Pinch hits and pitchers have driven in 50 runs for the Cardinals this season
Just past the two-thirds mark of the season, the Cardinals sit at 58-51. Although sitting 9.5 behind the Cubs, the Cards are tied for the second Wild Card Spot. We’ve already talked about the pinch hitting impact for the Cardinals, but after Jamie Garcia’s performance last night, pitching 8 shutout innings and driving in the lone Cardinals run, I wondered just how much of an impact Cardinals pitchers have had this season on the team’s offense.
Upon further examination, Cardinal pitchers have driven in 21 runs throughout the year, tied for second among MLB pitching staffs, just behind the Giants (with 24). Possibly the most intriguing part? Adam Wainwright leads all major league pitchers in RBIs. Say what you want about Madison Bumgarner, but Wainwright, this season, has arguably been the best hitting pitcher. He even had the game back in June against the Pirates where he came in to pinch hit and drove in the winnings runs.
Speaking of pinch-hitting, if we factor that into the equation, the Cardinals enter a league of their own compared to the rest of the MLB. Between pinch hitting and pitchers at the plate, the Cardinals have driven in 50 RBIs (factoring in Wainwright’s two RBI night only once). The next closest team? The Washington Nationals at 36 RBIs. And behind them sits the Cubs and Giants at 31.
Of course there is the consideration that no AL team could compete with these numbers given the DH spot, narrowing down the field. But that almost makes it even more significant for the Cardinals. In the American League, these comparisons wouldn’t be about pinch hitting and pitchers, but rather about the #9 hitter on each team.
Let me put it this way. If the Cardinals performed at an average level compared to other teams in the NL, they’d have 27 runs driven in through the two methods (instead of 50!). That difference of 23 runs, according to FanGraphs, accounts for somewhere between 2 and 3 wins on the season. And if the Cardinals maintain their current pace, pinch hitters and pitchers will reach 75 RBIs by the season’s end, close to four wins above what the average NL teams would project out to.
In a Wild Card race that is currently tied, and with three teams within four games of the Cardinals, every win is crucial. Grabbing four of them just through pinch hitting and pitchers at the plate could be the difference between the Cardinals making or missing the playoffs.
The last third of the season will no doubt be hectic. But having the additional possibility of big hits coming from pitchers and from pinch hitters will make the final stretch just a little less nail-biting. And it could give the Cardinals that little extra push that might just be the difference in propelling them into the playoffs.
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