Author: Steve Lee
Six times he has appeared in the mid-season classic. Four times he has been honored with a Silver Slugger award. Three times he has received a Gold Glove award. Yet, somehow even in his ninth year the Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is still not a household name. Maybe now that he is playing for a contending team in St. Louis, things will change.
After falling to the Chicago Cubs 3-1 in the 2015 NLDS, the Cards fell one game short of a Wild Card spot in 2016, three back in 2017 and trailed the Atlanta Braves by two games. Last season the 2019 Cards added two significant pieces to their roster by trading for Goldschmidt and left handed All-Star Andrew Miller, who adds to the team’s pitching depth.
When the Cards traded for Paul Goldschmidt last December, they made it well known that they were going to do whatever they could to make sure that their postseason drought stopped at three years. The Wilmington born player left the Arizona Diamondbacks in the end of last year, who have been able to fill the hole due to the performances of Christian Walker.
Not all the credit goes to the new acquisitions though as the team has had a number of players who have stepped up to the challenge. Right fielder Dexter Fowler had an eight-game hitting streak, including three straight games with multiple successful connections with the ball. Shortstop Paul DeJong was one of the hottest players in the game at the start of the season with 18 hits in 52 at bats.
Kolten Wong holds an OBP of better than .400, while Fowler and DeJong are close behind with .395 and .394 respectively. Both Goldschmidt and Marcel Ozuna find their names among the top five league leaders in home runs.
Offensively the Cardinals are among the top ten overall leaders in runs (3rd), hits (8th), home runs (8th), total bases (8th), average (4th) and on base percentage (6th). Even if their big names aren’t having their best night, the rest of the lineup is proving to be valuable.
While both currently sit at 2-1 in their five starts, neither Miles Mikolas or Jack Flaherty have stepped up as the go to man for the Cardinals this season. Both players are currently outside the top thirty starting pitchers in terms of ERA with 4.97 and 5.25 respectively and are tied for eleventh in the NL with 28 hits allowed.
Unfortunately, in his dozen appearances, Miller hasn’t exactly shown the Cards All-Star level pitching after they signed him as a free agent in the winter, but fellow reliever John Gant may have stepped into those shoes with an ERA of 1.06 in 17 innings pitched. As a starter last season, Gant’s early season success may put manager Mike Shildt and pitching coach Mike Maddux in a tough position as to whether or bringing him in from the bullpen is in the best interest of the team.
At $164 million, the St. Louis Cardinals have the sixth highest payroll in Major League Baseball. With Yadier Molina ($20 million), Fowler ($16.5 million), Matt Carpenter ($14.75 million) and Goldschmidt ($14.5 million) big money players are an investment that ownership and management has willingly signed off on in order to make a run at not only a National League banner (2013), but more importantly a World Series pennant, their first since 2011.
With a five-game winning streak already in the bag, the Cardinals current four game run, with convincing victories over the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers, have placed the team on top of the National League standings as the first month of the season comes to a close.
Thankfully the Cards have finished their schedule against divisional rivals Milwaukee (4-5 as of this writing) and held two victories over NL Central foe the Pittsburgh Pirates. While there are over 130 games remaining on the horse race, with the ultimate goal being the World Series, the impressive start to the season gives hope for their first playoff appearance in four years.