Since Busch Stadium III opened in 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals have had a winning record at home every season except for 2016. The Redbirds should get back to their winning ways under the arch again in 2017.
In many ways, 2016 was an anomaly for the St. Louis Cardinals. The team’s pitching was unusually mediocre, its defensive play was porous, and the offensive attack adopted an all-or-nothing approach that led the National League in home runs.
Another indicator of unusual nature of 2016 was reflected in the team’s win-loss record at home. For the first time in the history of the current Busch Stadium, the Cardinals finished with a record under .500 at Busch, at 38-43. The Redbirds led the league with a 48-33 record on the road, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the team’s deficiencies at home, and St. Louis missed the postseason by one game.
So why should we expect the Cardinals to improve upon their 2016 home record? Because before last season, they’ve been dominant every single year at Busch since it opened for business eleven years ago. Here’s how the Cardinals have fared at home the previous eleven seasons:
2006: 49-31 (6-2 postseason)
2009: 46-35 (0-1 postseason)
2011: 45-36 (6-3 postseason)
2012: 50-31 (3-2 postseason)
2013: 54-27 (6-3 postseason)
2014: 51-30 (3-1 postseason)
2015: 55-26 (1-1 postseason)
Including the 2016 season, the Cardinals have compiled a record of 529-361 at Busch Stadium III during the regular season, good for a .594 winning percentage. In the postseason, they’re even better, going 25-13. That’s a .658 winning percentage.
Winning at home is a must for any team that wants to compete for a playoff berth. The Cardinals’ lackluster performance at home last year is one of the reasons the team missed the postseason for the first time since 2010.
With that in mind, it is critical that the Cardinals get off to a good start in 2017. They play 19 of their first 29 games at home. Before the All-Star break, they’ll play 50 games at Busch and 38 on the road. After the break, they’ll have 31 games at home and 43 on the road.
It is easy to get caught up in the importance of baseball games in the final month of the season. After all, teams are making their final push for the postseason. However, games in April and May count for just as much in the standings.
Of course, major league baseball players know this. Still, it will be interesting to watch how the early part of the season unfolds. The Cardinals will need to have success at home if they want to keep pace in the division with the Chicago Cubs.
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This means the first series of the season against the Cubs in St. Louis will be very important. They host the Cubs again in May. The early portion of the Cardinals’ schedule will be important due to the swell of home games, but also because of the strength of their opponents.
The Cardinals’ first road trip of the season will go to Washington D.C. to play the National League East champion Nationals, and then to the Bronx to face the New York Yankees.
They host the Toronto Blue Jays in April, who have played in the American League Championship Series the past two seasons. In May, the Boston Red Sox, early favorites to represent the American League in the 2017 World Series, will visit St. Louis. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers will also visit Busch in May. Both teams made the postseason out of the National League West last year.
The Cardinals’ schedule in April and May features many teams that figure to contend for the postseason again in 2017. It will be an early test, but many of those series will be played in St. Louis. The Cardinals must make the most of their home-field advantage.
Given the Redbirds’ track record of success at Busch, there’s reason to believe they will. The beginning of the season should be telling for the Cardinals. If they slip early, they’ll be left to battle again in the wild-card race. With a strong start, they may be able to stick around in the conversation for the Central division crown.