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Inconsistency is not the problem for the Cardinals offense

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A statistical dive shows that the Cardinals have some of the more consistent bats in the game

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

There are an abundance of words I could use to describe the 2017 Cardinals. Allow me to voyage deep into my lexicon to share with you, the ever so gracious reader, a few of my personal favorites:

  • Frustrating
  • Really frustrating
  • Really, really frustrating

Perhaps the most agonizing aspect of this team is its streakiness. The Cardinals began the year 3-9 before finishing April on a 9-3 run. That sparked a nine-game road win streak...only to drop four consecutive games at home the very next week. St. Louis rattled off four straight victories in early June to end a seven-game slide. In August, their season-high eight wins in a row were followed by eight losses over the club's next eleven games.

An impromptu Twitter poll produced the expected result: 84% of respondents felt that consistency has "been an issue for the Cardinals offense in 2017".

Cue the hot takes. But first, cue the spreadsheets.


To measure a team's consistency, or lack thereof, I found their game-to-game standard deviations for various offensive categories. The empirical rule states that by pure randomness, 68% of your data should fall within one standard deviation of the mean, 95% within two, and 99.7% within three. For example, the league average standard deviation for wOBA is .0886, or 88.6 wOBA points. We would expect 68% of the individual games to appear within 88.6 points of the .321 mean, 95% within 177.2 points, and so on. I can't stress enough that the empirical rule is a general statement not tailored to this specific data.

If 88.6 points seems extreme, keep in mind that stats for one game are inherently volatile due to the microscopic sample size. Any quantification of a baseball team's consistency on a day-to-day basis is meaningless without context, specifically its relation to the other 29 teams.

Got all that down? Let's take a look at our results.


(Remember that a lower standard deviation indicates a more consistent offense.)

Runs Scored Consistency by Team

Team R R/PA
Team R R/PA
SDP 2.51 .0604
TOR 2.75 .0638
OAK 2.78 .0651
NYM 2.91 .0665
STL 3.02 .0665
PHI 2.84 .0668
PIT 3.02 .0672
SFG 2.96 .0677
TBR 2.92 .0678
MIL 2.95 .0683
CIN 3.05 .0685
LAD 2.98 .0695
CWS 3.10 .0696
ATL 3.14 .0702
MIA 3.34 .0712
LAA 3.11 .0718
Average 3.20 .0718
BOS 3.31 .0723
SEA 3.19 .0728
BAL 3.33 .0738
KCR 3.33 .0739
TEX 3.27 .0749
MIN 3.44 .0750
CLE 3.46 .0755
DET 3.38 .0756
ARI 3.36 .0763
HOU 3.71 .0780
NYY 3.53 .0784
WSN 3.88 .0798
COL 3.55 .0806
CHC 3.90 .0848

We see here that the Cardinals place in the top ten in runs scored consistency and in the top five when scaled to a per-plate-appearance basis. What happens when we use a more advanced metric by applying the principal of linear weights?

Weighted Runs Created Consistency by Team

Team wRC wRC/PA
Team wRC wRC/PA
SFG 2.91 .0668
CLE 2.97 .0678
ATL 3.06 .0687
TOR 2.93 .0691
LAA 2.91 .0693
MIL 2.96 .0694
SDP 2.83 .0700
STL 3.11 .0702
PIT 3.12 .0712
OAK 3.15 .0727
PHI 3.07 .0728
LAD 3.11 .0729
NYM 3.21 .0729
HOU 3.48 .0732
Average 3.28 .0748
TBR 3.18 .0755
BOS 3.43 .0760
SEA 3.30 .0761
NYY 3.44 .0764
KCR 3.35 .0769
CIN 3.31 .0773
TEX 3.32 .0773
CWS 3.40 .0780
COL 3.62 .0787
BAL 3.45 .0792
MIA 3.57 .0792
ARI 3.45 .0793
MIN 3.58 .0796
DET 3.60 .0801
CHC 3.65 .0824
WSN 3.93 .0846

Again, the Cardinals offense grades out as one of the ten steadiest by either measure. Turning to a stat like wOBA, we find more of the same.

Weighted On-Base Average Consistency by Team

Team wOBA
Team wOBA
SFG .0796
CLE .0815
TOR .0818
LAA .0820
ATL .0820
MIL .0825
SDP .0834
STL .0837
PIT .0850
NYM .0861
HOU .0863
OAK .0864
LAD .0866
PHI .0867
Average .0886
TBR .0886
SEA .0897
BOS .0898
KCR .0906
NYY .0908
TEX .0912
CIN .0915
CWS .0927
ARI .0931
COL .0935
MIN .0940
BAL .0940
MIA .0940
DET .0945
CHC .0972
WSN .0996

As the astute reader will have realized by now, each of the above tables share one glaring flaw: they don't account for park factors. Up to this point you would think that the Rockies were one of the more erratic clubs in Major League Baseball. Is there something real to Colorado's larger standard deviations or are they merely the product of playing at Coors Field one day and Petco Park the next? Here are the 30 teams ranked by wRC+ consistency, which adjusts for varying park factors and run environments.

Weighted Runs Created Plus Consistency by Team

Team wRC+
Team wRC+
SFG 50.66
CIN 51.29
ATL 52.01
MIL 52.13
SDP 53.21
TOR 53.34
STL 53.36
PIT 53.92
LAA 54.43
PHI 54.83
LAD 55.46
NYM 55.52
OAK 56.48
Average 57.27
HOU 57.33
COL 57.54
BOS 58.59
TBR 58.61
KCR 59.08
TEX 59.42
ARI 59.42
SEA 59.47
NYY 59.70
CWS 59.82
MIA 60.16
CLE 61.04
BAL 61.19
MIN 61.68
DET 62.18
CHC 62.50
WSN 63.81

The Cardinals check in with the seventh lowest standard deviation. Out of pure curiosity, I looked at each team's isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) and on-base percentage to determine whether the Cardinals' power or ability to reach base was more consistent. I also threw in BABIP to see which teams experienced more volatile batted ball luck.

ISO, OBP, and BABIP Consistency by Team

Team ISO OBP BABIP
Team ISO OBP BABIP
SFG .0848 .0805 .0930
PIT .0887 .0849 .0979
ATL .0919 .0799 .0840
SDP .0937 .0802 .1045
SEA .0960 .0851 .0970
BOS .0984 .0873 .0959
LAA .1017 .0754 .0881
COL .1019 .0911 .1005
STL .1020 .0816 .0933
MIA .1023 .0874 .1002
CIN .1023 .0878 .1075
OAK .1030 .0814 .1050
KCR .1041 .0846 .0947
MIL .1050 .0786 .0944
DET .1053 .0854 .0904
Average .1056 .0827 .0951
NYM .1061 .0769 .0947
TOR .1066 .0733 .0795
HOU .1081 .0789 .0923
TEX .1091 .0860 .0935
CLE .1102 .0764 .0869
LAD .1102 .0821 .0885
PHI .1110 .0773 .0909
CWS .1113 .0851 .0957
MIN .1119 .0843 .0967
WSN .1125 .0914 .1028
TBR .1134 .0830 .1039
ARI .1166 .0839 .0997
BAL .1167 .0848 .0907
NYY .1177 .0796 .0914
CHC .1264 .0870 .0993

While St. Louis' ISO is slightly more consistent than its OBP, both numbers are better than their respective league average marks. It's also worth noting that any dry spells when seemingly no flares drop for a hit are (relatively) few and far between for the Cardinals.


Is a more consistent offense automatically primed to be a more effective one? No. In fact, I found just a 13.6% correlation between wRC+ consistency and actual wRC+ performance.

One thing that I have much more than 13.6% confidence in is this: whatever frustrations stem from the Cardinals offense are the result of an issue over talent and firepower, not inconsistency.