2018: Record: 88 – 74
2018 Finish: 3rd in th NL Central, 6th in the National League
Surprises in 2018
Carp came out of the woodwork for the Cardinals and had a hell of a season. He bounced around the infield and filled pretty much any role he needed to. While doing that he managed to hit .257 with 145 hits, a career high 36 of which touched all bases. In addition to that he drove in 81 RBI, scored 111 runs, and had and OBP of .374.
Can he continue this type of production into 2019? I’d expect them to dip a bit, but the weapons they have around him could help him to create a lot of runs. His versatility is key to the Cardinals’ success. Watch out for Carp to land at third base and have another solid season.
Mikolas was a workhorse, creating consistency for an otherwise sporadic rotation in St. Louis. That’s to be expected as the Cardinals ran headlong into their changing of the guard in 2018. After Carlos Martinez‘s solid 2017, and the exits of Lance Lynn and Mike Leake, the Cards rotation was in search of stability. Mike Mikolas delivered that every 5 days.
Coming into the season. Mikolas had a 4-6 career record and a 5.32 ERA with 62 Ks and
If the Cardinals starters can stay healthy this year, Miles may have just found his home in this rotation. A rotation that, even with 36-year-old Adam Wainwright, has an average age of 26. Young. Studs.
Disappointments in 2018
Injuries to Wacha and Wainwright
Speaking of health, injuries played a huge part in the Cardinals season. Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright combined for 23 games, Wacha pitching 15 of those games. He had an 8-2 record and a 3.20 ERA. Had he managed to escape injury, that could have been big for the Cardinals. But alas, they spent the vast majority of the season without two of their biggest rotation stars.
With Wainwright in the twilight of his career, St. Louis may need to start thinking about what’s next. His career numbers are nothing to scoff at, but at his age, the ability to stay consistently healthy starts to raise questions about his future.
Wacha seems a long term solution, but that’s only if he stays healthy. And even still, he’s not a number one guy. Since his breakout year in 2015, he hasn’t been able to replicate that success. The closest he got was this past season riddled by injury. The jury’s out.
Matheny led the Cardinals to a 47-46 record before getting fired in July. His time in St. Louis started pretty positive, helping create a relatively seamless transition from legendary manager Tony LaRussa. Come 2018, it appeared the honeymoon period was over.
Matheny allowed Bud Norris to badger Jordan Hicks, isolated Dexter Fowler, called Yadier Molina tired and wasn’t clear with Kolten Wong about his role on the team. You could say he lost total control of the clubhouse. The problems didn’t appear to be all Matheny, but once the Cardinals fired him, and settled on Mike Shildt as interim manager, there was a notable difference in the team. Camaraderie reappeared, and the Cards shot to a 41-28 record for the rest of the season.
Did they make the playoffs? No. But that momentum could continue into 2019 with Matheny out of the picture.
Fowler came to the Cardinals with great fanfare. He left the archrival Cubs to head south and had a solid first season in 2017. But 2018 was a stark change. He didn’t seem to get along with Matheny, and appeared in just 90 games with an abysmal .180 average. But after the manager was let go, Fowler broke his foot and that continued to stay sidelined, this time outside the manager leaving him out of the lineup.
A career .260 hitter, Fowler needs to find his way in 2019 and help lock down the Cardinals outfield. If he can’t show some improvement and consistency in spring training, he could find himself out of luck mid-year.
Looking Ahead to 2019
Welcome to the Paul Goldschmidt years! The 31 year old first baseman traded his scales for feathers this offseason, and puts the Cardinals in a prime position to return to the playoffs after a three year hiatus.
He joins an already potent lineup, with the likes of Jose Martinez, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and a hopefully resurgent Marcell Ozuna. With Tommy Pham leaving and Goldschmidt coming in, Dexter Fowler could move back to center, Martinez to right field, and Goldy will man first.
Goldschmidt hit .290 with 33 home runs and 83 RBIs last season. Add that to Martinez (.305/17/83), Carpenter (.257/36/81), Ozuna (.280/23/88), and Molina (.261/20/74) and watch out.
This lineup could be a scary one, and if they can get their pitching in line the Cards will be a legitimate contender. Their rotation could thrive with a healthy Wainwright, a healthy Wacha, and another solid season from Mikolas. They need more than one guy with double digit wins.
In the bullpen, a big key will be the growth of Jordan Hicks. He is arguably the hardest thrower in the league and is only 21 years old. He shared the same ERA as Bud Norris (3.59) while throwing more innings and giving up fewer home runs. I personally would love to see Norris get run out of town by the very kid he spent 2018 harassing.
Time will tell, but watch out for the Cardinals in 2019.