How the Yankees And Cardinals Found Themselves in Last Place

St. Louis Cardinals v Colorado Rockies
St. Louis Cardinals v Colorado Rockies / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

We're five weeks into the 2023 MLB seasons and the standings look, well ... surprising to say the least. The Atlanta Braves are running away with the National League East, which isn't shocking, and the Los Angeles Dodgers top a tight NL West. But the rest of the league has been turned upside-down. Most shocking: the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals occupy last place in their respective divisions.

To be clear, the Yankees haven't played bad baseball. They're 21-17 and boast a run differential of plus-21. But they're in the same division with the positively nuclear Tampa Bay Rays (29-8) and are somehow already 8.5 games behind them. Another surprise is that the Baltimore Orioles are in second in the East at 23-13 and own the second-best record in the American League. Bad divisional luck isn't the story for the Cardinals.

St. Louis has been awful this season. The Cards are 13-24, with a run differential of minus-1, and sit 7.5 games out of first place. The Pittsburgh Pirates (21-17) lead the NL Central, while the Milwaukee Brewers (20-17) are close behind. The Cardinals won the NL Central last season and, on paper, didn't get worse in the offseason. They aren't missing any major pieces, aside from losing Jose Quintana, and are still led by Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tommy Edman. They added Willson Contreras but, as we've noted, that looks to have been a mistake.

The Yankees are where they are because the rest of the AL East has been excellent. When you factor in the how badly the injury bug has bitted the team, it's not surprising to see New York at the bottom of the East. The Yankees haven't been great, but they've been good enough to be in contention and, as of now, they're not. Bad luck

New York has to hope the Rays and Orioles cool off over the summer. The team also needs its rotation to finally get healthy and for Anthony Volpe (.648 OPS) to find his bat. The Yankees, as a team, have a .702 OPS, which ranks 19th in baseball, and they've scored 157 runs, which sits 17th. That has to improve. On the flipside, they've gotten great pitching as their 3.60 team ERA ranks seventh leaguewide.

While the Yankees are largely fine but need some tuning, the Cardinals are a mess. They currently rank 20th in team ERA (4.48) and 27th in WHIP (1.46). The team's pitchers are allowing far too many baserunners. The offense is producing an OPS of .747 and has scored 165 runs, which both rank 12th. So they've been decent on offense (in the middle of the pack), but that hasn't been close to enough to make up for the awful pitching they've gotten.

Arenado has been struggling, as he's produced a woeful OPS of .605 and only has three home runs so far. Dylan Carlson (.652 OPS) and Tyler O'Neill (.620) have both been down as well. But the offense has been fine as a whole. The numbers from the starting rotation are a killer though.

Cardinals starters have combined for a 5.26 ERA (23rd in baseball). Miles Mikolas (5.40 ERA, 1.66 WHIP), Jack Flaherty (6.18 ERA, 1.73 WHIP), Steven Matz (5.70 ERA, 1.60 WHIP), and Jake Woodford (5.40 ERA, 1.70 WHIP) have all been horrendous. Jordan Montgomery (3.29 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) has been the lone bright spot. Even old reliable, Adam Wainwright was rough in his lone start, allowing eight hits and four runs in five innings.

An astonishing stat: The Cardinals rotation has combined for seven quality starts in 37. Jordan Montgomery has produced five of them.

Can the Cardinals turn things around? Of course they can. But it's been really bad in St. Louis so far. The starters need to be far better if the Cardinals are going to climb back into contention. They've been absolutely brutal so far.

MLB teams haven't played 40 games yet, so making season-long predictions now is useless. Being in last place at this point of the season doesn't mean a whole lot. The Yankees have positioned themselves to contend if they can survive their current onslaught of injuries. The Cardinals might turn it around if their brutal rotation finally improves.