What each Cardinal pitcher has to prove during the final stretch

Every Cardinal still has something to play for, even though the team is on the brink of elimination. Today, we'll break down what each member of the pitching staff must prove over the final weeks of the season!

Thompson faces off against the Cincinnati Reds
Thompson faces off against the Cincinnati Reds / Aaron Doster/GettyImages
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Steven Matz

Steven Matz started slowly in 2023. In fact, he started slowly enough to receive a demotion to the bullpen in May. That move seemed to push the right buttons, as Matz returned soon after and dominated for nearly two months. In that span, he was one of the NL's best pitchers, recording a 1.86 ERA. He paired that with strong peripheral stats, including a high strikeout rate.

On the season, Matz's stats look fantastic. Unfortunately, he's hurt yet again. With so few games left, Matz seems unlikely to take the field again in 2023. Even with his limited action, Matz was well worth the $11MM he's being paid. Pitchers capable of striking out that many hitters and keeping their ERA below 4.00 are very expensive these days. It's rare to see one sign for anything less than $80MM. Matz signed for just $44MM. He's truly a bargain, even if many fans believe he isn't.

Hopefully, Matz will be healthy for the entirety of the 2024 season. His presence is critical to the team's success. If he misses time again, they'll have no choice but to look for replacements in-house. Unfortunately, the upper levels of St. Louis' minor league system lack serious starting depth, meaning finding a proper replacement for Matz would be difficult. If Matz returns to the field, he just needs to demonstrate that he's healthy. Even if he gets knocked around a bit, seeing him make a start and exit without an injury would go a long way towards proving that he will be a reliable rotation piece for 2024 and beyond.