5 things for the Cardinals to do in order to maintain momentum


Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports


With the Chicago Cubs rolling into town for the first time in two years and a lineup that is starting to come together, the St. Louis Cardinals are poised to make a statement as May turns the corner to June. Can the Birds keep it going, or will they hit a roadblock? Let’s examine five things they need to do in order to keep the winning ways healthy.

A consistent hitting Paul Goldschmidt

The big fella isn’t off to a rollicking start. In his third season (second full one) as a Cardinal, Goldschmidt has found himself bumping back and forth between power hitting and just collecting hits. The year 2019 showed the power off and 2020 displayed his knack for reaching base, but what will 2022 look like? If he starts hitting consistently, this team will truly take off. The number three hitter is, and should be, the equalizer of every potent lineup. Remember what Albert Pujols did there for 11 years?

Now, Goldschmidt doesn’t need to shoot for 700 home runs anytime soon, but if he drops the streaky aspect of his hitting and doesn’t look overmatched by a fastball every night, the sky’s the limit for this team’s offensive output. I don’t think this is asking too much of a guy making $26 million a year through 2024. A .713 OPS so far this season doesn’t scream third place hitter, but I am encouraged by his .317 and .901 OPS marks in May.


Improve the bench

If they didn’t want to employ the former Cardinal legend on their bench, this team needs more than the current staple of extra bats. I can tell you right now that Max Moroff isn’t scaring any bullpens, and Justin Williams’ .174 batting average comes off as a half-full warm beer to opposing managers. Matt Carpenter put together a very good career in St. Louis, but he has two hits in 22 May at-bats. He’s hitting a whopping .108 with a slugging percentage that would rival first base coach and former player Stubby Clapp (.246). Pujols’ pinch-hit single on Wednesday was more than the Cards bench has produced in two weeks. With a streaky offense, you need bench help. This team has zip.

Miles Mikolas in 2018 mode

There’s a good chance he’s making a return this weekend (or very soon after) from a rehab assignment, following a forearm (flexor tendon) injury. With Carlos Martinez also returning, the rotation finally carries the preseason projected look-but what do we expect from Mikolas? In 74 career MLB starts, he has compiled an ERA of 3.82. The sweet spot of his mound ability is throwing strikes, limiting walks and home runs, and working quickly. The potential bad spot is the career .260 average that batters hold against him, including a .272 mark during his last season, which was two years ago.

He needs to be somewhere in between his 2018 and 2019 seasons, preferably closer to the former. This rotation needs more stability and certainty after Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright. You can have a plethora of starters, but if they’re not effective, it helps nothing. This is why I am keeping my eyes on Max Scherzer’s trade block status. I don’t trust Mikolas to be consistent. He’s a big question mark.

Let Edmundo Sosa continue to get shortstop starts

Even when Paul DeJong returns from the injured list, the Cards need to split time between these two more often, because 15 straight days of DeJong means some homers and a lot of strikeouts. He isn’t the star that many fans hoped for, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid player. More rest and Sosa exposure would help all parties. If Mike Shildt’s intent is keep Tommy Edman everywhere but short, keep playing the charismatic and fun-to-watch Sosa there a couple of days each week. In the two game series with Pittsburgh, Sosa collected three hits and a walk to go with a stolen base. He can field the spot and brings a different element than DeJong, so don’t park him on the bench when the starter returns.

Side note: A spot start for Andrew Knizner won’t hurt anything except for Yadier Molina’s ego. If not, use him off the bench, send Max Moroff down, and bring up another catcher.

Stop allowing so many walks

The Cardinals lead the Major Leagues with 191 walks allowed. That’s a 4.4 average per game this season, meaning the team is handing out free passes like no other. If you compare it to the strikeout total for the team (which ranks 28th in the Majors), it’s an ugly dichotomy being built on this pitching staff. One that could worsen as the summer season nears. This would be where a pitching coach like Mike Maddux comes in, but it will take more than an arm around the shoulder for these walks to decrease. You can’t allow that many walks and call yourself a serious playoff contender.

Look, the team is 25-18 as play opens today at Busch, where the Cubs haven’t played in two years. This team has a top closer, third baseman, ace starter, breakout rookie, revitalized outfield, and some injured players returning. The Cardinals lead the Central Division by three games, carry the National League’s fourth-best run differential, and are 14-8 at home. But the schedule ahead carries matchups with Tony La Russa’s impressive White Sox, Pujols and the Dodgers, and the Indians. Soft spots exist as well (games with Arizona and Cincinnati), but some sharpness will be required.

Every team needs to get better. I am sure there are more than five tender spots on St. Louis’s roster, but these areas getting fixed could lead to pennant contention and not just a division flag ownership.

Thanks for stopping by and have a good weekend.