St. Louis Cardinals Intro to Team
The St. Louis Cardinals are the most successful team in the history of the National League, winning 52 percent of their games, 23 pennants, and 11 World Series titles since their inception in 1882 as the St. Louis Stockings.
The franchise has seen alternating periods of feast and famine throughout their history and is currently having a nice run, with 10 division titles, four pennants, and a pair of World Series championships over the prior 22 seasons.
St. Louis Cardinals Last Season Performance
Following a 4-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on September 10th, the Cardinals found themselves barely over .500 at 71-69 and 15 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in third place in the National League Central division. They were well out of the Wild Card race and then went on a 17 game winning streak, eventually surging to within five games of the Brewers and capturing the second Wild Card spot with a record of 90-72.
After ending the season on a 19-3 run, they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 in the Wild Card game, bowing out of the postseason but possibly setting the stage for another run to the division crown and a 12th World Series title.
A quick look at the final standings, where the Cardinals finished seven-game ahead of the Reds in the race for the second Wild Card spot, would be misleading about how the team made it to the postseason.
As a team, the Cardinals presented a balanced attack for opponents, finishing fifth in the National League in team batting average and seventh in total pitching staff ERA. They also had a lineup that, with the exception of one everyday player, hit between .255 and .294, with at least 11 home runs and 50 RBI.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt led St. Louis with 31 home runs and 99 RBI, third baseman Nolan Arenado at 34/105, and left fielder Tyler O’Neill with 34/80. Even thirty-eight-year-old catcher Yadier Molina, who is mainly in the lineup for his defensive skills and ability to manage pitching staffs, had 11 home runs and 66 RBI in 121 games.
Adam Wainwright was the workhorse on the pitching staff, starting 32 games, completing three, and putting up a record of 17-9 with 174 strikeouts while walking just 50 batters in 206 innings pitched. Only one other starting pitcher had more than 100 innings, primarily due to a rash of injuries that plagued the staff for much of the season.
St. Louis Cardinals Off Season Changes
The most significant move made by the Cardinals was the firing of manager Mike Shildt after more than three years at the helm, reportedly for philosophical differences with the team’s front office, particularly team President John Mozeliak. Shildt had been with the organization since being hired as a scout in 2004.
Both sides stated their own reasons for the breakup, but much of it seems to stem from the Cardinals’ lack of roster moves before the trade deadline, which could justifiably upset a manager who had seen his team ravaged by injury but was still in contention.
Most players and coaches were mum about the firing, but there didn’t seem to be any clubhouse discord that drove the decision.
The Cardinals hired Oli Marmol and with the exception of assistant hitting coach Jobel Jimenez, who was replaced by Turner Ward, they have kept the rest of the coaching staff in place and also added Skip Schumaker as bench coach. Schumaker, a prior manager with the San Diego Padres, will add much-needed major league experience to the staff and replace Marmol following his promotion to manager.
Because of the lockout timing, most teams, including the Cardinals, didn’t have a lot of time to make offseason moves. A large number of the transactions that were made by the franchise involved minor league acquisitions to add depth to the farm system. Still, they were able to add an experienced starting pitcher in Steven Matz via free agency.
The Cardinals also made a key move in signing Adam Wainwright to a one-year contract extension through the 2022 season. The 40-year-old will make $17.5 million for the upcoming season, and his continued presence in the rotation is critical for the team to continue to contend in 2022.
The team also signed relief pitcher TJ McFarland as a free agent to a one-year deal for 2022, although he was a member of the 2021 Cardinals and went 4-1 with an ERA of 2.56 with 21 strikeouts in 38.2 innings pitched.
St. Louis Cardinals Key Additions
Matz, a 30-year-old left-hander, is 45-48 in a seven-year career and was 14-7 with an ERA of 3.82 with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021 after spending the previous six seasons with the New York Mets. He struck out 144 and walked 43 batters while giving up 18 home runs in 150.2 innings in 2021.
He should be a great addition to the Cardinals, adding a younger but seasoned arm behind Wainwright to the starting rotation. Matz can strikeout hitters while still having enough pitching control to limit his walks and is coming off his most successful season in terms of wins in his career.
When teams are free to make major league moves again, the Cardinals will have to continue to shore up their pitching staff and add some youth to their position players. Goldschmidt is 33, Arenado is 30, and Molina, as a catcher, is ancient at the age of 38.
They had some youth in reserve positions in 2021. However, besides middle infielder Edmundo Sosa, who hit .271 in 113 games at the age of 25, none of the others made a significant offensive contribution.
St. Louis Cardinals Key Subtractions
Second baseman Matt Carpenter chose free agency after the team failed to pick up their option for 2022. The 35-year-old second baseman played in 130 games in 2021, but was mostly ineffective at the plate, hitting .169 in 249 plate appearances in a part-time role.
Kwang Hyun Kim, 32, who had the second-most innings pitched and games started on the staff in 2021, declared free agency after going 7-7 with an ERA of 3.46 with 106.2 innings of action in 21 starts. Another starting pitcher, Carlos Martinez, became a free agent after the Cardinals declined their team option for a player who was 4-9 with an ERA of 6.23 in 2021.
Starting pitcher J.A. Happ also became a free agent at the age of 38 after going 5-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 11 starts last season. Wade LeBlanc, another part-time starter, also is a free agent after going 0-1 and pitching just 42.1 innings as a 36-year-old.
Two 34-year-old relief pitchers, Justin Miller and Luis Garcia are free agents, and 36-year-old reliever Andrew Miller joined them after all three saw limited action in 2021, combining for 85 total innings on the mound.
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St. Louis Cardinals Manager Analysis
Oliver “Oli” Marmol is a former minor league player in the Cardinals organization and became the hitting coach for a Cardinals’ Rookie League team when his playing days were over in 2011. The following season he took his first managing job with Johnson City Cardinals. He had several more similar roles in the organization before taking over as first base coach with the parent team in 2017.
Marmol was the team’s first base coach from 2019-to 2021 before getting promoted to manager following Shildt’s firing. He brings a wealth of experience to the role, especially if the Cardinals want to continue a long-standing practice of sprinkling in timely free agent signings with a robust farm system, something Marmol is intimately familiar with.
The 35-year-old had a successful minor league managing career, winning the 2014 New York-Penn League title with the State College Spikes. Although it’s more about player development at the minor league level than it is about winning, he’s demonstrated the ability to do both in his ten year managerial and coaching career.
Shildt led the Cardinals to three straight postseason appearances, so his departure hasn’t been attributed to a lack of success as much as a difference in philosophy. With Marmol’s continued ascension in the organization, he’s likely to be on board with Mozeliak and the rest of the front office in the direction they want to move in signing and developing talent.
St. Louis Cardinals Injured Players at the beginning of the season
Ryan Helsley went 6-4 as a reliever in 2021 and suffered elbow and knee issues near the end of the season. Despite the injuries, Helsley is expected to be fully recovered in time for spring training and the beginning of the season, with his contributions significant given the hit to the bullpen taken with the offseason departures.
Another reliever who found himself on the 60-day disabled list was Junior Fernandez, who suffered a season-ending lat injury. Still, in November, he was removed from that list and should be at full strength come Opening Day for 2022.
Other than those bullpen players, the Cardinals are healthy heading into spring training, which is good news considering how injuries affected their performance during the first half of the 2021 campaign. What happens in the course of play once the season starts could be quite different, but at least they shouldn’t begin 2022 with anyone sidelined due to injuries.
St. Louis Cardinals Prediction for 2022 Season
It’s rare when the Cardinals aren’t in the conversation for a division title at the start of the season. They’ve finished the season with a winning record in 21 of the last 22 seasons, so even though the firing of Shildt may have seemed ill-advised at first blush, the organization hasn’t done much wrong the previous two decades.
With the truncated signing period, there weren’t a lot of major moves by the other contenders in the N.L. Central, so the Cardinals are in a good position to contend for the crown once again. The Brewers struggled down the stretch, while St. Louis surged and will have many of the same offensive faces back for 2022.
Signing Wainwright, even at his advanced age, bringing back McFarland, and picking up Matz are moves that can stabilize the pitching staff while they fill in the holes with additional signings or promotions from the minor leagues. The losses in the bullpen were primarily role players with limited impact on the team, with the exception of Kim, whose contributions should be able to be replaced by Matz.
To solidify their contender status, the Cardinals still have work to do when the offseason activity resumes, focusing on bringing in a young bat and strengthening the pitching staff, either with a high profile starter or by adding depth to the relief corps. There are a lot of free agents still on the market, but a lot depends on whether the Cardinals want to get in a bidding war for players like Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant, or Nick Castellanos.
The answer is probably no, given that the Cardinals return three players, albeit aging ones, who all hit more than 30 homers and drove in at least 80 runs in 2021. Chances are better that they count on some of their minor league acquisitions to pan out at the major league level and see how the team is positioned and get your MLB odds as the trade deadline approaches.
Whether they come out on top in the N.L. Central is always unknown at the end of a grinding 162 game schedule, but this current front office has a way of pulling the right strings. Look for the Cardinals to be in contention in September for another division title and a playoff berth, challenging the Cubs for supremacy in the N.L. Central. Check out their MLB Lines.