Cardinals Minor League History Being Made

St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers posted the system's best winning percentage since 1966 and could set a new high in championships, too.

With Monday's completion of the 2010 minor league regular season, we can start to assess what it means for the St. Louis Cardinals system.

At first blush, the conclusion is very positive - perhaps surprisingly so to many.

A number of the standard processes that rank organizations are based on the quantity and perceived quality of high-impact prospects. This is an area in which the Cardinals have recently come up short.

That was especially the case this past winter, following a pair of major trades of youths for veterans during the summer of 2009 and the graduations of Colby Rasmus and Jaime Garcia. An infusion of talent from this June's draft should positively impact those measurements.

While minor league team results are a better indication of the health of an entire system than they are a measure of a handful of high-potential individuals, they still cannot be ignored – especially when a year occurs like this one.

One has to go back 45 years, to 1966, to find a season in which the aggregate won-loss percentage of the Cardinals minor league system was better than its 2010 mark of .569.

The seven US-based affiliates finished this regular season at 104 games over .500 at 431-327. Back in 1966, the six Cardinals clubs then in place won 416 and lost 302 for a winning percentage of .579.

Cardinals minor league system winning percentage, top ten seasons, 1966-present

Year Winning percentage
1966 0.579
2010 0.569
1987 0.567
1986 0.559
1968 0.550
1993 0.547
1978 0.544
1994 0.542
1975 0.536
1980 0.533

Note that the most recent entrant in the top ten above prior to the current year was back in 1994. In more current times, 2008 marked the only other above-.500 season for the system since 2004. Two years ago, the group finished at 393-354, .526, but backslid last season to .486.

The Cardinals top four affiliates each reached the playoffs in 1966, though all fell short of their respective league championships. Future Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson brought the St. Petersburg Cardinals home with a .669 winning percentage, tops in the system that year.

Twice since 1966, four Cardinals farm teams made the post-season, in 1987 and again in 1994. Only one of these occurrences has been in the last two decades.

With five teams in the playoffs this year, the Cardinals have the most clubs active following the regular season since at least 1966.

Most playoff teams, season, Cardinals system, 1966-present

Year # Levels
2010 5 AAA, AA, A, SS-A, SS-R
1994 4 AAA, A, SS-A, SS-R
1987 4 AAA, A+, A, SS-R
1966 4 AAA, AA, A+, A

Mike Shildt's Johnson City Cardinals have already hoisted the Appalachian League championship trophy following their posting of the system's best regular-season winning percentage in 2010 at .636 and a two-round playoff sweep.

The other four entrants will begin their second-season games this week. They are the Batavia Muckdogs of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League, the Quad Cities River Bandits of the Class A Midwest League, the Springfield Cardinals of the Double-A Texas League and the Memphis Redbirds of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

Compared to their peers, Johnson City had the best record in its league while Memphis tied for the most wins in the PCL. Springfield, Quad Cities and Batavia all finished with the second-most regular-season victories in their respective leagues.

Despite ending the season ten games over .500, a late-season fade left the Palm Beach Cardinals short of the Florida State League playoffs. The Gulf Coast League Cardinals, the first stop for many high school draftees and imports from the overseas programs, had its best season since restarting four years ago at 28-28.

The aforementioned summer of 1994 was the last time the Cardinals had two league champions crowned. That repeated the showing of a pair of league winners previously accomplished in 1980, 1977, 1975 and 1973. In other words, it has happened just once in the last 30 years.

Not since at least 1966 have the Cardinals seen more than two of their affiliates win their respective leagues. In 2010, the Cards already have one championship on the books and four more opportunities still to be played out.

Will history be made in 2010? Stay tuned.

Cardinals minor league championships, two or more in a season, 1966-present

Year # Champions
1994 2 Savannah (A) New Jersey (SS-A)
1980 2 Springfield (IL) (AAA) Arkansas (AA)
1977 2 Arkansas (AA) Gastonia (A)
1975 2 St. Petersburg (A+) Johnson City (SS-R)
1973 2 Tulsa (AAA) St. Petersburg (A+)
2010 ? Johnson City (SS-R) ?

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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