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What Is Happening to the Mets and Cardinals?

Pete Alonso, First Baseman of the New York Mets; CC by License 2.0

Almost every season, there are teams who enter the season with long odds and end up surprising the masses. By that same token, there are teams who enter as one of the favorites that inevitably disappoint. Thus far, the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets have shockingly struggled to begin the season. Each team is battling with unique struggles as time begins to tick away on their playoff hopes.

At 12-24, the St. Louis Cardinals currently find themselves in last place in the National League Central, 9 games out of first place and 6.5 games out of a wild card berth. The Cardinals entered the season among the favorites to win the National League and the favorite to win the Central.

The remarkable thing about the Cardinals’ early season struggles is the incredible consistency of the organization over the last few decades. Since 2000, only the Dodgers and Yankees have won more games. In that same span, the Cardinals have won two World Championships and had only one losing season.

Offensively, the 2023 Cardinals have posted respectable numbers. They’ve scored the league’s 13th most runs while posting the 10th-highest batting average, and the 11th-highest on-base percentage. Cardinals’ hitters have compiled a 43.1% hard-hit rate, good for fourth highest in baseball, and are tied for baseball’s fourth-highest average exit velocity at 90 MPH. In short, Cardinal’s hitters have posted respectable results with underlying metrics indicating the likelihood of future offensive success.

While Cardinals hitters have been respectable thus far, the pitching staff has been anything but. Cardinals’ pitching has compiled a team ERA in the bottom half of the league at 4.49. They have walked the 8th most batters but have managed to strike out the sixth most batters in all of baseball. They have pitched to the league’s fifth-highest WHIP and have allowed opponents to hit .270 against them, the third worst in baseball. Even more troubling, Cardinals’ pitchers have surrendered hard-hit balls at 42.8%, the third-highest rate in baseball, and have allowed the third-highest average exit velocity at 90.1 MPH. Ultimately, unless Cardinals pitchers find a remarkable reversal of form, it is hard to anticipate much of a resurgence of the 2023 club.

In some circles, Cardinals fans have begun calling for the firing of their 36-year-old skipper, Oliver Marmol. In response to the struggles of the beginning of the season, Marmol has appeared steadfast in saying his staff and players must stay the course and continue to work every day. The fact is, if the Cardinals are going to resurrect themselves this season, they better do it soon.

900 miles away, in Queens, the New York Mets have faced similar, yet less drastic, struggles. The Mets sit at one game under .500 and are 7 games back of the division-leading Braves. Luckily for the Mets, they are only a game back from a Wild Card berth. Like the Cardinals, the Mets entered the season among the National League’s favorites and as major contenders in the American League East. Thus far, Steve Cohen’s spending spree has produced limited results in 2023.

The 2023 Mets as their offense has combined to score baseball’s 18th most runs while posting the league’s 22nd best batting average. On the optimistic side, the Mets are in the league's top half in on-base percentage. A major issue for the Mets has been their extreme lack of timely hitting. The Mets have left an average of 3.8 runners in scoring position per game, the fourth most in the league. This lack of timely hitting has rendered the production of runs to be quite difficult. Startlingly, Mets batters have a hard-hit rate of 38.5%, placing them firmly in the bottom half of the league. Also, Mets batters have posted an average exit velocity of only 88.8 MPH, also in the latter half of the league.

On the bump, Mets pitchers have surrendered the league’s 22nd best ERA while pitching to the league’s 21st best WHIP. Additionally, Mets pitchers have awarded the league’s third most free passes while only striking out the 22nd most batters. All told, opposing hitters have posted a .243 batting average against the team from Queens. There are some positive underlying numbers for Mets pitchers, however. Mets pitching has allowed a hard-hit rate of 37.9 and an average exit velocity of 88.8. Both of which are middle of the pack. These numbers could lead one to believe that Mets pitchers have been getting somewhat unlucky and could expect improvement in the coming months.

While both the Mets and Cardinals have found themselves underachieving expectations thus far in 2023, I believe their outlooks are dramatically different. St. Louis has developed a massive hole to dig themselves out of as they sit in last place in the National League Central. This position coupled with their poor pitching numbers leads me to believe that the Cardinals will have a difficult time righting the ship in 2023. The Mets on the other hand are much closer to contention, being only one game out of a Wild Card berth. Due to their middle-of-the-pack numbers, the talent on the roster, and the decent standing the Mets are in a much better position than the Cardinals. However, the fact remains for both teams that time is ticking, and both must make a move soon if they are to fulfill their lofty expectations.


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