The St. Louis Cardinals dropped two games to the Detroit Tigers due, in large part, to an offense that never got going during the brief series. The Cardinals managed six hits on Tuesday and seven on Wednesday. They only pushed two runs across in each contest. They’ve now failed to score more than two runs in eight of their last ten games and sit two games below .500.
Across 74 games this season the Cardinals average 3.93 runs per game. Ranking among the bottom five in the majors in runs scored doesn’t fit the expectations for this offense. But averages can be a bit misleading and 3.93 runs per game paints a rosier picture than reality.
Two Is a Serious Number
The Cardinals finish games with two runs more often than any other amount—fifteen times this season. They are 5-10 in those contests. The offense has scored two or fewer runs on 30 occasions with a record of 6-24. They are 9-31 when scoring three or fewer runs, which they have done in more than half of their games. It’s rather obvious that a team’s record improves when they score more runs, but scoring at least four is critical for the Cardinals as they are 6-3 when plating four and 27-7 when scoring four or more.
A team with a healthy and robust starting rotation can get by with that frequency of two and three-run performances, but the current rotation problems for the Cardinals are too significant to overcome an anemic and inconsistent offense.
Problems Run Deep
While the solutions to the Cardinals’ pitching woes are relatively straightforward—get healthy and add a starter, addressing the flailing offense is much more complicated. Three position players who have appeared in more than 45 of the team’s 74 games have a batting average under .200 for the year. Only five players have accumulated an oWAR of more than one for the season. A cursory look at any of the clutch stats paints a bleak picture. June has been a particularly rough month.
There are plenty of scapegoats. Matt Carpenter is seeing more shifts and hitting into them with limited success. Yadier Molina’s production has diminished greatly after a scorching start. Paul DeJong has simply not produced up to expectations this season. Although eight of his 26 hits have been home runs, it’s a significant problem that he only has 26 hits in 158 at-bats. His track record suggests that he should improve some, but that alone cannot fix the Cardinals offense.
The Cardinals Offense Break Out
The team needs a shakeup. Questions are being raised regarding hitting coach Jeff Albert. Perhaps it’s time for a new approach or at least a new voice. The Cardinals promoted Lars Nootbaar hoping his recent performance at Memphis would carry over to the majors. Moving Dylan Carlson’s team-leading OBP to the leadoff spot makes sense. Putting Molina in the two-hole isn’t the worst idea. At this point almost any change is justifiable
A team anchored by Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of the order should score runs. Add in a surging Tyler O’Neill, and the offense should be fine. The Cardinals have to arrange the pieces around them to ensure the offense produces enough to be competitive, or a deadline deal for starting pitching won’t be necessary.
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