Who's at fault for the anemic Cardinals offense?

Do the players, hitting coach, or management hold the most blame for the abysmal offensive output this year?
Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals' offensive struggles have been well documented. After the series with the Chicago White Sox, the Cardinals' offense ranks 28th in runs scored, 28th in OPS, and they are tied for last in total home runs.

The "what" of the offense is clear. The team isn't hitting for power, they aren't getting on base, and those few players who do get on base aren't being driven in.

The "why" can be attributed to a variety of factors. Hitters are among the worst in baseball at hitting high fastballs and breaking balls down. Additionally, the Cardinals are not hitting fly balls to the pull side the same way they did as recently as 2022. Perhaps preparation for at-bats isn't what it once was.

Now for the "who" of the situation. In my mind, there are four different factions of the organization that can be at fault: ownership, management, coaching staff, and the players themselves. Ownership is responsible for setting the budget that is used to acquire hitters. Management is responsible for identifying, wooing, and promoting capable hitters. The coaching staff is tasked with, well, coaching the hitters. The hitters are the ones who must execute in the end.

The DeWitt family has historically been willing to spend a fair amount of money in free agency and has a payroll around the 10th-highest in the league. This is a fine spot for the Cardinals to sit given their market size. The team has passed up on high-end shortstops like Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and Marcus Semien in favor of in-house options like Paul DeJong and Tommy Edman. The outfield has been a revolving door of performers recently. Very rarely has the front office gotten uncomfortable financially.

John Mozeliak, though he is limited by what he can spend, gets to choose how he will spend money given to him by the DeWitt family. Mozeliak has not signed a top-end offensive player in many years. Trades are his preferred route of acquiring field players like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. The offense has been putrid this offseason, but there weren't many players available via free agency who could have usurped an in-house player at any position. J.D. Martinez was an option, but the DH position needed to be open for players like Nolan Gorman, Willson Contreras, and Brendan Donovan to rotate through. Perhaps you fancied Cody Bellinger. He would have cost $27 million, but he's been hurt and underperforming. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is a below-average hitter right now, as is Matt Chapman.

No matter where you look, recent free-agent classes didn't have a hitter who was a realistic option for the Cardinals. Where Mozeliak and the other front office members are at fault would be player development. For some reason, players such as Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, and Lars Nootbaar have been unable to replicate their success as prospects and rookies this season. The list of top-100 prospects who peter out once they reach the majors in St. Louis is concerning.

Perhaps you would like to spew vitriol at the coaching staff. Oliver Marmol and Turner Ward would be the first targets. The hitting philosophy has changed since Jeff Albert was at the helm in 2019 through 2022. The team is pulling the ball in the air far less often, and they have lost the ability to hit high fastballs and breaking balls down. It's easy to blame coaches when an entire offense goes cold, but is it accurate?

Player quotes recently have taken blame off the coaching staff and instead placed the onus on themselves. Nolan Arenado, the team's veteran third baseman, voiced his serious frustration after getting on base five times Saturday against the White Sox only for the team to lose.

"Guys shouldn’t be OK with what’s going on. I know we have a lot of games left, but that’s an ongoing excuse and we can’t continue to use that."

Nolan Arenado

Even Brendan Donovan weighed in on the situation. It's very clear that the players aren't happy with their performances.

The St. Louis Cardinals' struggling offense is likely a product of every facet of the organization being misaligned; ownership isn't spending how it should, John Mozeliak hasn't gone for big splashes in free agency, the coaching philosophy is drastically different than when the team had success, and players across the board are underperforming. Fixing the offense isn't an easy task, but it needs to happen soon.