The St. Louis Cardinals have traditionally been fast starters in the National League Central Division. Not so in 2011, as the team has played just .500 ball in the early going.
The competitive balance across the 2011 NL Central has been illustrated through 16 games. The division leader, Cincinnati, had nine wins with four other clubs, including St. Louis, just one game behind.
Then, there is Pittsburgh, still looking for a winning NL Central season, let alone a post-season berth.
Carrying a .500 record though 16 games does not necessarily indicate future doom.
Since the current six-team configuration of the NL Central was established in 1998, three of the eventual 13 divisional winners had logged eight or fewer wins through 16 games with two other 8-8 or worse NLC clubs going on to earn the wild card.
The 2001 Cardinals are one of those five improving NLC teams. Despite having gone 7-9 to start the season, they went on to win 93 games and entered the playoffs. It was also current hitting coach Mark McGwire’s swan song as an active player.
In aggregate over this 13-plus-year period, St. Louis has the most first-16-game wins, most regular season wins (at 1,165) and most playoff appearances with seven.
Cardinals fans have to hope they can equal or better 2001 here in 2011.
National League Central, wins, first 16 games, 1998-current
National League Central, wins, season, 1998-current
Thanks to researcher Tom Orf for providing the above tables.