit heat, and fans' amazement from 100-mph pitches is no longer present. But while pitchers are being developed to throw incredibly hard at a young age, nothing will ultimately stop the ravages of age on hitters where they eventually won't be able to keep up.

The Cardinals' offense is supposed to revolve around Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, and their bat speed is diminishing. The 36-year-old Goldschmidt has hit only .212 against four-seam fastballs in 2024, and 33-year-old Arenado has a .241 average against the same pitch.

More worrying is the fact that it's not just the veterans who are struggling to catch up to the heat: Two of the Cardinals' most highly touted young hitters, Nolan Gorman and the recently demoted Jordan Walker, are seeing mostly fastballs and struggling to do damage against them. Gorman is hitting just .195 against the fastball, and Walker has a putrid .125 average against them.

While fastballs are reaching the plate at speeds higher than ever, pitchers are throwing fewer of them than at any time in baseball history. The Cardinals, obviously aware of this trend, might have placed too much emphasis on helping young hitters recognize breaking balls, leaving them unprepared for high velocity.

The Cardinals' strength regarding player development in recent years has been on the offensive side, and with there being numerous horror stories about the team's lackluster ability to coax more skills out of pitching prospects, the team can't afford to fall behind on teaching hitting as well, especially during a time when velocity has never been higher.

The fastball is being phased out around the sport, but it's quality over quantity with the pitch these days. Teams will catch on to the Cardinals' weakness and utilize the fastball liberally against them until the Cardinals prove that they can adjust.