Though it is still very early in the 2011 season, the St. Louis Cardinals’ 1-3 record out of the gate is concerning many. The formula seems similar to the 2010 non-playoff season in that the pitching has been generally good, but is not being given much of a margin for error by a sputtering offense. Baserunning and defense still have room to improve.
A comment made on The Cardinal Nation message board encouraged me to complete some analysis I presented in interim form last summer. I looked at Cardinals winning and losing streaks over the Tony La Russa years in St. Louis as defined by three or more consecutive games with the same outcome.
The data indicates that during seasons in which there were more losing skids than winning streaks, St. Louis missed the post-season each time. 2010 continued that pattern.
St. Louis Cardinals, number of winning and losing streaks, 1996-2010
|# Winning streaks||# Losing streaks||Playoffs|
In only one of La Russa’s 15 years did his club have fewer winning streaks than 2010’s eight. Last year’s team did manufacture their best stretch of baseball since 2004 when they took eight games in a row starting just before the All-Star break.
Yet, the 2010 Cardinals almost always followed the good with the bad. Excluding the season-ending win streak, a losing stretch immediately followed a win streak in five of the seven possible chances last season. In other words, even when the club established some momentum, they could not sustain it.
St. Louis Cardinals, winning streaks by number of games, 1996-2010
In terms of losing stretches, the 2010 Cardinals had a double-digit quantity of them for only the second time since 1999. Their longest losing streak last year was five games, which occurred twice, both in the second half of August as the season slipped away.
St. Louis Cardinals, losing streaks by number of games, 1996-2010
As noted above, the 2011 Cardinals have yet to post a streak of three consecutive outcomes of any type at this point. Couple the team’s bumpy start with the reality that they have just one stopper this season, Chris Carpenter, instead of two with Adam Wainwright out, and the early concern may be justified. This underlines the importance of the offense getting itself untracked, removing some pressure from the pitching staff.