2024 St. Louis Cardinals O/U

2024 St Louis Cardinals O/U: Why the Cardinals Will Hit the UNDER

It was a rough year for the St Louis Cardinals in 2023, losing 91 games and putting together their worst full season since 1990. Before last year the Cardinals were the model of consistency, making the playoffs four years in a row and finishing over .500 in 15 straight seasons in a stretch that included 10 playoff appearances and one World Series championship.

After last year’s disappointment, the Cardinals had a very busy offseason, making several additions to the pitching staff as they attempted to return to their winning ways. With those additions in mind FanDuel has put the Cardinals’ O/U at 84.5, a significant improvement from last season but here is why the Cardinals will hit the UNDER.

Why the Cardinals Will Win Fewer Than 84.5 Games

The Rotation is a Question Mark

The primary goal of the Cardinals’ offseason was to improve a starting rotation that was the fifth worst in MLB by ERA last year. They did this by bringing in AL Cy Young runner-up Sonny Gray on a three-year, $75 million deal along with one-year deals for veterans Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. The moves looked good on paper due to the pedigree behind all these names but they are all flawed additions.

Gibson has always been an innings eater, throwing at least 160 innings in each of the last five full seasons but lately, he hasn’t been as effective. He has a 4.88 ERA over the last two years and his underlying metrics are just as unimpressive. Same story for Lynn, who allowed more home runs than anyone last season and put up a 5.73 ERA in his 183.2 innings. They are also joining Miles Mikolas in the rotation who put up a 4.78 ERA in 201.1 innings last year in what was a down year for him. So after ace Sonny Gray, the rotation is anchored by three veterans who’ll eat lots of innings but give up lots of runs, that doesn’t seem like a winning formula.

Additionally, Gray, Gibson, and Lynn are 34, 36, and 37 years old respectively. They join the 35-year-old Mikolas and the 33-year-old Steven Matz to create the oldest rotation in baseball. Who knows what the Cardinals will get from a rotation built around guys in their mid-30s and past the peaks of their careers? Just ask the New York Mets how that went last year. 

The Corner Infield is Past Its Prime

For the last few seasons, the Cardinals have been led by their corner infield superstars, Paul Goldschmidt at first and Nolan Arenado at the hot corner, with the two of them even finishing first and third in NL MVP voting in 2022. The problem is that they are entering their age-36 and age-33 seasons, making it unclear if they will be able to carry this team the way they did in 2022 ever again.

Much like the rest of the team, their performance dipped significantly in 2023 with Arenado and Goldschmidt putting up the third and eighth-largest year-over-year WAR decline among all position players. For the first baseman, there was some bad luck involved with his approach and quality of contact remaining similar to his MVP campaign but for the 10-time Gold Glove third baseman the numbers appear to be far more problematic.

All of his expected stats fell off a cliff last year and the results followed, his wRC+ dropped 43 points to 107 in 2023 and what’s worse was his perennially elite defense also declined, falling nine outs above average (OAA) from 2022. For the first time since he made his debut, the NL Gold Glove at third base did not go to Nolan Arenado, perhaps a fluke, perhaps a sign of age.

While both of their power has declined significantly as they aged, Goldschmidt and Arenado are still very good players, they just aren’t among the elites of the game like they once were. For this team to return to the postseason, they’re going to need to rely on the younger guys, barring one of these guys finding their youth to put together another monster season.

The Defense is Problematic

The Cardinals organization has prided itself on playing fundamental baseball for decades, something that is part of the reason they have been one of the game’s most successful teams of the millennium but also something that fell apart last year. After years of consistently solid defense getting them into the playoffs, the Cards finished 19th in the league in OAA and 24th in Fangraphs’ defensive runs. Their collective defensive runs were worse than every team to win more than 84 games last year except for the Philadelphia Phillies who made history with their lackluster fielding in 2023.

This is not going to improve this year, they are only projected to have four players be plus defenders and play over 110 games. That is offset by three other players with the same games played who are projected to be disasters in the field at minus eight runs or worse. Generally winning teams, especially winning Cardinals teams, have a strong defensive unit that can pick up the pitching staff when needed but the 2024 Cardinals will have to find a way to win without one.

FanDuel has the Cardinals’ over/under at 84.5 wins, a total that might get them into the postseason or even to a division title in the weak NL Central. It seems like a tall task for a Cardinals team that won just 71 games last year to improve by 14 wins in just one year. This is especially true considering the lineup will be very similar and the rotation has just gotten significantly older despite the retirement of Adam Wainwright. Expect the Cardinals to improve, but don’t put money on them putting pressure on the best teams in the division.

Main Image: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

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