WASHINGTON -- After each game of the National League Championship Series, it was the same response from a sad St. Louis Cardinals hitter of your choice: We just have to figure it out, we have to do better, we're not frustrated. (Narrator: They were frustrated.) They never did solve the vaunted Washington Nationals rotation, however, and hit just .130 in the series as the Nationals sent the Cardinals home in four games, the first sweep in an LCS since the Mets swept the Cubs in 2015.
Still, it was a positive season for the Cardinals. They won a tough division and made the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Given the recent decades of success for this franchise, a three-year gap without making the playoffs was unthinkable to Cardinals fans. Under Mike Shildt, in his first full season as skipper, the Cardinals improved their defense, Jack Flaherty emerged in the second half as one of the top starting pitchers in the game, Kolten Wong had his best season and rookie Tommy Edman provided a versatile bat and energy while leading the team -- believe it or not -- in slugging percentage.
The big move last season was acquiring first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks for a package of young players and then signing Goldschmidt to a five-year, $130 million extension that will run through 2024, his age-36 season. It wasn't your typical Cardinals move, but it seemed like the perfect fit, the low-key superstar going to St. Louis. Goldschmidt had a good season, playing 161 games and hitting 34 home runs, but his 113 OPS+ was the lowest of his career and his 2.8 bWAR much lower than the 6.1 he averaged over the previous six seasons.