Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals Tread Water, Gain Ground


The St. Louis Cardinals won five of ten games on their recent road trip to Colorado, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They made up ground on the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers the last two days as the Cardinals won on Wednesday and Thursday, while the Brewers lost Wednesday night and were idle today. The Brewers open a holiday weekend series at the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, while the Cardinals come home to play three with the Miami Marlins.

The +20 run differential owned by the St. Louis Cardinals is the 10th-highest in MLB. However, the average run differential for first place teams is +50. The +50 is actually owned by the second-place Washington Nationals, who sit a half-game out of first place in the National League East. The average is also skewed by the gaudy +125 of the Oakland Athletics, who lead the American League West.

This is a flawed St. Louis Cardinals club, especially offensively, but they play in a division, and at a time, where many peers have flaws. Offense has been a problem for many teams this year. What’s going on in the near term in the National League Central?

Starting pitcher Marco Estrada of the Brewers has surrendered 26 home runs already this season, and is teetering in the rotation with an ERA close to 5. They have just enough hitting with a resurgent Aramis Ramirez, and good work from second baseman Scooter Gennett. Their starting pitching has been better than average. Interestingly, Miller Park has played as a pitchers’ park the last year.

The Pittsburgh Pirates miss A.J. Burnett, while Francisco Liriano is on the disabled list. Newcomer Gregory Polanco has helped the attack a little, getting on base above league average. The Pirates’ fielding has not been as productive as in 2013. They start a weekend series with the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday.

Injuries have hurt the Cincinnati Reds, as Jay Bruce missed more than a month due to knee surgery, and starting pitcher Mat Latos just came back recently. They have holes in the lineup as they desperately miss the OBP provided by Shin-Soo Choo last year. Although he gets on base nearly 40 percent of the time, Joey Votto is not having a monster season.

The Chicago Cubs have two starters who have had problems–Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson–but one who has been nearly great in Jake Arrieta. Cardinals fans can attest to his effectiveness in 2014. Arrieta is 8-3 for the last-place Cubs with an ERA of 1.81. They, along with 27 other clubs, have outscored the Cardinals, but they have problems preventing runs as well as the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are 4-0 in games started by Carlos Martinez, and can claim to get back starting pitcher Joe Kelly and second baseman Kolten Wong in the next week and a half. Friday evening, they’ll host a Marlins team that went 11-16 in June.

Remember, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won 83 games in the regular season. As Tony La Russa says, “Just get in the tournament.”

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