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A look back at 2023 projections before we hit the 2024 season



Last year, as I have for the past decade plus, I projected out (using a multifaceted formula that I will explain a bit better in a primer before the 2024 projections come out) the St. Louis Cardinals individual players stat lines. Now is when I go back and I look to see how well or how crappy I did. Much like last year's team as a whole, my general sense says that these did not go well and mostly in a negative direction. Let's start (as we did then) with starting pitchers.

2023 SP Projections

Throughout this article, I will be using:

  • red type to show that their season was worse than my projection by a significant margin

  • blue type to show that my projection was reasonably close to their actual season

  • green type to show that their season was better than my projection by a significant margin


Miles Mikolas' issues in 2023 almost entirely came down to him not missing nearly as many bats as previously. His WHIP went up because he allowed more contact and the defense behind him was a bit more suspect than it had been. That raised his WHIP and lowered his K:BB. He threw the innings per start that was expected and he walked the number expected. Without the extra strikeouts his season got worse than it should have been in runs allowed.

35 GS, 201 1/3 IP, 5.75 IP/GS

4.78 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 1.316 WHIP

6.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 3.51 K:BB


Jordan Montgomery's FIP and WHIP were basically right on and he did it in more innings that was projected. Like Mikolas, he pitched to contact more than his projection stated, striking out less. Unlike Mikolas, he did not suffer because of it - outpitching his FIP by allowing 0.36 less runs than expected (ERA-FIP).

32 GS, 188 2/3 IP, 5.9 IP/GS

3.20 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.193 WHIP

7.9 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.46 K:BB


Before being traded, Jack Flaherty's numbers were more similar to what I had projected, but that's not how I looked at Jordan Montgomery so I do not get that luxury here and now. TOO BAD, Ben. Jack Flaherty's 2023 season was so strange to me. Flaherty has been a good starter when healthier than when not healthy in his career. Go figure. In 2023, Jack Flaherty threw 10 less innings than he threw from 2020-2022 combined. Jack Flaherty had his highest ERA, second highest FIP, second highest WHIP, and second lowest K:BB in that same time period even though he was healthier. That's just crazy to me. I think too many injuries just piled up.

29 GS, 144 1/3 IP, <5 IP/GS

4.99 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 1.580 WHIP

9.2 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 2.24 K:BB


Steven Matz had a WHIP and a K:BB near what I projected. His ERA beat out my projections by quite a bit and his FIP beat out mine by slightly less - despite striking out far less people. Steven Matz, unlike Lance Lynn who had a homer problem last season, was incredibly good at limiting homers compared to projections. That led to much better results. Steven Matz has allowed about 50% more homers in his career than he did last year and that should be factored in to what he is likely to do in 2024 as well - but it certainly helped his 2023.

25 games pitched, 105 IP

3.86 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 1.333 WHIP

8.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 3.06 K:BB


Adam Wainwright's season started off injured and then somehow got worse from there, with him finally securing his 200th win in his last start as a Cardinals - essentially the ONLY glimmer of optimism from his final season in the majors.

21 GS, 101 IP, <5 IP/GS

7.40 ERA, 5.99 FIP, 1.901 WHIP

4.9 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.34 K:BB


Let's put it this way with Dakota Hudson. He could have been kept for fairly cheaply and the Cardinals cut him. They didn't trade him. They CUT him.

18 games pitched, 81 1/3 IP

4.98 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 1.500 WHIP

5.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.32 K:BB


Matthew Liberatore was basically who I projected him to be but only threw half of the innings. I think the Cardinals have higher expectations and hopes for him - as do I personally - but the projections were basically right on with Libby.

22 games pitched, 61 2/3 IP

5.25 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 1.476 WHIP

6.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.84 FIP


Jake Woodford was absolutely awful this past season. His projections were not awful. This is a no brainer.

15 games pitched, 47 2/3 IP

6.23 ERA, 6.61 FIP, 1.741 WHIP

5.5 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.32 FIP


Drew Rom did not live up to expectations this year when he was brought in, but I did not have him projected prior to the season as he was not a Cardinal at that juncture. Nobody else threw over 70 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2023. Nobody else started more than half of their games pitched either. I will not really consider any of the rest starters. Any others, you'll have to find below the line in the reliever section.

 


Andre Pallante actually had a BETTER WHIP than I had projected for him and his ERA and FIP and K/9 and K:BB were all significantly worse than my projections. He is following the Hudson and Woodford path at the moment and he won't last that way.

62 games, 68 IP

4.76 ERA, 4.59 FIP, 1.559 WHIP

5.7 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 1.43 K:BB


Zack Thompson was significantly better than my projections had for him. Significantly. And it has positioned him as the potential 6th starter in 2024 - even if I would rather they get one more starter above Mikolas in the rotation.

25 games, 66 1/3 IP

4.48 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.417 WHIP

9.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 2.88 K:BB


Drew VerHagen had an ERA slightly better than I projected but a FIP much worse than I projected. Somehow his ERA was killed by having nearly double the HR rate than was projected - which is what killed the FIP.

60 games, 61 IP

3.98 ERA, 4.93 FIP, 1.279 WHIP

8.9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 2.31 K:BB


Giovanny Gallegos was a lot less effective last year in terms of ERA and FIP compared to what was expected of him from the projections. He walked more people and struck out less people than we are accustomed to. I was worried this could happen when the rule change was made with the pitch clock and I'm equally worried or moreso for 2024 with the pitch clock being shortened even more. Let's hope he has it all figured out.

56 games, 55 IP

4.42 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 1.200 WHIP

9.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 4.92 K:BB


Chris Stratton was about who I thought he would be last year with one notable exception. He really kept his walks down a lot and that led to a better ERA, FIP, and K:BB than expected via the projections.

64 games, 82 2/3 IP

3.92 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 1.137 WHIP

8.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 3.24 K:BB


Jordan Hicks finally took that step into what we had hoped he could be ever since opting out of the 2020 COVID season and stepped back into his relief role of "hard throwing righty who can get both lefties and righties out with his ridiculous stuff." My projections did not see that bounce back coming - but then again they were never really that high on Hicks to begin with for some reason.

65 games, 65 2/3 IP

3.29 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 1.355 WHIP

11.1 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 2.53 K:BB

Ryan Helsley was similar to the guy I thought he would be but slightly better in most ways, except for availability. I don't know how to gauge that season. I went ahead and colored this one green because he was better than the projections thought on a per inning basis, but he also was worse in BB/9 and only threw around half the innings...so a bit different season.

33 games, 36 2/3 IP

2.45 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 1.064 WHIP

12.8 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 3.06 K:BB


Jojo Romero was arguably the Cardinals best reliever last year despite a slightly elevated ERA compared to where the rest of his numbers would argue he was at. His was almost a tale of two seasons. Through July 7th he was not allowing hits but was walking too many and giving up too many runs because of it. After July 7th, when he started finishing games for the Cardinals in Helsley's absence, he was absolutely phenomenal with a FIP of 1.15 until September. Once September hit, he threw in one game and went on the IL after it. He threw to 9 batters, allowing 5 to reach base and 3 to score to end his season with that injury.

27 games, 36 2/3 IP

3.68 ERA, 2.22 FIP, 1.064 WHIP

10.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.20 K:BB


Genesis Cabrera did not find his good stuff with St. Louis but was quite a bit better in Toronto, pitching when it mattered a bit more this year. He was pretty close to what I thought he would be with slightly better K:BB peripherals but also a HR problem that hit him badly in St. Louis before going to Toronto and finding better HR luck.

61 games, 55 2/3 IP

4.04 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 1.311 WHIP

9.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 2.42 K:BB


James Naile was projected to be averageish - slightly below average - last season by this model and he was not even close to living up to those modest expectations. The Cardinals could have used him throw a ton of even mediocre innings to save some others' arms last year and he could not even manager that. It was a truly awful showing that he will need to fix to stay employed in 2024.

10 games, 15 1/3 IP

8.80 ERA, 4.95 FIP, 2.348 WHIP

4.1 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, 0.78 K:BB


Nobody else who was both on this projected list and in the organization at the beginning of the year threw at least 15 innings (and Naile barely got there at 15 1/3). On to the position players.

 

Again, I will look at these one by one but for the position players I'm going to go ahead and put them all together. Here are the two charts from pre-season when the projections came out. If you didn't catch on above, I sorted by innings pitched as starters, then innings pitched as relievers. Below, I'll sort by plate appearances in order to see which order they will be discussed.



Throughout this article, I will be using:

  • red type to show that their season was worse than my projection by a significant margin

  • blue type to show that my projection was reasonably close to their actual season

  • green type to show that their season was better than my projection by a significant margin


Paul Goldschmidt fell far short of expectations set by these projections above. He was over 100 OPS points below and didn't hit 100 runs / 100 RBI / nor any of his XBH projections. He just had a season that was subpar for the bar he had set previously, especially in 2022.

687 PA - 268/363/447/810

89 runs, 31/0/25 XBH, 80 RBI

11 SB, 2 CS


Like his fellow corner infielder and fellow 2022 MVP candidate, Nolan Arenado fell far short of his expectations going into 2023 as well. While his batting average was close, he did not slug or walk as much as he needed to in order to get on base enough for his teammates to drive in nor drive in his teammates to pick up much needed runs for this team.

612 PA - 266/315/459/774

71 runs, 26/2/26 XBH, 93 RBI

3 SB, 3 CS


Tommy Edman just wasn't consistent enough and didn't play enough to reach the runs, XBH, or RBI totals that I suggested above, but he still finished with rate stats and SB similar to what I had expected above.

528 PA - 248/307/399/705

69 runs, 25/4/13 XBH, 47 RBI

27 SB, 4 CS


Lars Nootbaar did about what was expected out of him last year, per my metrics. He was more of a doubles than homers guy compared to what we believed here while getting more singles as well. That led to a higher average and OBP but lower slugging. The OPS was right there, the runs per PA was right there. He led off more than I thought so less RBI, but more SB due to role.

503 PA - 261/367/418/784

74 runs, 23/1/14 XBH, 45 RBI

11 SB, 1 CS


Willson Contreras was slightly better than projected for me in this space. He had a tenuous start with the Cardinals both on the field defensively and (I think that led to him) pressing offensively. He settled in just fine and was ridiculous in the "second half" of the season. He beat out my projections by a fair margin but I would consider it within the realm of where I believed as he fell between THE CERUTTI and THE GOOD without really pushing the boundaries of THE GOOD at all.

495 PA - 264/358/467/826

55 runs, 27/0/20 XBH, 67 RBI

6 SB, 3 CS


Jordan Walker was almost exactly who we expected him to be in this space last year, to a T. We nailed his projection and since I know what the projection is next year, I hope we nail it again (although I'd love see him closer to THE GOOD than THE CERUTTI this time).

465 PA - 276/342/445/787

51 runs, 19/2/16 XBH, 51 RBI

7 SB, 4 CS


Nolan Gorman was also, like Contreras, slightly better than my numbers had projected but closer to THE CERUTTI than THE GOOD, so I would say that this was pretty well spot on as well.

464 PA - 236/328/478/805

59 runs, 17/0/27, 76 RBI

7 SB, 2 CS


Paul DeJong got traded mid-season, partially because the Cardinals were out of it and partially because there was apparently interest in a guy that the Cardinals no longer had any interest in keeping around the organization. He was worse than I expected him to finish the year with most of that falling in the slugging department.

400 PA - 207/258/355/612

41 runs, 13/0/14 XBH, 38 RBI

4 SB, 4 CS


Brenden Donovan didn't get the PA that anyone hoped he would get playing like he was. He had a slightly better average than my projections said, leading to a slightly better SLG but was basically who we had hoped he would be through 371 PA...we just wanted it to be for 535+ PA instead.

371 PA - 284/365/422/787

48 runs, 10/1/11 XBH, 34 RBI

5 SB, 1 CS


I would say that Alec Burleson was the Cardinals hitter that maybe fell furthest short of expectations outside of big 2, but you will see that this is a trend for the younger outfielders still to come.

347 PA - 244/300/390/691

34 runs, 20/1/8 XBH, 36 RBI

3 SB, 1 CS


Tyler O'Neill - oof.

266 PA - 231/312/403/715

27 runs, 14/0/9 XBH, 21 RBI

5 SB, 0 CS


Dylan Carlson - oof again.

255 PA - 219/318/333/651

27 runs, 8/1/5 XBH, 27 RBI

3 SB, 0 CS


Andrew Knizner was a revelation compared to his projected numbers for 2023 and what did it get him? An early trip to FA. Are you kidding me? Baseball, man.

241 PA - 241/288/424/712

30 runs, 11/0/10 XBH, 31 RBI

2 SB, 0 CS


Masyn Winn I almost didn't want to write up because it was such a late cup of coffee on a team that had nothing to play for. I really hope that he is closer to projections next year because this was the furthest off anyone was from very modest projections to start with.

137 PA - 172/230/238/467

8 runs, 2/0/2 XBH, 12 RBI

2 SB, 1 CS


Richie Palacios was not with the Cardinals when the season began so he did not get projected. Nobody else who was both on this projected list and in the organization at the beginning of the year batted at least 100 times so I will not go over them here.


 

As a conclusion, all in all that gives us 12 guys that basically hit my projected numbers last year, 14 guys who fell short of my numbers from last year, and 6 guys who exceeded my numbers from last year. My projections were a bit high this past season all in all - per this general review. My projections for 2024 are going to have enormous changes in them behind the scenes and I am continually getting review from peers that tell me to make the minor league equivalencies a bit more conservative...so you will see that I did that coming up for next year as one of my several changes that went into creating the 2024 projections.


Hope to see you again soon as I roll out the 2024 projections about Spring Training time. Before then, I will put out my 2024 Primer which is quite different from previous ones.


 

THANKS FOR READING.

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