06/14/2004: Now we're there... can we keep it up?
The NL Central standings bring a song to my heart today. Particularly the Cardinals line:
NL CENTRAL WON LOST PCT GB HOME ROAD EAST CENT WEST STREAK
Cardinals 36 27 .571 - 13-15 23-12 10-08 19-17 05-01 WON 1
Reds 34 28 .548 1 1/2 18-10 16-18 11-06 16-11 07-05 LOST 6
Astros 33 28 .541 2 15-13 18-15 06-06 22-18 03-03 WON 1
Cubs 33 29 .532 2 1/2 18-14 15-15 05-01 17-18 09-09 WON 2
Brewers 31 29 .517 3 1/2 16-13 15-16 08-04 13-14 08-10 LOST 1
Pirates 24 35 .407 10 9-18 15-17 05-01 13-22 06-06 LOST 8
And FWIW, Brian Gunn at Redbird Nation thinks that things only get better from here on out, at least for a while:
The Cardinals are now 1.5 games out in front of the NL Central, and in some ways the roughest part of their schedule is behind them. They just concluded a stretch where they played 20 of 26 games on the road, including half those games head-to-head against rivals Chicago and Houston. And they passed the test with gold stars all around, picking up ground on every division opponent (including 5 games on both HOU and CHI).Third in the division? Maybe not....
The Cards have been incredibly fortunate with their schedule so far. Consider:
This isn't to say the Cards are out of the woods -- not by a longshot. Four teams are within 3.5 games of the Redbirds, and the Cubs are getting healthier and stronger. And despite our recent run of good pitching, we're still 11th in the league in runs allowed.
- We have the most attractive interleague schedule of any team in the Central, and with Texas out of the way it only gets easier. Here are the weighted winning percentages of the remaining interleague opponents for each team in our division:
St. Louis, .461
What accounts for this discrepancy? Regional rivalries. While the Cards get to play bottom-dwellers Kansas City and Seattle, the Cubs and Astros must play strong White Sox and Rangers teams.
- We didn't have to face the Reds at all when they were scorching hot. Now that they're pitching woes have caught up to them and they've dropped six straight games (almost all due to their lousy staff), the Cardinals will play them 13 times over the next six weeks.
- The Cardinals were able to dodge the Cubs at full strength. They played 7 recent matchups without Sosa or Wood, and 7 earlier games without Mark Prior. They've also played 12 games against the Astros without having to face Andy Pettitte once.
- Lastly, the Cardinals have been able to get a lot of their road games out of the way early. We play 53 of our remaining 99 games at home, the most of any team in the Central. (Although with the way we rip it up in our gray unis -- best road record in the majors by a mile -- that might not be such a great thing.)
So there are still a lot of question marks ahead, but so far the Cards have passed all their tests heading into midterms.
Len on 06.14.04 @ 08:09 AM CST