2019 St. Louis Cardinals – A year in review

What an interesting end to the Cardinal season, but then again, that is pretty much how the entire season in St. Louis went this year.

The “highest of peaks” and the “lowest of valleys” might have been well-hidden in the regular season, but boy oh boy was it ever on full display during the playoffs. 

Regular Season

I remember sitting down to write an article before the season started on what it would look like for the Cardinals for this year and in looking back at it, I was almost spot on. Originally predicted the Birds to go 88-74, finishing second to the Cubs. The Cardinals did prove to me that they were three games better and won the NL Central Division with a record of 91-71. The Cubs — who disappointed pretty much everyone — finished 84-78 and were essentially vanquished after the Cardinals went in and swept a four-game series at Wrigley in September.

National League Division Series

Going up against the Braves, I thought to myself, “Braves in 4…they’re too young, talented, and will get the better of the Cardinals”. In what was one of the greatest 4 game series I can remember in a long time, the Braves and Cardinals were neck-and-neck the entire time. Both teams won and lost games they had no reason to win or lose.

However, then came the all-deciding Game 5.

For Cardinal fans, it was one where it was almost like “I’m not watching real-life baseball. I must be watching a video game”. After throwing up a 10-spot in the first inning of Game 5, Cardinal fans finally got a playoff game with no stress and could watch with normal blood pressure.

Overall, the series was fun and enjoyable, something that can’t be said for what was next.

National League Championship Series

Anyone know when the NLCS starts? Oh really? Last week? Doesn’t look like the Cardinals got the memo. I can’t remember the last time a team got destroyed like that in a League Championship Series. Simply put, the Nationals were better than the Cardinals in EVERY single facet of the game.

  • Pitching?
    • The 4th best pitcher on the Nationals took a no-hitter into the 8th inning….that’s all that needs to be said
  • Hitting?
    • The Cardinals scored six runs in four games (luckily they scored four runs in Game 4), so you would be fair to say that their offense didn’t show up.
  • Fielding?
    • The Cardinals were so desperate for Jose Martinez’s bat, that he had to play two games in the outfield and par-for-the-course for this year, he let a ball drop in the first inning of Game 4.
  • Crowd?
    • I’m not one to think that home-field advantage is the biggest thing in baseball, but did it seem like Busch Stadium was empty for Games 1 and 2? Kudos to National Fans for making that place feel like a dome, because it was loud as hell on TV.

Final Verdict: Much like the actual series, Nationals win the above facets of baseball 4-0 over the Cardinals.

Player-by-Player Grades for the 2019 Regular Season and Playoffs

I’ll try and keep this short, sweet, and to the point on everyone’s grading, only chiming in with details where absolutely needed/warranted:

Grading Criteria
A Fantastic and was key for team success
B Good overall season
C Average season
D A lot to be improved this winter
F Pretty self-explanatory (failure)
I Incomplete: Not enough game time to for decision

Pitchers

John Brebbia

  • Regular Season: B-
    • Playoffs: C-

Genesis Cabrera

  • Regular Season: I
    • Playoffs: B+

Jack Flaherty

  • Regular Season: A+
    • Playoffs: B+

Giovanny Gallegos

  • Regular Season: A
    • Playoffs: B

Ryan Helsley

  • Regular Season: B+
    • Playoffs: A-

Dakota Hudson

  • Regular Season: B
    • Playoffs: D

Carlos Martinez

  • Regular Season: B-
    • Playoffs: F—-
      • Yes, there are four minuses there. One for each appearance. Carlos was by far, our worst pitcher of the playoffs. Whether serving up meatballs or missing the strike zone, Martinez left a lot of Cardinal fans wondering “Do we even need him back next year?”

Miles Mikolas

  • Regular Season: C
    • Playoffs: A-

Andrew Miller

  • Regular Season: C
    • Playoffs: A++++

Daniel Ponce de Leon

  • Regular Season: B-
    • Playoffs: C

Adam Wainwright

  • Regular Season: C
    • Playoffs: B+
      • In what might be Adam Wainwright’s final postseason with the Cardinals, I couldn’t be more impressed. He was fantastic and if I were Cardinals GM, I’d try and bring him back for one more year.

Tyler Webb

  • Regular Season: C+
    • Playoffs: D+

Anthony Reyes

  • Regular Season: I
    • Hey Baseball gods, can we please get a full season of healthy Alex Reyes?
    • Playoffs: I

Michael Wacha

  • Regular Season: C-
    • It might be time to cut ties with the former first-round draft pick.
    • Playoffs: I

John Gant

  • Regular Season: B
    • Playoffs: I

Jordan Hicks

  • Regular Season: I
    • Playoffs: I
      • Please come back soon Jordan…we need you bad. Sincerely, Cardinals Nation.

Catchers

Yadier Molina

  • Regular Season:  B+
    • Playoffs: D (Hitting), A (everything else)

Matt Wieters

  • Regular Season: B+
    • Playoffs: I

Andrew Knizner

  • Regular Season: I
    • Playoffs: I

Infielders

Matt Carpenter

  • Regular Season: D-
    • Playoffs: I
      • It’s not good when the guy who used to be the face of the franchise is no longer a relevant factor in the playoffs.

Paul DeJong

  • Regular Season: A-
    • Playoffs: F

Tommy Edman

  • Regular Season: A
    • Playoffs: B-

Paul Goldschmidt

  • Regular Season: B+
    • Note: Goldschmidt had a decent year for his first one in St. Louis. If he can regain those AVG numbers he had in Arizona, he’ll become an MVP candidate again in no time.
    • Playoffs: B

Yairo Munoz

  • Regular Season: C
    • Playoffs: I

Kolten Wong

  • Regular Season: A
    • As the Cardinals’ best player of the regular season, Wong FINALLY put everything together. Here’s hoping 2020 will be much like his 2019 campaign.
    • Playoffs: C

Outfielders

Randy Arozarena

  • Regular Season: I
    • Playoffs: I

Harrison Bader

  • Regular Season: B-
    • Playoffs: I

Dexter Fowler

  • Regular Season: B+
    • If you still blame Fowler for any Cardinals struggles this year, you should try again. Fowler did all you can do from a lead-off hitter this year. Vastly improved himself in 2019.
    • Playoffs: C-

Jose Martinez

  • Regular Season: C
    • No matter how good his hitting is, Martinez’s fielding woes (so poor the Cardinals can’t play him) prevent him from getting higher than a C.
    • Playoffs: C

Tyler O’Neill

  • Regular Season: I
    • Playoffs: I

Marcell Ozuna

  • Regular Season: B-
    • Playoffs: A+
      • Best player by far on the Cardinals this postseason, Ozuna earned himself a contract extension to stay in St. Louis.

Manager

Mike Shildt

  • Regular Season: B+
  • Postseason B
    • If you look at the numbers, Shildt does everything right. He wins you games, he plays his guys, and he gets production. The problem is that as good as Shildt has been, there are too many times where casual baseball fans say “Why would Shildt do this?” and then immediately have something bad happen (look at his playoff decisions to intentionally walk struggling batters only to have the person behind them rope a run-scoring double).

What I would like to see during Winter 2019

  1. Trade for Nolan Arenado
    • The Cardinals have the pieces. Arenado would do wonders on this team and if the rumors are true that Colorado might be willing to sell. The rumored package would be two MLB players and two minor leaguers. While that seems like a lot, remember that Arenado is under contract until 2027, so he wouldn’t go anywhere
      • A package to get this done would be something like Tyler O’Neill, Genesis Cabrera or Giovanny Gallegos, Nolan Gorman, and probably a double-A player in there somewhere.
        • It’s a lot, but the Cardinals would be near unbeatable with an infield of Goldschmidt, DeJong, Arenado, and Wong. The Cardinals then have the flexibility to move Edman to RF.
  2. Re-sign Marcell Ozuna
    • He’s a great offensive player and earned an extension this postseason. Give him a Matt Holliday type deal and bring back the Bear.
  3. Pair Flaherty with an Ace
    • There are some major pitchers on the market this summer (Cole, Strasburg, Ryu, Bumgarner). While I’d like one of those guys, I won’t be greedy. Give me someone like Cole Hamels or Dallas Keuchel and I’d be happy. Flaherty needs help, and the Cardinals should give him some.
  4. Let Wacha walk and try to trade Carlos Martinez
    • Wacha is a free-agent this offseason and I think both sides would agree, a change of scenery is due. Wacha hasn’t been the same pitcher he was earlier in his career, and another team out there will give him the money he wants.
    • Carlos Martinez should be done as a Cardinal. He has a very team-friendly contract in today’s market, so it shouldn’t be difficult to trade him and get a decent return for him. If the goal is to bring him back in the rotation, that’s one thing, but he should never throw out of the bullpen again. He isn’t made for getting three outs when it’s crunch time.

So there it is, the end-of-the season recap for the Cardinals. It’s bittersweet to have baseball end on such a sour note for the Birds on the Bat, but hopefully the front office makes the right decision and we’re on pace to challenge for a World Series birth in 2020.

Until then, Cardinal Nation!

— Matt Dixon


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