The St. Louis Cardinals have been a franchise that has been successful for decades in its division, let alone the entirety of Major League Baseball. A historic franchise such as the Birds on the Bat is tough to duplicate or find comparisons. My goal today is to find comparable teams in each of the other five divisions in the majors. The best way to do this is to create three categories and rank teams in other divisions based on these categories. While there may be some franchises that come to mind immediately, my hope is that there are a couple of surprises that initially didn't come to mind.
The three categories that I'll be using are:
- Franchise success (World Series titles, playoff appearances, pennants, and division titles)
- Franchise statistics (win totals, loss totals, Hall of Famers)
- Organizational culture (attendance records, fan support, ownership similarities, management styles)
While there may not be a direct comparison between the Cardinals and other teams, my goal is to find teams that are most similar in those three categories to the Cardinals. All stats are courtesy of Baseball Reference. Let's find five franchises that are most similar to the St. Louis Cardinals.
NL East - Atlanta Braves
Let's at least start in the same league. The National League East currently has the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals. Some of these franchises are newer, while others are historic teams. This division was actually one of the easiest to analyze; the Braves jump to mind nowadays in similarities to the Cardinals (fiscally responsible, signing young talent to long-term contracts, large fan support), and that gut feeling proved to be accurate.
The Atlanta Braves were established as a franchise only eleven years before the Cardinals, they have reached the playoffs twenty-nine times to St. Louis's thirty-two times, and they have four World Series championships to eleven here in the Lou. Division Championships are close at twenty-two (ATL) and thirty-two (STL). The only other team in this division with a similar franchise history would be the Phillies, but the gap is quite large in World Series trophies, playoff appearances, and division titles. Atlanta takes the cake in our first category.
The second category was easy to choose from as well. With New York, Washington, and Miami being newer franchises compared to St. Louis and Atlanta, the total games and Hall of Famers don't measure up. St. Louis has a slightly better win percentage (.520 to .503) and has won nearly two hundred more games while losing six hundred fewer games. There is a total difference in four hundred games played with Atlanta having more. Furthermore, Atlanta can count fifty-four Hall of Famers to St. Louis's fifty. As a fun side note, their team ERAs are nearly identical at 3.67 and 3.68, favoring the Braves. Team batting average is only off .006, with St. Louis having the advantage there. Atlanta runs away with the second category.
Atlanta also won the third category with ease. Lately, New York and Philadelphia have been spending like crazy and have seen older players signed to their rosters. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Marlins have been trading players just before they get out of arbitration for younger, more cost-controlled talent.
The Braves and Cardinals, however, have been known for making big trades (see Sean Murphy and Matt Olsen and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, respectively) while signing players out of their remaining arb years (Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Matt Olsen, Sean Murphy and Paul Dejong, Harrison Bader, and Giovanni Gallegos, respectively). Lastly, both teams consistently rank in the top 10 for attendance each year. While St. Louis outpaces the Braves by a couple of spots, no other NL East team consistently reaches the 30,000+ mark each year.