Something for the St. Louis Cardinals to improve on (and no, not the offense…)

JUPITER, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 22: A detail of a St. Louis Cardinals bag prior to a Grapefruit League spring training game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium on February 22, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 22: A detail of a St. Louis Cardinals bag prior to a Grapefruit League spring training game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium on February 22, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals had a successful 2019, but aside from a lacking offense, there was one surprising statistic they really struggled with, winning games the day after an off-day!

There is no doubt there were challenges throughout the 2019 season for the St. Louis Cardinals:

  • The poor form in May (.333 record)
  • The lack of offense in June (3.5 runs per game average vs. 4.9 runs per game average for the entire season excluding June)
  • The struggles of finding a leadoff hitter (for months the leadoff position had the worst OBP in the lineup aside from the pitcher).

But all of these were turned around in the second half with the Cards record having a much-needed uptick (.500 in the first half vs .635 in the second half). This was aided by the offense waking up after the All-Star break having a .757 OPS and the leadoff position being locked down by Dexter Fowler who had a .381 OBP for the entire month of August.

One consistent challenge though throughout the entirety of the 2019 season for the St. Louis Cardinals was the issue of winning games that came after an off-day.

The Cardinals played 22 games the day after an off-day in 2019 (defined here as a game the day after they did not play due to a planned off-day, a postponement or the All-Star break – note this doesn’t include Opening Day). The club managed just seven wins, giving them a .318 record on games after off-days.  This was the second-worst in the entirety of MLB behind only the Texas Rangers (.240).

Quite a shocking image – the St. Louis Cardinals record was worse than the four teams who finished 2019 with over 100 losses (including the Tigers who finished with the worst record in MLB), every other team in the National League and with a whopping 13 fewer wins in these games than the league-leading Houston Astros*.

*We now know these numbers could be slightly skewed…but you get my point!

In the 15 games that the Cards lost after an off-day, the pitching staff gave up 85 runs and the offense was only able to contribute 34 runs. This was an average per game of 2.3 runs scored and 5.7 runs allowed.

When comparing this against the 2019 season totals, the Cardinals allowed an average per game of 4.7 runs scored and 4.1 runs allowed. Therefore although the pitching wasn’t as good as the season average, the offense was less than half as productive in these post-off-day games.

Looking into this in a little more detail, we see that in the 22 games after off-days the St. Louis Cardinals played eight games on a Tuesday (having Monday off) with a .375 record and seven games on a Friday (having Thursday off) with a .125 record.

Based on the current 2020 schedule (therefore not including any unscheduled off-days due to postponements), the Cardinals have six games after a Monday off and 10 games after a Thursday off, which on the 2019 record equates to 3.5 wins.

Additionally, the Cardinals had a worse record in these games at home, with just a .308 record and in 2020 they play 11 of the 20 games at home after an off-day. So a turnaround on this poor form is desperately needed if the Redbirds want to win the NL Central again.

This opens a real question of were these losses after an off-day a mentality issue with the players not coming to the games sufficiently prepared? Or is it just sheer bad luck?

More from St Louis Cardinals News

Looking at the best teams in MLB, the Houston Astros had the best record the day after an off-day (.870), plus the AL Central winning Twins and NL West winning Dodgers were also in the top 5 records.

Then if we look back over the three years prior to the 2019 season, the Cardinals averaged a .370 record on games the day after off-days. So this really could be an implicit issue that the management needs to sort out before the 2020 season starts.

If the team were to turn this .318 record from 2019 into even just a slightly above average .550 record, that could be an extra four to five wins in what is looking to be an extremely close National League Central race!

Highlights and key series in the 2020 schedule. dark. Next

The first of these post-off-day games in the St. Louis Cardinals 2020 schedule is against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday 28th March.  \So here is looking forward to that game and to hopefully kick-starting the season on the right foot towards another long postseason run for 2020.

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