Examining The Impossible Standards of the Modern St. Louis Cardinals

For the second straight game, on Saturday, the St. Louis Cardinals were obliterated by the Baltimore Orioles via an unrepentant onslaught of poor Cardinals fielding, poor Cardinals pitching, and the unfortunate and immense power of the almighty dinger. As of my writing of this sentence, the Cardinals are now 61-54, which at a 162 game pace measures out to 86-76. And that’s the optimistic view of the 2014 Cardinals—their Pythagorean W-L percentage is .487, which would mark the lowest mark at said statistic since the last team whose win total was below the current projection of 86—the 78-84 2007 St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, for various reasons, the 2007 Cardinals are not a team about which I have a ton of memories. I barely paid attention to the 2006 team, even early in the season when they were not the September dumpster fire that somehow turned things around in October, presumably due to fatigue from the heartbreaks of 2004 and 2005. Also, 2007 was the season during which I started college and I was too busy being the insufferable dude who was utterly convinced that he was going to become this supreme intellectual once hitting campus to fret about mere things like baseball. My memories of the team are peripherally hearing about Rick Ankiel being an outfielder and watching Juan Encarnacion nearly being blinded by a foul ball. But my sources confirm that the entire season was bad.

The 2014 Cardinals are probably the worst team since the 2007 team. But let’s consider the years in between.

· The worst Cardinals season between 2008 and 2013 was 2008, a season in which the team went 86-76 and had a .533 Pythag W-L%. You know how many teams in Major League Baseball that are not the St. Louis Cardinals had worse than a 86-76 record between 2008 and 2013? All of them. You know how many had worse than a .533 Pythag? All of them.

· Three franchises avoided a losing season between 2008 and 2013. One was the Tampa Bay Rays (who had never won more than 70 games in franchise history before 2008, mind you), whose worst season was an 84 win season. One was the New York Yankees, whose lowest win total was 85 (a miraculously high total, arguably, given their .485 Pythag). The third was the St. Louis Cardinals.

· Only one franchise had fewer than 86 wins in every single season between 2008 and 2013: the Seattle Mariners. However, TWELVE franchises only had one season in which they cleared 86 wins. Of those twelve, four never eclipsed the .533 Pythag threshold: the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, and Miami Marlins.

· The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays only had one season beneath a .533 Pythag. Astonishingly, only four more only had two below that mark: the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, and Philadelphia Phillies.

· I was born in 1989. The fewest games the Cardinals have won in a full season in my lifetime was 70, which was their win total in 1990 (and let me tell you, I was outraged that season). Just since 2008, half of MLB franchises had a season with fewer than 70 wins and one more (the New York Mets) had a season with exactly 70. The worst Cardinals season by record since I started paying attention in earnest to baseball was their 73-89 season in 1997—only ten teams have avoided a season that bad since 2008.

These are the good times. I say this not as a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, but as a fan of the St. Louis Rams, who have not had a winning season since before I could drive, and of the St. Louis Blues, who have won their division one time since I graduated…from grade school.

If the worst thing that the Cardinals will do is fall short while being a viable playoff contender at least long enough to distract me until football season, I think there might be some sports fans across the state from me who are understandably jealous of that.

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