HomeMLBSt. Louis Cardinals Season Preview 2024 Odds and Predictions

    St. Louis Cardinals Season Preview 2024 Odds and Predictions

    Adam Burke's season preview for the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the VSiN 2024 MLB Betting Guide.

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    St. Louis Cardinals 2024 preview

    There are a lot of reasons why the 2024 season went awry for the St. Louis Cardinals. The question now is whether or not those things can be fixed or if the front office and ownership need to think about going in a different direction. Last year’s group won 71 games, which marked the fewest wins in a non-COVID/non-strike year for the Cardinals since 1990.

    This is an organization that had one losing season since 2000 up until last year. Finishing 20 games under .500 and, maybe more importantly, -110 in run differential was basically unheard of for nearly two and a half decades. The 2023 season represented the first time since 2007 that the Cardinals allowed over 800 runs and the first time since 2017 that they allowed at least 700. Hell, it was the first time the Redbirds fell short of the playoffs since 2018 and they went 88-74 that year.

     

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    Heading into 2024, the lineup mostly remains the same, just with an old friend and a new friend on the bench. The starting rotation has been revamped a bit, though Sonny Gray got hurt early in Spring Training and will miss the start of the season. Parts of the bullpen have gotten a facelift as well.

    So, is that enough? Many like the Cardinals for a bounce back season in what is a pretty weak NL Central Division. Is the aging curve for some key players too much to overcome? Was last season an anomaly? Have they done enough to get better? So many questions. Are there enough answers?

    2024 St. Louis Cardinals Odds

    (odds from DraftKings as of Mar. 25)

    World Series: +3500

    NL Pennant: +1600

    NL Central: +190

    Win Total: 84.5 (-105/-115)

    Make Playoffs: Yes +105 / No -125

    St. Louis Cardinals Preview: Offense

    Offensive production increased around the league last season, as the shift ban, bigger bases, pitch clock, and a full season without a dead ball (first six-ish weeks of 2022) all had substantial impacts. St. Louis’s offense didn’t really increase along with the league, though. The Cardinals posted a 104 wRC+ that ranked 13th. They were pretty good at avoiding strikeouts at 21.4% and carried an above average BB% at 9.2. They even hit over 200 homers.

    In the aggregate, their offensive numbers were better than league average to some degree across the board, except for a .291 BABIP that ranked 24th. The offense wasn’t totally the problem for the Cardinals, but there were some players who underachieved in a big way. Paul Goldschmidt was one of them, as his 122 wRC+ was the lowest he’s had since 2019 and the second-lowest of his career in a full season.

    Goldy fell short of 30 homers for the first time since 2016, but the weird part was that he posted a career-best 50.7% Hard Hit% and an 11.9% Barrel%, consistent with his career average of 11.5% in the Statcast era (2015). His xSLG of .491 was quite a bit higher than his actual SLG of .447. His Z-Contact% was 1.3% lower than the previous season per Statcast, but only 1% lower than his career average. I don’t think it was an age issue. I don’t know what it was. He did only bat .246 in the second half, so maybe he got a little tired or a little unlucky. Maybe there was a nagging injury.

    Even though he’ll turn 37 before the end of the season, I don’t think he’s cooked. I think he could bounce back to some degree. I think the same is true of Nolan Arenado as well, who posted a 107 wRC+, his lowest in a full season since his rookie year in 2013. He, too, had a little bit of a power outage and hit his fewest number of homers since 2014. Unlike Goldschmidt, who improved in the contact authority metrics, Arenado was near his underwhelming career averages. Maybe it was just some negative regression.

    Arenado wasn’t quite as good defensively last season either, but I’ll get to that later. Of the top eight in plate appearances, Tommy Edman was the only one with a wRC+ below 107. He stole 27 bases and played well defensively to make up for it. All in all, the Cardinals had enough good hitters. The platoon guys and bench players weren’t as effective. But, the main guys were and we could absolutely see gains from Jordan Walker and Nolan Gorman this season.

    Walker will turn 22 in May and he had a 116 wRC+ with 16 homers in 465 PA. Gorman will turn 24 in May and had a 118 wRC+ with 27 HR in 464 PA. Those are the potential ceiling guys in this lineup, along with on-base machine Brendan Donovan. On the whole, I would expect this lineup to improve a bit. Goldschmidt and Arenado back to career norms and some gains from the younger bats and this could be a group that cracks the top 10.

    Victor Scott II is also a top-100 prospect per FanGraphs, so if an outfielder does falter, we could see him at some point during the season. Matt Carpenter and Brandon Crawford are the veterans added to the bench, and while I don’t really expect much, I don’t think they’ll get a lot of playing time either. I’d also expect Thomas Saggese to come up and one or both of those guys to get DFA’d.

    St. Louis Cardinals Preview: Pitching

    This is the area of the ballclub you worry about. The Cardinals were 24th in ERA last season at 4.83. They were a little more respectable on the FIP front at 4.43, as they ran a 69.4% LOB% as a team. They also allowed a .320 BABIP, which was the highest in the league. St. Louis was -7 in Outs Above Average as a team to rank 19th. They were fourth in 2022 at +26.

    The Cardinals only used 10 different starting pitchers last season, but many of them were made. The rabbit’s foot fell out of Miles Mikolas, as his pitch-to-contact stylings led to a 4.78 ERA and a 4.27 FIP. Adam Wainwright and Jordan Montgomery each made 21 starts and Montgomery’s were dramatically better. He also left and went to the Rangers to win a World Series. Wainwright, meanwhile, battled his way through for his 200th win and is now pursuing a music career. He played on the Grand Ole Opry stage in March.

    Giving up his day job was the best thing Waino could do, as Father Time took him out behind the barn with a 7.40 ERA and a 5.99 FIP over 101 innings of work. His numbers were absolutely awful enough to skew the team’s pitching metrics, especially with his .357 BABIP and 63% LOB%, so the Cardinals will be better by default.

    However, Mikolas is still a concern. Steven Matz was good with a 3.86 ERA and a 3.75 FIP and he’s in the rotation, along with newcomers Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. Lynn, of course, spent six full seasons with the Cardinals before being traded during the 2018 season to the Rangers. He had a 5.73 ERA with a 5.53 FIP last season and allowed 44 home runs in 183.2 innings.

    Gibson had a 4.73 ERA with a 4.13 FIP with the Orioles. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy who tilts towards the ground ball side, which means that the Cardinals defense had better get it together. Lynn has a higher K% and is more of a fly ball guy. It’s hard to field a ball that gets hit over the fence.

    Gray has the most upside of the new additions and he was outstanding last season for the Twins with a 2.79 ERA and a 2.83 FIP. He’s been really good throughout his career with a 3.47 ERA and a 3.57 FIP over more than 1,500 innings. He’s the guy with the highest ceiling by a decent margin in this rotation. If Matz can stay healthy, he’s probably second, at least until Tink Hence and Tekoah Roby are ready to go.

    The bullpen wasn’t that great last season either, as the Cardinals finished 23rd in ERA at 4.47. Once again, they had a much lower FIP at 4.16. The 69.7% LOB% was very much on the low end and the .311 BABIP was on the high end. St. Louis was also 24th in K%, so they didn’t miss a lot of bats. 

    Ryan Helsley was really good, but he was limited to 36.2 innings. The lowest reliever ERA for anybody with at least 40 appearances was Jordan Hicks at 3.67, but he’s gone now. This looks to be an average bullpen at best.

    St. Louis Cardinals Player to Watch

    SS Masyn Winn

    The Crawford signing is mostly an insurance policy regarding Winn, St. Louis’s 21-year-old infield prospect. He played 37 MLB games last season and struggled at the plate and in the field, posting just a 29 wRC+ over 137 PA. He was solid at Triple-A with a 109 wRC+ over 498 PA. For a kid who was in high school in 2020, the Cardinals definitely put him on an accelerated path to the big leagues. 

    Coming into the season, FanGraphs ranked Winn as the 25th-ranked prospect in baseball. He’s got a huge arm at SS and some good bat-to-ball skills with some surprising power, as he hit 18 homers in Triple-A last year and 20 total. He may not be fully ready to go just yet, but he’s a name to keep a close eye on moving forward, especially as the Cardinals continue to age and need an infusion of youth.

    St. Louis Cardinals Season Win Total Odds & Prediction

    There is a definite path to the Cardinals returning to the mountaintop in the NL Central. However, there is an alternate path in which they struggle to be a .500 team. We can probably all agree that they are unlikely to go 71-91 again, as they got really, really unlucky in a lot of metrics that are open to variance all season long. The massive drop-off defensively absolutely hurt them more than it would have hurt a lot of teams because of their pitch-to-contact approach.

    I think the offense will be good and the pitching staff will be average at best, unless they were to add Jordan Montgomery, who they have allegedly been talking to a little bit. The sooner Gray can return, the better off they will be. I do think this team has a fairly high floor and I’m inclined to think the ceiling is higher than I feel it is because of how well they’ve done for the better part of 25 years.

    But, I don’t think the ceiling is all that high. I think this is a team that lands in that 81-85 win range, as the line implies. And you could talk me into them finishing higher or lower than that. I don’t have any strong convictions here, but I would slightly prefer the Cubs over the Cardinals in the division, which is exactly what those odds imply as well.

    Slight Lean: Under 84.5

    Get all of our preseason coverage in the 2024 MLB Betting Guide.

    Adam Burke
    Adam Burke
    Adam Burke is the Managing Editor of VSiN.com and has spent well over a decade in the sports betting content creation space. He has been with VSiN since 2021 and covers a wide range of sports, along with hosting the VSiN Daily Baseball Bets podcast.

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