The St. Louis Cardinals are struggling to stay afloat in a very solid National League Central.
After getting swept by the Chicago Cubs, the Cardinals are now below .500 at 32-33.
There is still time to turn things around, but changes need to come quickly.
Three players in particular deserve a good chunk of the blame, but those same three players will likely be the key to the team’s success in the second half of the season if they’re able to get things going.
3. Paul Goldschmidt
Paul Goldschmidt isn’t having an awful 2021 season, but he has been disappointing by his standards.
Goldschmidt has completed 10 seasons at the MLB level and has never finished a year with an OPS below .800.
Currently, he has a .714 OPS.
The 33-year-old is batting just .244 and is coming off of a 1-for-11 series against the Cubs.
Fans are used to seeing Goldschmidt receive MVP consideration year in and year out, but that might not be the case this season.
I didn't think a Cardinals offense with Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt would struggle to score runs this often. Instead of the 10-12 run barrages, how about a few games of 5-7 runs? Too much to ask of the millionaires?? #stlcards
— Dan Buffa (@buffa82) May 6, 2021
With any luck, though, he should be able to break out of this slight funk and become a key bat in this lineup again.
2. Matt Carpenter
It’s been known for a few seasons now that Matt Carpenter isn’t the player he used to be, but the 35-year-old is playing at an exceptionally low level this year.
Carpenter is batting just .179 through 58 games and has a poor .639 OPS.
The lifelong Cardinal has also been a net negative in the WAR category—he has a -0.4 WAR on the year.
Carpenter posted similar statistics last season, but he was serviceable as recently as 2019.
That year, he managed an OPS of .726.
It’s tough to watch Carpenter struggle to this degree when you consider how good he was for so many seasons.
From 2012 to 2018, he batted .275 with an .849 OPS and was named an All-Star twice.
Carpenter might never get back to those levels of production, but he will need to ditch his current pace this season in order to help this Cardinals club get back on track.
1. Carlos Martinez
Cardinals fans hoped that Carlos Martinez’s 2020 season was a fluke.
After all, he only appeared in five games.
Over those five games, the righty got shelled to the tune of a 9.90 ERA, 6.89 FIP, and 2.10 WHIP.
It was an odd season with lots of challenges, though, and Martinez’s strong track record suggested that his short campaign was nothing to sweat going forward.
Unfortunately, the 29-year-old’s 2021 season has been awful so far.
Over 12 starts, Martinez has a 5.54 ERA, a 3.99 FIP, and a 1.23 WHIP.
Now, to be fair, those FIP and WHIP marks suggest that maybe the high ERA isn’t an accurate representation of his season so far.
FIP is essentially a predictive ERA, so in this case, it’s saying that Martinez’s ERA is about a full run-and-a-half higher than expected based on his ability to control the three true outcomes (strikeouts, walks, and home runs).
Fans care about results, though, and predictive statistics aren’t going to cut it when your team is a game under .500.
Martinez has given up five earned runs or more in 25 percent of his starts this season, and the team is 4-8 when he gets the ball.
This is made most disappointing by the fact that Martinez pitched like an ace from 2015 to 2019.
“All the team is a little frustrated,” Carlos Martínez says, reiterating that something good is going to happen. “We’re going to win a lot of games. We’re going to the playoffs.” #stlcards
— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) June 14, 2021
He posted a 3.22 ERA over that span and was named an All-Star twice.
The veteran will have to channel some of his better years if the Cardinals want to get back into the playoff picture this season.