Feeling a little rusty about your Cardinals knowledge after the offseason? These 31 stats will get your mind right.
Section I: Starting it off Right
30: The Cardinals have finished in 1st place 30 times in team history.
Depending on what year we’re talking about, this could mean 1st in the National League, or first in the NL Central. But that number has them in second place all time in the NL, behind just the Dodgers. The Cubs may have won last year, but they aren’t the better team historically.
Section II: Analytically Inclined
29: In 2016, the Cardinals team on-base percentage was 29 points higher when batters took the first pitch instead of swinging at it.
Good patience is often rewarded. The Cardinals reaped the benefits of that last season when taking the first pitch. A three percent increase in OBP suggests that the Cardinals are at their best when working the count.
28: Stephen Piscotty hit 28 of his 38 barrels to either center field or right in 2016. That was the highest non-pull rate on barrels for any player with at least 30 barrels.
27: Zach Duke’s career 27 DRS puts him 8th among active pitchers.
You had to figure that sabermetrics would factor in here somewhere. Barrels is one of the most fun stats we have. A barrel is a ball hit at the optimal launch angle and exit velocity. This combination leads to the most home runs. Piscotty’s propensity to hit barrels to the opposite field makes him hard to pitch to.
Zach Duke may be a reliever, but he is saving more runs than just about any starter. Yes, I am aware that he is not going to pitch this year, but that doesn’t make the statistic any less awesome.
Section III: Are you serious?!
26: In 1958, Stan Musial was intentionally walked 26 times, more than one-third of all MLB teams in 2016.
Stan the Man! Pitchers in 1958 were more afraid of pitching to Musial than pitchers today are of pitching to entire teams. There are so many great Musial facts, so I had to pick one for this article. None of them beat the fact that he had as many hits at home as he did on the road for his career.
25: Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz each had 25 infield hits in 2016, tied for 3rd in MLB.
24: The Cardinals 24 opposite field HRs in 2016 placed 5th in MLB.
23: Lou Brock’s 118 stolen bases in 1974 were more than those of 23 different teams in 2016.
Brock was a great base stealer, and FanGraphs suggests that he was 75 runs above average on base stealing for his career. The speedy outfielder would stick out in today’s game, where his 118 stolen bases would more than double the next guy. The second all-time leading base stealer certainly made his presence felt on the basepaths.
(OK, number 24 isn’t as impressive as the others, and the infield hits are only notable because Piscotty and Diaz don’t have blinding speed, but did you see those Musial and Brock stats?)
Section IV: The Power of Teamwork
22: The Cardinals are the only team with a player inside the top 22 in hard hit rate for each of the past ten seasons.
21: The Cardinals have had the NL leader in WAR in 21 different seasons.
20: The Cardinals have an active streak of 9 straight seasons with 20+ team fWAR, the longest in MLB.
19: The Cardinals had a team ERA .19 runs higher than their FIP in 2016, so maybe it was just bad luck.
18: Since the creation of MLB in 1903, the Cardinals have had a fielder lead the NL in dWAR 18 times.
17: The Cardinals 17 pinch hit home runs in 2016 are an MLB record.
16: The Cardinals have led the NL in RA/9 16 times and as recently as 2015.
15: The Cardinals had 15 players with at least a 100 wRC+ in 2016, two more than any other
14: DRS has been tracked for 14 seasons. In that time, the Cardinals lead the majors with 437 DRS, 73 more than the second place team.
The Cardinals have stuck to an organizational philosophy about what players to target. A lot of their philosophy comes across in those statistics. Defense and a well-rounded team are two things that come to mind. The last one about Defensive Runs Saved is particularly incredible. Over a 14-year span, the Cardinals managed to save 73 more runs than any other team in baseball. And that’s including a subpar defense in 2016.
As for the well-roundedness of the Cardinals, check out numbers 17 and 15. The Cardinals had an abundance of quality hitters in their lineup, so their bench players set records. Furthermore, they had 15 players with an above average wRC+, which is nearly enough to complete two lineups.
Section V: OBP is King
13: Dexter Fowler’s OBP in 2016 was 13 points higher than that of any Cardinals’ regular.
Fowler is the big addition this offseason, and this is where he is supposed to earn his money. The Cardinals went into the offseason hoping to find another high-OBP guy, and they brought in a player who would have led the team last year. If everything goes the way the team plans, then the middle of the order should have more baserunners on for them.
12: In 1924, Rogers Hornsby posted a .507 OBP, a mark that nobody has beaten in the last 12 seasons.
If you haven’t gone back to check the Cardinals’ history in awhile, do it. There are some absolutely incredible performances in there. Hornsby’s on-base percentage in 1924 (and in his career) is no exception.
As awesome as Mike Trout is, pitchers still get him out more than half the time. That was not the case with Hornsby in this season. His OBP in 1924 ranks up there with Musial’s intentional walks and Brock’s stolen bases among the greatest individual single-season feats of all-time for the Cardinals.
Section VI: Stating the Obvious
11: The Cardinals have won 11 World Series titles, more than any other National League team.
Did you really expect anything else for number 11? Just enjoy this one.
10: Yadier Molina is the only player to grade positively for the same team in each of the last ten seasons (per StatCorner).
OK, maybe the way I worded this isn’t that obvious, but the idea that Yadier Molina is great shouldn’t surprise you. Even before we knew how to measure pitch framing, everyone knew that there was something special about Molina.
Now that we do measure it, there is no debate as to who the greatest defensive catcher over the past ten years has been. Molina is not the only player to grade positively each of the past ten years in pitch framing, but he is the only one to do it for the same team each season. Maybe he’ll stay even longer.
Section VII: The Top Ten
9: Over the past 15 seasons, the Cardinals’ pitching staff has finished in the top 3 in the majors in groundball rate 9 times.
This Cardinals have been seeking groundball pitchers for a long time. Check out every starting pitcher that they have acquired in the past 7 years. The majority of them will have groundball rates above 45 percent. Now they just need to worry about that infield!
8: The Cardinals’ bottom third hitters had a wRC+ 8 points better than the second best bottom third in the majors in 2016.
7: Adam Wainwright’s 7 seasons with 190+ innings pitched is tied for most among active pitchers.
You didn’t really think I would get through this without mentioning Wainwright, did you? Oh, and that pitcher that he is tied with is Matt Cain, of all people. I think we’ll give a slight edge to Wainwright since, you know, he’s the better pitcher.
Section VIII: These Guys Must be Good
6: Jedd Gyorko was one of just 6 players in 2016 to hit 2 home runs in each inning from 1 to 9.
One of my favorite stats is that Willie Mays is the only player to homer at least once in each inning from 1 to 16 in his career. Gyorko will never catch the Say Hey Kid, but this is pretty good too.
5: Among active pitchers who have thrown at least 100 curveballs, Adam Wainwright’s curveball ranks as the 5th best curve in terms of average pitch value (per Baseball Info Solutions).
He may not have had his best Uncle Charlie last year, but Wainwright’s curveball was one of the top pitches in baseball for most of his career. Those curves froze the best of hitters, and they were really fun to watch. Wainwright needs to rediscover his best curveball, but if he does, he has all he needs.
4: Yadier Molina has 4 Platinum Glove Awards. The award has been in existence for 6 years.
Did I say that Molina is the best defensive catcher in recent memory? Forgive me, I meant to say that he is the best defensive player in recent memory?
Section IX: Finishing Strong
3: In 2016, Cardinals pinch hitters hit .333, which broke a record held for nearly 30 years by the 1987 Phillies.
I know batting average is useless, but it still gives us cool stats like these when you need them.
2: The Cardinals drew the 2nd most fans in baseball in 2016.
So what if the Dodgers were first? The Cardinals have 10,000 fewer seats in their stadiums. And if you count innings present, I’ll bet that Cardinals fans crush Dodgers fans. In a year when the team did not make the playoffs, Busch Stadium was still packed every night.
1: In the history of MLB, there has only been one rookie shortstop with a higher OBP and SLG than Aledmys Diaz had in 2016.
The player that beat Diaz is Bret Barbarie of the Montreal Expos in 1991. Barbarie qualified as a rookie, but only had 162 plate appearances that season. Many people are talking about all of the young shortstops that are about to take over the league, and Diaz had one of the best rookie seasons of all of them. When people mention Correa, Seager, Lindor, and company, that company should include Diaz.
Section X: The best of them all
0: 0 pitchers have come within .30 runs of Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in the live ball era.
I don’t care if the mound was at a different height; this is incredible. Not only did Gibson set a live ball era record, but nobody has even sniffed it since he set it. Gibson’s ERA isn’t mentioned along with other “unbreakable” records because other pitchers have recorded a better ERA.
They just didn’t do it in the live ball era. We always put an asterisk on pitching numbers before the live ball era. How about we start acknowledging that it’s going to take a miracle to do what Gibson did in the live ball era?
Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell – USA TODAY Sports