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Cardinals: 3 bold predictions after the 2022 MLB All-Star break

Cardinals, MLB All-Star Game, MLB All-Star Break

The St. Louis Cardinals have plenty of work – and winning – to do in the second half of the season if they are to make the postseason. Nevertheless, they seem to have what it takes to contend for at least the National League Central division title. This is why they are going to be fun to watch the rest of the way. With that said, here are three bold predictions for the Cardinals in the final half of the 2022 MLB regular season.

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3 bold predictions for the St. Louis Cardinals after the All-Star break

3. Albert Pujols hits at least 10 home runs in the second half of the 2022 MLB regular season

This is The Machine’s final season in the big leagues as a player, as he has long expressed his decision to retire by the end of the 2022 MLB campaign. Pujols’ place in baseball history is safe, regardless of how the rest of the season plays out for him, but maybe, juuuust maybe, there’s one half of great baseball left in store for the future Hall of Famer. Pujols is now a shell of his former self. He hasn’t been a productive hitter in years, but the 42-year-old legend can’t just let the rest of the season – or his career – go by without him finishing with at least double-digit home runs.

Perhaps his surprising performance at the 2022 MLB Home Run Derby was a sign of better things to come for him in the second half. As the biggest underdog to win that All-Star event, Pujols gathered enough strength to eliminate Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber in the first round. Not many thought Pujols would get out of the first round, but he found that old man’s strength to shock everyone. Pujols finished the first half of the 2022 MLB regular season with just six home runs along with a subpar triple-slash line of .215 /.301/.376. He’s also been striking out at a much higher rate of 17.9 percent. That would be the worst of his career if the season ended today.

ZiPS also has him finishing the year with a 16.2 K% and hitting just a total of 12 home runs for the entire year. However, there are other much more encouraging signs with respect to Pujols’ chances to mash more home runs in the final stretch of the campaign. Over at Statcast, Pujols is tied with Paul Goldschmidt with a 45.1 hard hit%, good for no. 1 on the Cardinals’ roster among hitters with at least 25 batted ball events. Under the same qualifier, Pujols is also fifth on the team with 5.8 Brls/PA % (barrels per plate appearance, with barrels referring to “batted balls with the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle”).

2. Paul Goldschmidt finishes the season with career-high OPS.

Speaking of Goldschmidt, the first baseman has been money for the Cards. With Pujols and Yadier Molina leaving soon, Goldschmidt, along with Nolan Arenado, will be leading the Cardinals in the future.  

Via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“If everyone is going to look around and go, ‘Oh, OK,’ who talks now?” All-Star pitcher Miles Mikolas said. “I would say just about everybody is going to turn to him. If you didn’t look to him for advice or leadership, you’d be kind of foolish. He’s definitely one of those guys, and he may be The Guy. I think when pressed into action, he would answer the call very much. Already has.”

Regression is going to be a significant threat to Goldschmidt breaking his career-high OPS of 1.005 in 2015 when he was still with the Arizona Diamondbacks. ZiPS and Steamer project Goldschmidt to end the season with an OPS of .870 and .851, respectively, but those are part of the odds he will have to overcome to fulfill this bold prediction. Just don’t count out the gold standard of Cardinals hitters today from pulling that off.

1. The Cardinals win the NL Central division title

The NL Central is a two-team race between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cardinals, with the former on top by a slim margin of half a game by the midseason break. The Brewers limped to the 2022 All-Star on a three-game losing skid to the San Francisco Giants combined with St. Louis closing out the first half with a 5-2 stretch was a nice boost for the Cardinals’ chances to take home the NL Central title. The 2022 MLB trade deadline is also coming right up, and it’s possible that the St. Louis Cardinals will pull some levers to bolster their roster,