Stacking the Cardinals Up Against the NL

A look at won-loss records in the context of the St. Louis Cardinals season to date.

After a tough series in Philadelphia, where the St. Louis Cardinals' offense sputtered and the starters' string of 14 consecutive quality starts ended, we're starting to see the same old headlines again, and the same old complaints - suggesting that the only reason the Cards are contenders is because they're in a weak division.

Well, let's take a look at the Competition (with a capital "C") to see if this notion of beating up on "weak competition" (with a small "c") is valid.

As it turns out - despite the Philly series – the answer is ‘not really.'

As of the end of Thursday night's competition, the Cards are 8-4 against National League Central teams this year (Astros, Reds, Brewers) and 10-7 against NL East and NL West teams (Mets, Phillies, Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants) for an overall record of 18-11.

Breaking the non-NL-Central games down - the Cards are 2-1 vs. the Mets, 1-3 vs. the Phils, 4-0 vs. the Braves, 2-1 vs. the D'backs, and 1-2 vs. the Giants.

Thru 5/6 Overall vs. StL vs.Others
Mets 15-13 1-2 14-11
Phillies 17-11 3-1 14-10
Braves 12-16 0-4 12-12
D'backs 14-15 1-2 13-13
Giants 17-10 2-1 15-9
total 75-65 7-10 68-55

So the Cardinals have produced 10 wins in 17 games against teams that are a combined 68-55 against the rest of the league, hardly weak competition. I'd say that despite the rough patch in Philly, the club has been acquitting themselves reasonably well against the "Capital C" competition, even with a team that has yet to fire on all cylinders.

As for beating up on the NL Central: breaking down the 8-4 intra-division record, the Cards are 4-2 against Cincinnati, 2-1 against Houston, and 2-1 against Milwaukee.

Thru 5/6 Overall vs. StL vs.Others
Reds 14-14 2-4 12-10
Brewers 12-16 1-2 11-14
Astros 9-19 1-2 8-17
total 35-49 4-8 31-41

The Cards are 8-4 against teams that are 31-41 against everyone else, although Houston's horrible record really skews that - Cincy and Milwaukee are 23-24 against non-Cardinals competition.

Really, folks, Houston is the only really bad team the Cardinals have played this year, and the Brewers are the only other opponent that is below .500 against the non-Cardinals portion of their schedule thus far (even the disappointing Braves are at .500 when not playing the Cards).

So, looking at the total picture, the Cards are 18-11 against eight teams that are a combined 99-96 against everyone else, and that's with Houston's horrible 8-17 non-Card results mixed in there; take them out and the Cards are 16-10 against seven teams with a combined record of 91-79 when not playing the Cardinals. Of those seven teams, only one of them (Brewers) is below .500 against the rest of the league.

Or, to put it another way, those eight teams are 99-96 against non-Cardinals competition, but 11-18 against the Cards. Taking Houston out of the mix, the seven other teams are 91-79 against the non-Cards portion of the league, but 10-16 against the Cards.

What does all this mean? Well, besides the fact that I had too much time on my hands when this all sprang to mind, it means the main reason the National League has looked so bad this year is because - at least until the past couple of days - the Cardinals have been beating up on it!

If, in fact, the Cards were playing to the level of the competition, the other eight teams would be 15-14 against the Cards, not 11-18; the seven non-Houston teams would be 14-12 against the Cards, not 10-16. But they are not playing to the level of the competition; they've been playing better than that.

And again, this is with a team with an offense that remains inconsistent, misfiring on a few cylinders here and there - they have yet to get all eight spots in the lineup producing at the same time; it's the superlative pitching that has carried them this far and hopefully the offense can get "tuned up" before the pitching returns to a more normal result.

Despite my optimism, though, I want to be careful not to get too far ahead of myself - the Pirates, even with their 13-15 record - always play the Cards tough, especially at home, and shouldn't be ever be taken lightly.

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