The St Louis Cardinals have done a lot right this year – as of today, the 27th September they sit atop the NL Central with a 1 game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, have knocked the Chicago Cubs out of contention for the postseason with a 4 game sweep in Wrigley and have confirmed their place in the postseason for the first time since 2015.
There is no doubt there have been ups and down throughout the season, namely the poor form in May (.333 record), the lack of offense in June (3.5 runs per game average vs. 4.7 runs per game average for the entire season excluding June) and the struggles of finding a leadoff hitter (for monts this season the leadoff position had the worst OBP in the lineup aside from the pitcher). But all of these issues have been turned around in our post-all-star-break run with the Cards record having seen major improvements (.500 in the 1st half vs .648 in the 2nd half), the offense has lit up since the break and the leadoff position has been locked down by Dexter Fowler who had a .381 OBP for the entire month of August.
One consistent challenge though throughout the entirety of the 2019 season for the Cardinals, which they just can’t seem to shift, is the issue of winning the day after an off-day. The Cardinals have had 21 off-days to date in 2019 (defined here as a game the day after they have not played due to a planned off-day, a postponement of an original match or the break for the all-star weekend – note this doesn’t include opening day) but have managed to only win 7 of those, giving them a mere 33% winning percentage of games after off-days. This is the worst in the NL and the third worst in the entirety of MLB behind only the Texas Rangers (24% win %) and Detroit Tigers (32% win %).
In the 14 games that the St Louis Cardinals have lost after an off-day, the pitching staff have given up 77 runs and the offense has only been able to contribute 32 runs. This is an average per game of 2.3 runs scored and 5.5 runs allowed. When comparing this against the 2019 season totals, the Cardinals are allowing an average of 4.1 runs per game, and scoring 4.7 runs per game. So this shows that although the pitching hasn’t been as good as against the season average, the offense has been less than half as productive which is the major contributor! This was highlighted again in the last game after an off-day (10th September vs. Colorado Rockies) with only 1 run being scored in the 1-2 loss (and that was in Coors Field, a major hitters park!).
Furthermore, in the 21 games after off-days the Cards have played 8 of these on a Tuesday (having Monday off) and have a .375 record and have played 7 of these on a Friday (having Thursday off) and have a .143 record in these games. The final game after an off-day in the Cardinals schedule is against the Chicago Cubs with the NL Central title on the line and unfortunately comes on a Friday so there is some real importance on the team and/or management to resolve this issue as soon as possible to maintain our 1 game advantage over the Brewers!
This opens the question of is this blip of losses after off-days a mentality issue of the players who are not coming to the games sufficiently prepared after an off-day, something which Mike Schildt and management aren’t addressing sufficiently and should be spending more time to resolve or just sheer bad luck!? Looking at the best teams in MLB, the Houston Astros have the best winning % the day after an off-day (87%) and the AL Central leading Twins and NL West leading Dodgers are also in the top 5 winning %’s. Plus looking back over the last 3 years since the Cardinals were in the post-season, they have averaged a 37% win percentage on games the day after off-days. So this does imply it could be a management issue with the team not ensuring the players are ready to play.
But although challenging for the team, the St Louis Cardinals have still managed to battle against this adversity and get themselves into the postseason for the first time since 2015 and so if they can resolve this for the final series against the Cubs and come away with the W, then we should be looking at an NL Central winning baseball club at Busch Stadium for the first time since 2015!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!
Matt Benson, Gateway Analytics Ltd