I warn all readers that this post will be dominated by statistics. If this is something that is of no interest of you, then please check back tomorrow for one of my regular posts. Thanks!
Through 57 games played (roughly 35% of the season), the St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in baseball. They have 38 wins to just 19 losses leaving them with a .667 winning percentage and on pace to win 108 games this season. They are already 19 games over .500–last season, at their best, they were just 14 games over .500.
Since this year’s Cardinals are currently on pace for over 100 wins, I will be comparing three hitting statistics and two pitching statistics of this year’s Cardinals to the 2005 Cardinals’–the last Cardinals team to finish with 100 wins in a season, with a final record of 100-62. Throughout, I will provide my brief analysis of the numbers and teams as a whole.
1. The Cardinals are second in the National League with 274 runs scored–an average of 4.81 runs per game. The 2005 Cardinals scored 4.97 runs per game. Thus, if the average stays consistent for the rest of this season, this year’s Cardinals will score just 26 runs less than the 2005 Cardinals–a team that had the big bats of Albert Pujols (by the way, check out his stats this year!), Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker, Reggie Sanders, and fan favorite, So Taguchi.
2. They are second in the National League with an on-base percentage of .333 (the Cincinnati Reds’ OBP is .337). The 2005 Cardinals had an OBP of .339. Keep in mind that this number was partly inflated by the 60 intentional walks (they are on pace for just 40 intentional walks this season) that were handed out that season–27 to Pujols, 10 to Edmonds.
3. The biggest difference between this year’s team and the 2005 Cardinals team is their clutch hitting, especially with 2 outs. They lead the MLB in batting average with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. They have an astounding .336 batting average with 2 outs and runners in scoring position with the next best team being the Cleveland Indians, 23 points lower. This has led to 106 runs scored this season. That means that they have scored just under 40% of this season’s runs with 2 outs. Just think about that for a little while. That is absolutely incredible. In comparison, the 2005 Cardinals hit .265 (71 points lower than this year) and were able to muster just 247 runs (Cardinals are on pace for over 300 this season) in this situation for the entire season.
1. I understand that not everyone believes in earned-run average (ERA) as an important barometer of a pitching staff, but I am going to use it anyway. The 2005 Cardinals led the MLB with a 3.49 ERA. This year, the Cardinals lead the MLB with 2.96 ERA. This, in turn, equates to the Cardinals pitching staff allowing just 3.23 runs (earned AND un-earned) per game this season–1.58 runs less than the Cardinals offense is averaging per game. The 2005 pitching staff allowed 3.91 runs per game, significantly more than this season, which led to a difference of just 1.06 between the runs scored by the offense and runs allowed by pitching.
2. This year’s starting rotation has had 38 quality starts (6 innings pitched with no more than 3 runs allowed) in the first 57 games–good for 67% of their starts. The 2005 Cardinals starting rotation had 97 quality starts on the season–just under 60% of their starts.
Thus, on paper, it looks as this year’s Cardinals has a better pitching staff than the 2005 Cardinals. This is hard to believe considering the staff they had–Cy Young Chris Carpenter (21 wins), Mark Mulder (16 wins), Matt Morris (14 wins), Jeff Suppan (16 wins), and Jason Marquis (13 wins) with a dominant Jason Isringhausen closing out games at a 91% success rate (39/43).
This year’s staff is much different. It includes three rookies in the starting rotation–Shelby Miller, Tyler Lyons, and Michael Wacha. They have had eight different starting pitchers this season, and it will increase to nine on Wednesday since Joe Kelly is getting the spot-start due to the split doubleheader against the Giants this weekend. Also, Edward Mujica was thrown into the fire to close games for the Cardinals when Jason Motte went down and has done so perfectly–17/17 on save opportunities thus far.
In closing, I realize that there is a long way to go in the 2013 season. The performance from the rookies as well as the clutch hitting could slow down, but they have not shown any signs of this yet. The 2005 Cardinals, statistically one of the best teams St. Louis has ever had, had a great season, but they fell short of the ultimate prize–losing to the Houston Astros in the NLCS despite Albert Pujols’ Game 5 heroics. (You MUST re-watch this!)
This year’s team, given the adversity it has faced so far this season, looks poised as ever to go on a run of their own, and they will have to stay hot throughout the course of the season if they want to stave off those pesky Cincinnati Reds who sit just 2.5 games back despite the Cardinals torrid start.
Until next time…