St. Louis Cardinals: Best Offense in Baseball?

By Editorial Staff
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Ok, maybe I shouldn’t have phrased this as a question. Just so there’s no confusion, let me be clear: The St. Louis Cardinals have the best offense in baseball as of right now. As crazy as this probably sounds to some, it’s a statement that is becoming increasingly difficult to argue. The Cardinals do not have the best record in MLB, and you won’t find an overwhelming number of people who feel that they are the best team in baseball. However, with almost a quarter of the season gone by (WHAT?!), there is no denying that the Redbirds are tearing it up at the plate, showing no signs of slowing down.

Don’t believe me? Check out the statistics after the jump because, well, the numbers simply don’t lie.

If you had told me at the end of last year that this team would rank first in nearly every MLB offensive category in 2011, I most likely would have laughed in your face. After I finished laughing, I would have assumed that Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, and Adrian Gonzalez would need to be brought in during the offseason for that to be even remotely possible. Cards fans need no reminders to remember the struggles of the offense to produce in key situations in 2010, a year in which the team was average-at-best as far as hitting is concerned. For the most part, pitching carried the Cardinals last season. This year it’s the other way around, although the pitchers have been holding their own just fine with the exception of Ryan Franklin.

Now let’s get to the good stuff. As I mentioned earlier, the Cardinals currently rank at or near the top of the league-wide offensive stats. Take a look.

CategoryStatistic/Ranking
Batting Average.290 – 1st
On-Base Percentage.361 – 1st
Slugging Percentage.439 – 2nd
Hits377 – 1st
Runs Scored202 – 1st
Runs Batted In193 – 1st
Total Bases571 – 1st
Walks 

Doubles

Home Runs

Strikeouts (Least)

Extra Base Hits139 – 4th 

75 – 4th

35 – 11th

231 – 6th

117 – 3rd

Still not convinced? Well, to be honest, these numbers above would mean absolutely nothing if they were not directly translating into victories. At the end of the day, winning is all that matters. Not to worry, the Cardinals offense has helped them to a record of 22-16, good for first in the NL Central and fourth in all of baseball.

But wait, there’s more. You didn’t actually think I was done did you? The Cardinals have an unbelievable +47 run differential, which is seven more than the next closest team (Cleveland). St. Louis is also one of just three teams with a record above .500 against every division that they have faced (Cleveland & Philadelphia are the other two). Finally, the Cards have not lost a series since the Giants took two out of three from them from April 8-10. In fact, over the last month this team has lost back-to-back games just twice.

Looking up and down this line-up, it’s really hard to find a soft spot or weakness. Obviously, the line-up is anchored by superstar Albert Pujols. He’s only batting .267 with seven homers and 24 RBIs, but he has played in all 38 of St. Louis’ games and his play seems to be improving. I hate to say only, but it’s no secret that those numbers aren’t yet Pujols-like. There is no doubt in my mind that he will pick things up. After all, he is Albert Pujols.

Pujols’ counterpart Matt Holliday is off to one of the fastest starts of his career, leading MLB with a sky-high .390 average. He has been an on-base machine, contributing 28 runs, 11 doubles, and 26 RBIs. Lance Berkman has continued his resurgent 2011 campaign, building momentum every time he steps to the dish. He ranks fourth in batting average (.357), fourth in home runs (10), and first in RBIs (32). Not bad for a 35-year-old who was acquired to be a role player.

Colby Rasmus is finally beginning to live up to the hype, hitting.313 with 21 walks (1st on team) and 29 runs scored (3rd in MLB). David Freese has come back from an injury-plagued 2010 season to hit .356, and Yadier Molina has his average right around .300 as usual (.294). Craig, Theriot, and Jay are hitting .289, .287, and .286 respectively, bringing another dimension to this well balanced offense.

For what it’s worth, St. Louis holds the sixth spot in this week’s power rankings, which were released on Monday. Coming off a 9-1 beat down of the Cubs at Wrigley this afternoon to win the series, it’s a good bet that the Cards will be moving even higher in the power rankings for the fifth consecutive week.

It is certainly easy to argue that the Red Sox, Yankees, or Phillies have a better offense that the Cardinals on paper, but when evaluating the actual numbers, it’s no contest. The Cardinals have accepted and stepped up to every challenge thrown their way in 2011, and it’s hard to ask for a more impressive offensive showing than what fans have been treated t through the first 38 games. It is not easy to sustain such dominant play at the plate over the course of a 162-game season, but this team might have the firepower to do it. One thing is for sure: If the offense continues at this pace, St. Louis will be around in October until the very end.

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