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The Cardinals’ Most Suspenseful Start Since 2000

The Cardiac Cards are back in full force.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I haven’t been able to shake that the start of the 2018 season has felt like a roller coaster. It’s been noted that the Cardinals’ five walk-off wins currently lead the MLB, but even before the series with the Cubs, it’s felt like this year’s team has kept us in near-constant uncertainty — more than any version of St. Louis baseball in recent history. After taking a look at the first 34 games of all iterations of the Cardinals since the turn of the millennium (because round numbers are fun), it’s pretty clear that, if you have that gut feeling as well, you aren’t mistaken. What follows is a pretty quick look at the numbers typically associated with close games, calling out some of the notable data points.

2000-2018, Cardinals Close Games

Year Walkoff Wins Walkoff Losses Total Walkoffs Come-From-Behind Wins Extra Inning Games Extra Inning Wins RunDiff=1 RunDiff=2
Year Walkoff Wins Walkoff Losses Total Walkoffs Come-From-Behind Wins Extra Inning Games Extra Inning Wins RunDiff=1 RunDiff=2
2018 5 2 7 9 7 4 12 7
2017 2 0 2 7 4 2 13 10
2016 2 1 3 9 1 0 7 4
2015 0 1 1 10 5 3 11 7
2014 0 1 1 5 3 0 13 6
2013 0 1 1 7 2 0 10 6
2012 1 3 4 5 2 1 6 3
2011 0 4 4 8 3 1 11 8
2010 0 3 3 7 2 0 9 6
2009 0 2 2 8 3 1 8 6
2008 2 2 4 8 4 2 11 5
2007 0 1 1 7 3 2 6 5
2006 2 2 4 9 1 0 11 3
2005 1 1 2 6 1 1 13 5
2004 3 1 4 9 3 3 8 8
2003 1 4 5 5 4 3 11 9
2002 2 2 4 9 4 2 12 7
2001 1 0 1 10 3 1 8 7
2000 0 0 0 7 1 1 9 6

Some of these categories focus on wins and losses, while others are purely concerned with the suspense factor. The 2018 team still leads in nearly every one.

Wild for Walk-offs

This year’s team not only leads the majors in sending the local fans home happy, but they have the most walk-off wins of any Cardinals team since 2000, by far. If you add the totals starting with 2017, you have to go back through 2012 to match the 2018 mark, and back more than 10 years to 2008 to eclipse it. Their two walk-off losses are in a five-way tie for third. (It's interesting to note that the 2011 World Series champions are tied for first in this undesirable category with four.) In total, a little more than 20% of the 2018 club’s games have ended in a walk-off, regardless of the outcome.

Lots of Free Baseball

The seven total extra-inning games played this year easily take the top spot among the 21st-century teams. While their raw extra-inning win total is also in the lead, their win percentage is third behind the 2003 and 2015 Cardinals. While 4-3 is still above .500, it’s not too promising that the 2018 team has dropped nearly as many extras games as they’ve won.

Strong in Close Contests

The 2018 team sits in a four-way tie for third in games with run differentials of two or less, with last year’s squad taking the top spot with a whopping 23. The bright spot, however, is that St. Louis has a 13-6 record in those games this year, compared to a 12-11 mark in 2017. That’s a good sign, considering the number of times last year’s club was on the unfortunate side of one- and two-run games.

Never Say Die

The “come-from-behind wins” category in this data set includes any win where the Cardinals were behind, regardless of inning or run total. The 2018 club is in a five-way tie for second with nine comebacks. It’s promising to see that the team doesn’t go down without a fight, but all but four of the 2000s teams had seven or more comeback wins through this point of the season. The Cardinals typically put up some strong numbers in this category, and you’d prefer to see the team not need to come from behind in the first place, but it’s nice to see them sitting in the upper tier of this one.

Common Records

It’s a good time to be fortunate for just how much success this organization has had since 2000. Only twice have the post-1900s Cardinals had a sub-.500 record after 34 games. The 2018 win-loss total of 20-14 is actually St. Louis’ most frequent mark at this point in the season, with 5 of the 19 iterations of the club holding that record. The most successful team to play to that pace 34 games into the season was La Russa’s 2000 club which finished 95-67 and won the division.

If you’ve also been feeling like this year’s club has kept you in suspense, it’s because they have. This obviously isn’t indicative of future performance, but it very clearly paints the picture that the 2018 Cardinals have, to this point, proven worthy of the team’s past nickname, “Cardiac Cards.”