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What recent history tells us about the Cardinals' run differential

Probably not much but the way they are outscoring teams is typically indicative of a playoff team.

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Tuesday I mentioned that through the first 52 games of the season the Cardinals were giving up 1.63 more runs per game compared to their first 52 games in 2015. How the team has managed to keep their head above water (or two games above .500) and just two games out of the last wild card spot is due to a frenetic offense. After Tuesday's 10-3 walloping of the Brewers, the Cardinals entered June having scored 292 runs -€” 17 more than any other team in the National League (to be fair the Cubs' 275 runs came in three less games). Compare it to the team's pace in 2015 when they didn't score run #292 until a 5-1 win over the Marlins on June 25th, the 72nd game of the season, and you see a bump of 1.42 more runs per contest this year compared to last.

Tuesday's game also marked the tenth time in 2016 the Cardinals have scored 10+ runs -€” a feat, as noted by Bernie Miklasz, they accomplished a total of nine times in all of 2015 and just three times in 2014. This post would have looked a bit shinier before yesterday's 3-1 loss, in which the Cardinals' offense was stymied by the not-great-stuff of Zach Davies, but still, this newfangled scoring barrage meant a +52 run differential when we all woke up this morning. That's fifth best in all of baseball, and the reason the Cardinals have a Pythagorean W-L% of .592, behind only the Cubs and Nationals in the NL.

A Pythagorean W-L% means very little when stacked up against actual W-L%. Sure, it would be nice to assume this means the Cardinals are better than the win/loss column currently lends credit, but we don't know that going forward. The hope is the Cardinals are this year's Blue Jays, who at this time last year were 23-29 but had a Pythagorean W-L-% of .545. They went 70-40 the rest of the way and easily won the AL East.

That would certainly be ideal. And while we wait the next few months to see if that's the case, today let's look at other teams who had a similar or better run differential to the Cardinals at this point in the season. Below are teams in the wild card era (and excluding the strike shortened 1995 season), who, at the conclusion of games on June 1st, had a +52 or better run differential (Teams with the asterisk missed the postseason; teams with the double asterisk would have qualified for the Wild Card game or a play-in game under the current postseason format.):


Cardinals +59

Dodgers +59


Athletics +115

Giants +61


Cardinals+ 86

Reds +69

Tigers +68

Red Sox +57

Rangers +57*


Rangers +77

Cardinals +57


Yankees +69


Rays +89

Yankees +80

Padres +52**


Dodgers +86


Cubs +92

Phillies +63


Red Sox +75

Mets +59*

Indians +53


Yankees +73

Dodgers +66

Tigers +65

White Sox +57**

Diamondbacks +55

Cardinals +54


Cardinals +56

Rangers +52*


White Sox +61*

Astros +59


Mariners +84**

Yankees +70

Athletics +61

Braves +56

Cardinals +56*

Phillies +52*


Yankees +103

Red Sox +86**

Angels +72

Mariners +68*


Indians +103

Mariners +99

Red Sox +70*

Brewers +55*


Red Sox +84*

Diamondbacks +68*

Braves +66

Mariners +56

Cardinals +53


Indians +99

Astros +65

Braves +59

Diamondbacks +56

Red Sox +52


Braves +104

Yankees +103

Astros +78

Mets +67*

Padres +59

Giants +57**

Rangers +56

Indians +55


Orioles +96

Braves +90

Mets +71**

Yankees +63


Braves +112

White Sox +91**

Padres +84

Rangers +66

Indians +61

Expos +60**

That's a grand total of 73 teams, and only 12 of the teams listed above would have missed the postseason (or a play-in game to make the postseason) under the current postseason format. Meaning since 1996, about 84% of teams with a +52 run differential or better on the morning of June 2nd would have played at least one extra game past 162.

For an analogous Cardinals' season, on this date in 2012 the Cardinals were also only two games over .500 yet similarly had a +57 run differential. The rest of the way they went 61-49. Not lights out baseball and not enough to win the division but enough to make the postseason and to come oh so close to another trip to the World Series.

All of this, of course, is tantamount to not much more than fun facts. We don't know whether the Cardinals will win 70 of 110 like last year's Blue Jays, or collapse down the stretch like the '07 Mets, or stay the course yet miss the postseason because they end up on the short end of a dog fight with some combination of the Nationals, Mets, Giants, Dodgers, and Pirates for the two wild card spots. For a more scientific (and likely accurate) analysis you can check out FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus, where the Cardinals' postseason odds currently hover between 30 and 36%.

In the end, the Cardinals will be whatever their record says they are. But if we must exist in a world where on June 2nd the Cardinals are just two games above. 500, there is comfort in knowing the way they are outscoring the competition is befitting of a team who more often than not plays into October.