Bernie: O’Neill And Carlson Are Back. Should The Cardinals Offense Prepare For Liftoff?

The St. Louis offense is not bad or even inferior. Not when the Cardinals are sixth among the 30 major league teams, averaging 4.74 runs per game.

If you want to roar about the inconsistency of this 2022 Cardinals offense, that’s more to the point. But opinion is usually exaggerated by those who don’t put the numbers in context.

Here’s why: Only 10 teams have had three runs or fewer in a game less than St. Louis this season — and only five teams have had four runs or fewer in a game fewer than the Cards. What about all the times we’ve seen the Redbirds hold two runs or fewer? This has happened 19 times (too many times), but it’s not as bad as it seems. Only 10 MLB teams have hit two or fewer runs in a game fewer times this season than STL.

I think we can agree on this much: the Cardinals are capable of having a better and more volatile offense, and it’s time to crank up runs scoring production.

Left fielder Tyler O’Neill and right fielder Dylan Carlson are back in action after their stints in the IL, and both have the talent to make a difference.

O’Neill had a chance to rest his sore shoulder and reorient himself after a dreadful start to the season. In his first three games since his return, he looked more on the plate – 4 for 13 with a homer and three RBIs. This is the same guy who ranked second among MLB outfielders last season with 6.3 WAR and he was seventh overall in OPS+ and he cranked 26 doubles and 34 homers and hit .912.

Carlson came in after last season’s All-Star break, hitting .505 with an .847 OPS and hitting 15 home runs and 11 doubles in 220 at-bats. And after a surprisingly poor start to 2022, Carlson was back on form until suffering a hamstring injury on May 21. In his last 19 games before the injury, Carlson hit .333 with a .371 OBP and .515 slug.

O’Neill and Carlson will reunite with midfielder Harrison Bader, who has set his hair on fire in his last 20 games and averaged .342 and .811 OPS with five stolen bases. Since the start of the 2020 season, Bader has played 12 percent above the league average in offense and gets too little credit for his improvement at the plate.

Remember what happened last season when O’Neill and Bader put their injury worries aside and joined Carlson in an almost daily role in the lineup?

From the time Bader returned (July 1) through the end of the regular season, the St. Louis outfield ranked second in the majors in batting average (.273), fifth in OBP (.347), and third in Slugging (0.502). ) and fifth in OPS (849.) Adjusting for park and league effects, the Cards outfield was baseball’s best for the final three months of the regular season, offensively outperforming the league average by 29 percent.

That crew of three is back now, and it’s hardly a crazy and silly dream to expect O’Neill, Bader and Carlson to put up good numbers offensively as the season moves closer to summer.

In addition, the three starters are supported by depth of quality. Rookies Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez can fill corners in the outfield when needed. Lars Nootbaar was sent to Triple A Memphis to make room for Carlson’s return, but he’s only an email away if the Cardinals want to bring him back. Corey Dickerson is on the IL. (I have nothing better to add than taking a cheap shot at him.)

Due in large part to the great contributions Donovan and Yepez have made thus far, this offense has more potential, more upside, and more depth.

Ahead of the weekend series against Cincinnati, the Cardinals have eight starters or semi-regulars who are above the league average in OPS+. The Eight: Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Tommy Edman, Bader, Albert Pujols, Yepez, Donovan and Nolan Gorman.

Carlson will likely have an above average OPS+ soon. And then it’s up to O’Neill to step up and restore a formidable presence in the lineup. That’s huge. This is important.

And we may even see other talented thugs emerging from the underage in the last three months.

Even with Yepez cooling off, and despite some offensive weaknesses in the roster, the Cardinals have enough pieces to form an exceptional offense. And that starts with plugging in O’Neill and Carlson and getting them going. And if Gorman can adapt and develop more reliable plate discipline… watch out.

If your team is already sixth in runs per game in the majors and you add a rejuvenated O’Neill and Carlson to the mix and with a rookie slugger (Gorman) swinging away and with the all-purpose Donovan laying base at a reaches high level – well, fireworks seem inevitable. But these guys have to make it.

Thank you for reading!

-Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his quirky and analytical sports talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can listen to it via online streaming or download the Bernie Show podcast from 590thefan.com – the 590 app works great and is available in your favorite app store.

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Please email your Ask Bernie questions to BernScoops@gmail.com

All statistics used herein are from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

For the past 35 years, Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened and connected with generations of sports fans in St. Louis.

Best known for his voice as a senior sports columnist at Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington DC

Bernie, his wife Kirsten, and their cats live in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.

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