The Cardinals do not have the most wins in the National League. That distinction belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers who are 16-11. The Cardinals are 15-9. Those nine losses, however, are the fewest in the National League, which gives the Cardinals the best win percentage among those teams at .625. Going by record, the Cardinals are (currently) the best team in the National League.
Record does not paint an accurate picture though. There are many factors that can go into record like strength of schedule (though the Cardinals have faced some tough competition so far) and home/road splits (the Cardinals are 5-6 on the road — five of those losses were at Miller Park — and 10-3 at home). Because of these factors, we need to look at other things to evaluate the claim that the Cardinals are (currently) the best team in the National League. Let’s unpack!
The Cardinals have the second best wRC+ in the National League
wRC+ stands for “Weighted Runs Created Plus”, The stat takes all the aspects of hitting — extra base hits, walks, strikeouts, etc. — and determines the number of runs a player has generated based on those various hitting aspects. It then adjusts for park factors and league, thus the plus. An 100 wRC+ is considered average, which anything above 100 being one basis point better than average. The Cardinals as a team have a 116 wRC+, just behind the Dodgers 118.
and the best wOBA in the National League
wOBA is essentially wRC+ without being weighted on a “runs created” scale. It combines all aspects of hitting and weights them. The Cardinals just squeezed by the Dodgers .346 with a .347 wOBA.
Unsurprisingly, as these factor into wOBA and thus wRC+, the Cardinals have the second highest batting averages and slugging percentages in the National League at .270 and .476, just behind the Diamondbacks in each category. The Cardinals also have the second lowest strikeout rate at 22.2%, just after the Dodgers.
All of this adds up to a 5.8 fWAR for Cardinal position players. That is behind the Dodgers at 7.2.
Oh... pitching. You wanna read pitching arguments for the Cardinals being the best team in the National League? Ummm...
Oh look, I am out of time!
The Cardinals have some deficiencies, there is no doubt about that. Per fWAR, they have the worst starting rotation in the NL. The starters have the highest FIP in the NL and the third highest ERA. They are allowing home runs at an astonishing rate. The relievers have not looked much better in these categories, though things seem to trending upwards. On the pitching side, the Cardinals have some work to do. The offense has certainly carried the team so far. Maybe they are not the best team in the National League.
But, even with an under-performing pitching staff, they have the best record in the NL and a +33 run differential. If the Cardinals could stop giving up so many gosh darn homers — and the potential is there with this staff — this season could be very fun indeed.
Agree? Disagree? Earlier today we asked your thoughts on whether the Cardinals are the best team in the National League. I would love to read them! Please feel free to check out our FanPost section and write ‘em down. Or not. I am not going to tell you what to do.
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