Final Thoughts on St Louis Cardinals 2022 Season

St. Louis Cardinals trio Adam Wainright, Albert Pujols, and Yadier Molina in what may be their final season
Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/MLB Photos via Getty Images

After being eliminated by the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night, the St Louis Cardinals 2022 season has come to an abrupt end.

St Louis Cardinals 2022 Playoff Season Review

Farewell Yadi and Pujols (and maybe Waino?)

This season, we were treated to farewell tours for at least two future Hall of Famers. It could be three, depending on whether or not Adam Wainwright hangs it up, and depending on whether or not he gets in. If it was his last, it was not exactly a great end, but that shouldn’t overshadow what was a fantastic career.

That career was spent as part of arguably the most accomplished battery of all time with catcher Yadier Molina. The two set an MLB record this year for the most starts by a battery. Speaking of ‘Yadi’, he capped off his career with a clutch hit that extended the game by another at-bat.

This was a perfect way for him to punctuate one of his most underrated qualities: clutch hitting. Molina gets knocked often for only being average at best offensively for most of his career. This causes his ability to get hits in crucial situations to get overlooked. He got to remind us all of this trait on his way out the door.

Then we have departure of the greatest hitter of the 21st century: Albert Pujols. Having Pujols come back to St.Louis for a swan song season was perfect in itself. He somehow made it better with a miraculous run in the second-half of the season to reach 700 career home runs. It was one of the coolest things that has happened in baseball — and sports in general — in a while.

Having all of this happen in one year was truly special. It is not something that happens very often. Including a playoff run made it even sweeter. Unfortunately, they were unable to capture the ultimate storybook ending with a ring. That would have been almost too perfect anyway.

Pitching Finally Does Cardinals in

In a three-game series, being out-matched on the mound is basically a death sentence. Starting pitching had been a glaring weakness for St. Louis all season. They added two solid pieces to the rotation at the deadline in Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery. Still, they lacked the high-end starting pitching that the Phillies put on full display this weekend.

Quintana had earned the right to start game one of the series. He pitched well, but his limitations reared their head in the sixth inning. Despite playing great, Quintana is not someone that has earned the trust to face an opposing lineup three times.

He was pulled, and the job for the bullpen proved to be one inning too big. Ryan Helsley and Andre Pallante were shelled for six runs in the ninth. On the other side, Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler was able to lighten the load for his bullpen by pitching into the seventh inning.

Game two is when the pitching disparity became most obvious. Aaron Nola was brilliant as usual for Philly. He went 6.2 shutout innings, gave up just four hits, and struck out six batters. The Cardinals sent out a committee of starters and relievers. Miles Mikolas got the start, but made it less than five innings and gave up two runs before ceding to Montgomery.

The former Yankee finished the fifth and pitched the sixth and seventh, as well. Giovanny Gallegos and Jordan Hicks finished out the last two innings. The game ended 2-0.

The Cardinals pitching staff did not play bad in this series at all. In fact, outside of the ninth inning in game one, they largely kept the team in it. But at the end of the day they just weren’t quite good enough to keep up. Aces reign supreme in October, and St. Louis doesn’t appear to even have one right now.

Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado Need to Step up

This seems silly given the pair will likely finish top-two in the National League MVP voting. Regular season awards are nice, but they mean nothing in October. Both Goldschmidt and Arenado were hardly noticeable offensively in this series.

The former was just horrible, going zero for seven with one hit-by-pitch and four strikeouts. The latter was slightly better. Arenado had just one hit, but if a couple of things went his way, his numbers would have been more respectable.

This wouldn’t be a huge deal by itself. What is alarming is that this seems to be part of a trend. In last year’s Wild Card game against the Dodgers, Arenado was hitless in four at-bats. Goldschmidt was solid in that game, getting a hit and drawing two walks.

However, that was one of his better postseason performances since joining the Cardinals in 2019. He has gone 14 for 60 in the playoffs with St. Louis, which is a .233 batting average. These two have simply not lived up to expectations when it has mattered the most.

Looking back at their pre-St. Louis postseason numbers doesn’t help much, either. Arenado went a dismal 4-for-21 in Colorado. Goldschmidt was decent with Arizona, hitting 10-for-32. These are very small sample sizes due to the fact that the Rockies and Diamondbacks were pretty bad for most of their respective tenures. The ability to play postseason baseball on regular basis is a big part of what brought them to St. Louis in the first place. Now that they have the opportunities, it is up to them to make the most of it.

With the Cardinals’ elder statesmen retiring, ‘Goldy’ and Arenado will become the de facto leaders of the team. What made the old guard so great was their ability to turn it on in October. It has been time for these two to start doing the same. They need to find that playoff magic soon, or they could start to wear out their welcome.

Oliver Marmol is Still Green

There is a lot to commend Marmol for in his debut season. He navigated the hoopla of the final seasons for the team’s stars very well. He also oversaw the emergence of a lot of young talent. Finally, he got a club without an ace pitcher a division crown.

Yet, when the playoffs rolled around, Marmol’s inexperience was felt. Typically, pulling Quintana when he did would have made a ton of sense. In the playoffs, that ‘three times through the lineup’ rule goes out the window. If your starter is dealing, you ride the hot hand. This is especially true when your closer is not a hundred percent healthy.

Trying to pitch Helsley for more than three outs was also a mistake in and of itself. That Helsley implosion is totally on Marmol, and it cost the Cardinals the game — and likely the series. Had St. Louis made it to a game three, they would have gotten to feast upon lefty Roger Suarez, in what would have been a favorable match-up. That one mistake in game one makes the whole thing moot, though.

Looking Beyond the St Louis Cardinals 2022 Season

The Future Looks Bright

While the departures of Yadi, Pujols, and possibly Waino mark the end of an era, a new one is already taking shape. They have several other veterans ready to lead in Goldschmidt and Arenado. There are budding stars beginning reach their prime in Tommy Edman, Brendan Donavan, and Lars Nootbaar. Plus, you have plenty of promising talent ready to come out of the pipeline in Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker, and Masyn Winn. They also have a promising young manager who will surely grow into the job.

Just looking at it on paper, St. Louis will only have to replace a catcher, a starting pitcher, and a designated hitter who didn’t even play every day for most of the season. 2023 should be more of a reload than a rebuild.

Albert Pujols Hitting 700 Home Runs is Something Special

Major League Baseball’s 700 homer club just grew by 33 percent Friday night.

Albert Pujols hits career home run number 700
Photo Credit: Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

That Was Unexpected

Heading into tonight’s game, nobody thought that this would be the night Albert Pujols would reach 700 home runs. He was still two away from that mark and the Cardinals were on their way to L.A. for a tough series against the best team in baseball. Suddenly, in the third inning, Pujols did what he has done best this year: crush lefty pitching to left field. His latest victim was Dodgers pitcher Andrew Heaney. Now, Pujols is at 699, it’s early in the game, and the night starts to feel potentially magical.

An inning later, Pujols finds himself up again. The lefty Heaney was still on the mound. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was not going to make it that easy. He brought in righty Phil Bickford. Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter who’s pitching when you are up against destiny. ‘The Machine’ pounced on a breaking ball and Dodger stadium immediately erupted.

Albert Pujols at 700: This One Feels Special

With Albert Pujols, this is the fourth time the baseball world has seen a player hit 700 home runs in their career. This one just seems to hit different. This may be found rude, but the hitting prowess of Babe Ruth before World War II just feels like a Paul Bunyan tale at this point.

Hank Aaron doing it the 1970s feels more real. Still, Almost everyone that was alive for his 700th homer is over the age of 50. Most of the people that actually watched the bulk of Aaron’s are probably not around anymore.

Then you have Barry Bonds. For a good portion of the public, he is the guy that we associated with 700 home runs. Steroids have made that whole thing just feel icky.

Pujols is someone everyone can get behind. He’s likable, he’s a real baseball guy who relies on more than just pure power, and, most importantly, no evidence that even remotely points to steroid use. Then you have him coming back to St. Louis this year for his swan song season. Baseball has been waiting a long time to be able to enjoy such a special moment like this. This feels perfect.

The Missing Piece: Jack Flaherty Return Looks Imminent

Photo credit: @CardsPlayerDev

After making his final rehab start in Memphis on Friday night, Jack Flaherty looks ready to return to the St. Louis Cardinals for the stretch run. Could he be what pushes St. Louis over the top?

Jack Flaherty Looked Solid in Memphis

After doing most of his rehab in double-A Springfield, Flaherty ramped it up for one last minor league start. He spent Friday night with triple-A Memphis. The righty looked ready enough to head back to the big leagues. In 5.1 innings, he gave up just one run and struck out three batters.

Flaherty got into a bit of trouble early, but worked out of it. His command is still not where it once was. Still, tonight was a step in the right direction.

If this was indeed his final rehab start before returning to St. Louis, he could be back on an MLB mound by the middle of next week in Cincinnati. That would give him a little more than a month of regular season baseball before the playoffs roll around.

Flaherty Still Isn’t Totally Himself

While the Cardinals pitcher is probably ready to return to the majors, don’t expect to see the ace that he usually looks like. At least not right away. He is going to have some rough starts, or at least some short ones. The key for Flaherty is to slowly work his way back into a groove without re-injuring himself.

By the postseason, he could be back to being a quality starter around the top of the rotation. However, it may be unrealistic to expect him to be the dominant ace that he once was by then.

Is Flaherty the Missing Piece?

The Cardinals have been on a tear as of late. They are currently 17-6 in the month of August. That run has propelled them to a comfortable lead in the NL Central. A couple of deadline additions to the pitching staff in Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery were a huge part of that. They shored up what was one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. St. Louis now looks poised for a postseason run.

Still, the ceiling on their potential in the playoffs feels low. When compared to the top contenders in the National League, the Cardinals pitching staff does not measure up. Their top starter right now is probably Adam Wainwright, though newcomer Montgomery’s case gets stronger with every start. Either of those guys would probably be third at best in the rotation on the Dodgers or the Mets.

Adding Flaherty likely won’t change that much, especially with where he is at right now. If he can at least get back to being a high quality starter, it could be enough for St. Louis to close the gap on the top of the NL. He would give them good enough starting pitching to at least keep them in games when they face the likes of Clayton Kershaw and deGrom.

With the way Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are playing right now, that could be all the Cardinals need.

Breaking News: Cardinals Acquire Jose Quintana

Pittsburgh Pirates trade P Jose Quintana to St. Louis Cardinals
Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports

Another MLB trade deadline domino has fallen. The St. Louis Cardinals have bolstered their rotation by adding a veteran from their own division. The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to trade Jose Quintana to the Cardinals. MLB insider Jeff Passan broke the news this evening

Jose Quintana Trade Details

Cardinals receive: LHP Jose Quintana

Pirates receive: RHP Johan Oviedo & 3B Malcom Nunez

Quintana is a 33-year-old starting pitcher who was just picked up by Pittsburgh this offseason on a one-year deal. To acquire his services, St. Louis gave up one big leaguer and a prospect.

Oviedo is a 24-year-old pitcher who has bounced between the Cardinals’ MLB roster and triple-A Memphis. He has started, but has seen more work in the majors this season as a reliever. Nunez is a 21-year-old third baseman who was most recently with the Cardinals’ double-A affiliate in Springfield.

Cardinals Add to The Rotation

Pitching was certainly a need for St. Louis heading into the deadline. More specifically, the Cardinals needed more lefty arms. Over the weekend, they added JoJo Romero, a lefty reliever from Philadelphia, in exchange for shortstop Edmundo Sosa. Now it seems they have added another lefty, this time a starter, in Jose Quintana. The former Pirate has been solid this year, posting a 3.50 ERA on a dismal team. Having a defensive upgrade behind him could improve that number.

Still, Quintana does seem like a consolation prize after the Cardinals missed out on Frankie Montas. However, this might be a blessing in disguise. First of all, Quintana being left-handed provides better balance to a right-hand-heavy rotation. Second of all, he was a much better bargain, as the Cardinals gave up almost nothing of consequence.

Oviedo is a struggling pitcher who has not contributed much this year, and Nunez was not even the best third baseman in their farm system right now. Montas would have likely cost a more significant prospect (or two) like a Jordan Walker or a Masyn Winn. Those were important prospects for the Cardinals to hold onto as they pursue a potential blockbuster trade for Juan Soto.

Pirates Had to Sell

Giving up Quintana was a no-brainer. Pittsburgh is the exact opposite of a competitive club right now. There is no point in holding onto a veteran starting pitcher on a one-year contract when wins are inconsequential. All he was doing at this point was eating innings away from younger pitchers and potentially hurting the team’s draft position.

In exchange, the Pirates got a decent haul. Oviedo is still relatively young and has plenty of time to turn things around. However, Nunez is the more promising asset. While he was buried in the St. Louis farm system, that may not be the case in Pittsburgh. He could have a much clearer path to the big leagues, although it may not be at third base.

Yadier Molina’s ejection is a Bad Look

It doesn’t look good when your star catcher gets ejected from a basketball game when he is supposed to be rehabbing his knee. Here’s why Yadier Molina’s ejection is a bad look.

Yaider Molina’s ejection made the wrong kind of headlines, when this happened the other day.

What led to Yadier Molina’s ejection?

While Yadier Molina is recovering from injury, he decided to go back to his native Puerto Rico to do his rehab work there. He also happens to own a professional basketball team there, and was attending one of their games. It seems like he saw something he didn’t agree with and lost his cool, and an ejection quickly followed. As a result of Yadier Molina’s ejection, he has since apologized for his behavior.

The Cardinals Are Hurting Without Their Catcher

Molina has been out with knee inflammation since the middle of June. Since then, the Cardinals have struggled to replace him. Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera, and Austin Romine have not been up to snuff. Offensively, they have been below average to dismal. That is a drop-off from Molina’s steady, but unspectacular batting. That drop is compounded by the fact that none of them are anywhere near the defensive x-factor that the veteran Molina is. This is coming at a time where the Cardinals have been treading water just to stay within striking distance of a sputtering Brewers club for the NL Central crown.

Not a Good Look Right Now

The optics of Yadier Molina’s ejection could not look much worse right now. Just the fact that Molina is not in one of the fifty states is likely to infuriate fans. However, legends like him are rare exceptions and can get a pass here. That pass gets a lot harder to accept when videos like the one above come out.

Also, this feels like a last hurrah for the Redbirds, with Molina, Adam Wainwright, and Albert Pujols likely hanging it up after this year. Seeing a crucial player that fans are hoping to get back doing anything other than rehabbing is going to be frustrating. The only news that fans want to hear right now is when he is coming back. They don’t want to hear about him being the Mark Cuban of the Puerto Rican NBA.