A random look at some broader trends that have shaped the Cardinal season.
Better Against Right-Handers
Even with losses to two right-handed starters in the last series, St Louis is still 7-4 this month against righties. This is kind of news, because this season beating right-handers has been much more difficult than in seasons past. With the 7-4 this month, St Louis is now 27-21 (.563) in the second half, but just 58-57 (.504) on the season overall, against right-handed starters.
While this franchise has had historic struggles against lefties, this year’s edition is 3-2 this month, 7-6 since the break, and 19-15 (.559) for the season when facing a left-handed starter.
Pitching Improves in Second Half
To this point of the month, the Cards have yet to lose a game in which they’ve scored 4 runs or more. The bad news is that they have managed that number of runs in only half of their games. Since the All-Star Break, they are 25-1 (.962) when they score at least 5 runs. These numbers tell – a little bit – the story of the improvement in the pitching as the season goes along. For the year, they are only 9-12 (.429) when they score exactly 4 runs, and just 7-9 in the 16 games where they’ve scored exactly 5 runs.
For the season, St Louis has had to score at least 6 runs before their chances of victory climb over 50%. When scoring six or more, the Cards are 47-5 (.904). At five runs or less, they are 30-67 (.309).
In the 16 games played so far in September, Cardinal pitching has surrendered more than four runs only 3 times. In the 61 games since the All-Star Break, St Louis has allowed 5 runs or more just 22 times (36%). In the season’s first 88 games, Cardinal pitching surrendered 5 or more runs 41 times (47%), including a historic streak.
Getting Better at Holding Leads
In 9 of the first 16 games played this month, St Louis has managed to get out to at least a two-run lead. They have won all 9 of those games. They’ve lost 4 games this month in which they never held a lead. In three other games, they’ve taken a one-run lead, but couldn’t push the lead to two runs. They have lost 2 of those 3 games.
Since the All-Star Break, they have already lost 4 games that they led in by as many as 2 runs, and one game (the Chris Segal game on August 16 in Boston) where they held a four-run lead. They had coughed up 2 other four-run leads in the first half, as the team with a leaky bullpen has seen a multitude of leads vanish. For the season, there have been 22 games where they have led by a maximum of one run. They have lost 15 of those games (including 8 of 11 in the second half). When the Cardinal’s greatest lead in a game is just 2 runs, the team is 12-13. They are only 9-7 when they open up a three-run lead that they can’t push to four runs. This has been a sore spot from the very beginning of the season.
St Louis has 38 come-from-ahead losses this year – with 13 of them coming in the second half.
Cards Can Come Back, Too
On the other hand, 6 of the 10 wins they have so far in September have been games in which they trailed at some point. In 5 September games so far, they have fallen behind, but by no more than 1 run. They have come back to win 4 of those games. So far in the second half, they have come back from three-run deficits 5 times, and once they managed their own rally from four-runs down (that happened the day after the Boston game on August 17 in Pittsburgh). On June 21, St Louis mounted a season-best five-run comeback in a 7-6 win over Philadelphia (box score).
St Louis has 33 come-from-behind victories this year – 19 of them coming after the break.
Games of a Series
St Louis still maintains a sizable advantage in the second games of their series. Since the All Star Break, they are 15-5 (.750), and are now 30-18 (.625) for the season in game two.
During the second half, they have started to get better in game one. They have now taken 12 of their last 20 (.600). For the season, they have still lost more opening games of series (25) than they have won (23). After going a modest 14-13 in third games of series in the first half, St Louis is only 5-11 (.313) in the second half when they come to game three.
St Louis has been fortunate that they haven’t seen Chris Segal since that Boston game. 149 games into the season, Chris is still the only umpire we have seen at home plate 4 times. St Louis has lost all four of them.
On the good umpire side, Mark Carlson and John Tumpane have both been behind the plate 3 times for the Cards so far this season – with St Louis winning all 6 games. Throughout his career, Carlson has called 46 Cardinal games. St Louis is 26-20 (.565) in those games. Tumpane hasn’t been around as long, but the Cards are now 7-3 all time when John has the plate. St Louis is 1-6 lifetime with Segal calling balls and strikes. He was behind the plate for a 6-4 win over Arizona back on May 26, 2015 (box score).
Bruce Dreckman landed behind the plate for the last game of the Cub series. We have now seen him twice this month – in two of the most defining games of the season. Bruce was also calling balls and strikes on September 2 in San Francisco. That was the game where Lance Lynn carried a 1-0 lead after 8 innings of an eventual, ten-inning, 2-1 loss (box score). Bruce usually does well by us. We are 16-10 (.615) all time with him behind the plate.
I will not hold out false hope for the playoffs. The Cards, in losing 4 of the last 5, have dug themselves a hole that will be difficult to climb out of. The Cubs do have tough games coming up before they land in Bush next week, so the gap could narrow over the next six days. St Louis would still be faced with the challenge of actually winning some of those games.
With the wind kicked out of their sails, St Louis now has games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh – two teams that have been out of contention for a while. It will be interesting to see how much passion the team can generate in these games. Will the disappointment of the lost opportunity drag them down? Or will they be able to put the last disastrous series behind them and give the Reds and the Pirates their best games? Even if they don’t crash this season’s post season party, I’d like to see them go down fighting. It will speak well for the future.