Feast or Famine: The Biggest Myth Since David Eckstein's Heart

Derrick Goold is out with a report from Spring Training discussing how the Cardinals are going to try and get away from "feast or famine"; the supposed plague that afflicted the team's offense a year ago.

For most of 2012, we were told how the Cardinals were just so inconsistent. "Look at this team!" says Cards Talk Fan. "They don't score runs with any consistency! Where are their situational fundamentals?! Why can they not score a runner from second base?! Why don't they take the extra base?! Where is the late game bunting?!"

It didn't help that the Cardinals themselves bought into this supposed "thing" -- the idea that their runs only came in brief spurts.

But was it so bad? Were the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals really some inconsistent team that would score five runs on Tuesday and six more runs the rest of the week? Let's look at it.

Since I don't know how to build tables and don't really understand Excel, I'll just list how many times the Cardinals scored 0-3 runs and where that ranked in the National League. I left out the Astros because of course I did.

0 runs: 11 (T-6th)

1 run: 11 (1st)

2 runs: 22 (T-6th)

3 runs: 23 (T-8th)

The thing about run distribution is that when looking at scoring 0-3 runs, it's very uneven and tells us absolutely nothing.

For example, the Cincinnati Reds were shutout just four times in 2012, but they also scored one run 23 times and three runs 26 times.

Milwaukee finished with the league lead in runs scored, but were shut out 11 times, held to one run 14 times and three runs 30 times.

Do you think anyone in Milwaukee is talking about "feast or famine"? No, of course not, because that's stupid. The Cardinals had a dynamic offense that had the ability to batter opposing pitching staffs, but over the randomness of a 162-game schedule, plus injuries and a whole host of other factors that go unaccounted for, they sometimes didn't score the league average in runs. It's only because of reactionary sportswriters and uninformed fans that give us myths like this. Instead of looking at the whole picture, the one that shows the Cardinals could hit for average, get on base, hit for power and score a good deal of runs, we have a beat writer look at a series in June that yields four runs against the Pirates and say "well, that settles it: this team is just feast or famine."

The Cardinals had 56 games where they scored between 1 and 3 runs. That number was bested only by the Philadelphia Phillies, who had a league average offense. Here's the key stat: the Cardinals had just a .214 winning percentage when scoring 1-3 runs. That was fifth worst in the National League.

Washington, on the other hand, had a .322 winning percentage. Cincinnati had a .313 winning percentage. San Francisco was right there with a .311 winning percentage, not far from Atlanta, with .310.

Those teams ranked second, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

So what is the real issue here? It's the fact that the Cardinals did not win a big enough share of those games where they scored below the league average. St. Louis was 12-44 when that occurred. A couple more breaks here and there and maybe they win 4-5 more games. Then we're not talking about "feast or famine"; we're talking about if they can manage to duplicate those terrific performances from the lineup and bullpen.

Consider the myth busted.

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