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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

When the Cardinals said goodbye to first place

One year ago today, August 14, was a milestone, albeit an unpleasant one, for the 2010 St. Louis Cardinals. It marked the last time that edition of the Cardinals held even a share of first place.

As many of the team’s fans painfully recall, last season’s Cardinals went into a late-season nosedive. From August 14 through September 15, the team won just nine of 30 games and the resulting swing in the standings was nine games, from one up to eight down.

The responsibility was shared.

The offense scored three or fewer runs 17 times during the swoon. The team lost 16 of those contests.

Aces Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter seemed to run out of gas. Over nine starts between August 14 and September 25, Carpenter went 2-6 with one no-decision and a 4.60 ERA. Between August 18 and September 14, Wainwright went 1-5 with a 4.73 ERA.

With St. Louis already eliminated from the Wild Card chase, the Cincinnati Reds finally clinched the NL Central on September 28. Obviously, the Cardinals’ season had been lost long before that.

The record indicates that the 2010 Cardinals finished at 86-76, ten games over .500, just five games behind Cincinnati. However that was buoyed by a season-closing 9-2 stretch in what was essentially garbage time.

The current Cardinals are 64-56, five games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division battle and six games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL Wild Card standings.

While there is still time for a change of lead horses in the 2011 race, I thought it would be interesting to review the last date various Cardinals teams owned at least a share of first place.

For seven consecutive seasons, from 2000 through 2006, the Cardinals were in first place during at least part of the month of September in every year.

Since then, it has been a much different story.

In the almost five years since the 2006 World Championship trophy was hoisted into the air, the only time the Cardinals spent a day in first place after August 14 was during their division-winning 2009 season.

St. Louis Cardinals, last date in first place, final standings, 1996-2011

Season Last date in 1st Finished Games +/-
2011* 7/26
2010 8/14 2nd place 5 behind
2009 10/4 1st place 7.5 ahead
2008 5/25 2nd place 4.5 behind
2007 never 3rd place 7 behind
2006 10/1 1st place 1.5 ahead
2005 10/2 1st place 11 ahead
2004 10/3 1st place 13 ahead
2003 9/1 3rd place 3 behind
2002 9/29 1st place 13 ahead
2001 10/7 T-1st place tied (Wild Card)
2000 10/1 1st place 10 ahead
1999 4/29 4th place 21.5 behind
1998 4/15 3rd place 19 behind
1997 7/4 4th place 11 behind
1996 9/29 1st place 6 ahead
* thru 8/13

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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22 Responses to “When the Cardinals said goodbye to first place”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    August 14, 2011 can be the memorable start of our climb to overake the red hot Brewers.

    Albert selfishly clubbed a dinger to tie it up.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Rogers the pitcher has to be discouraged. His team gave him a lead and made Jackson throw a lot of pitches in the top of the first. But this great beginning immediately went down the drain for him. Now he’s on the ropes.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    A comment about Brian’s table above. It helps show how consistent the Cards have been, since Pujols. His rookie year was 2001. During 10 seasons prior to this one, the Cards have finished 1st 6 times, 2nd twice, and in 3rd place twice, and never lower.
    Meanwhile the Astros arose circa 04-05, and are now cell dwellers. The Cubs arose via free agents in 07/08, and are sad again. Other teams had upticks and downturns, but St Louis has been steady, thanks to Albert.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Carpenter’s impact is discernible too. We finished 3rd in 2003, with terrible pitching. Carpenter began his huge contribution in 2004. He would be injured early in 2007, our other year to wind up in 3rd place.
      Before Pujols and Carpenter, TLR finished 11, 19, and 21.5 games behind, during 1997-99. No matter how much lineup tinkering he would have done, the team did not have the horses it has enjoyed during the new Millenium.

  4. CariocaCardinal says:

    is that the Freese Westie said looked gimpie? Looks fine to me!

  5. JumboShrimp says:

    Mammoth HR by Pujols. Great relief from Motte, Dotel, and Salas. D from Furcal. Good effort from Jackson (and hope he is not injured). 11 hits. Wow. Now lets blast the Pirates.

  6. Brian Walton says:

    Monday lineup: Schumaker 8, Furcal 6, Pujols 3, Holliday 7, Berkman 9, Freese 5, Molina 2, Theriot 4, Westbrook 1.

  7. Kansasbirdman says:

    Back from a trip helping texas with their feral hog population. 🙂 watched last night’s game taped. Its different hearing the ESPN guys talk about the NL race.

    Nice D by Berkman and theriot tonight.

    Weird seeing Luddy in a pirates uni

    • blingboy says:

      Let us know how that feral bacon tastes, Kansas. Like the lineup. Theriot 8th is perfect.

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        I like to make pulled pork with it. Smoked with mesquite wood from west texas. When we make the WS this year I will have a party with wild hog and plenty of Budweiser ya’ll are invited 🙂

      • JumboShrimp says:

        I like the way TLR is willing to adjust the lineup. Jay was ineffective with the stick last night, while Corey is not a high on base percentage guy suited for the top of the lineup. So Tony rediscovers Skip at leadoff and at a new position, CF. He goes with another scrappy vet, Theriot, at 2B.
        I love the way Furcal is responding to the warm welcome and improving his hitting.
        The team and personalities seem to fit together better now.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Jumbo, it takes a real optimist to appreciate a guy improving from an average of .194 with one team to .227 with his new club.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            If Tug McGraw was known for: You Gotta Believe,
            Brian Walton may instead believe: Its hopeless, lets play 120, indulge the Rasmuses, and hoist the white flag.
            Is that what Rupert Murdoch wants? I believe not.

            I will help you find your way, Brian, through the trials and tribulations of 2011.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Apparently in your world, there is only black and white – no gray. It may be a lot easier to see things that way, but wildly unreasonable.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                Life holds many uncertainties, ambiguities, and informational shortcomings.
                But I do not assume the worst about those running the team. Its one thing to be honestly skeptical and I have zero problems with that and will defend reasonable questions. But for instance to pooh pooh hitting progress by Furcal strikes a needlessly sour note.

                MLB just a game and its good to see joys within the game. I like to see the team try to improve and for players to enjoy success. I’d like to see the Cards overhaul the Brewers. I think they can, though Westbrook failed tonight. But if the Brewers rise to the occasion and prevail, then I can applaud them for doing so. I am not going to be sour, either way.

                Some may have been spoiled by the DeWitt, TLR, Albert era. If the Cards are not in first, then everything sucks. The Cards are a mid-market team. They do a nice job for their budget. They must have had the best record in the central division since arrival of Albert. For this, I give much thanks.

  8. Kansasbirdman says:

    Brian, fx spts announcers saying the Cards signed their second overall pick and assigned them to jupiter team gulf coast league. How and who decides where the player is assigned?

  9. Kansasbirdman says:

    Announcers now discussing the Rhodes trade and rehashing the discussion posters have had here. They are a little behind. He did better tonight looks like.

  10. Bw52 says:

    At least Furcal is heading the right direction.Small improvement is better than getting worse.

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