As we flip our calendars from April to May, there is disappointment among some St. Louis Cardinals fans. Despite generally good play by the club, there is a feeling they should have been better. The team has been unable to secure any multi-game series sweeps and have lost some close contests they seemingly could have won.
On the other hand, wouldn’t anyone have been happy to make a deal in March for the team to end April at 14-8 and with a three-game National League Central Division lead?
As the data below indicates, the offense and pitching have been equally impressive in the early going, with the last item, run differential, pulling it together.
|Cards: April 2012||#||NL rank of 16||Comment|
|Team ERA||2.61||#2||WAS #1 at 2.33|
|Starters ERA||2.57||#2||WAS #1 at 1.78|
|Relievers ERA||2.70||#2||SD #1 at 2.54|
|Runs scored||113||Tied #1||ATL also with 113|
|Batting average||0.280||#1||#2 is NYM at .269|
|Run differential||plus 53||#1||next closest is 27 (ATL)|
There are some interesting parallels to 2011. The respective situations of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter are more unclear this season than last, but the bottom line in terms of April wins from the co-aces each year is identical – zero.
Further, in both Aprils, the number five starter performed at an unexpectedly high level. Last year, Kyle McClellan was a perfect 4-0. This year, it is Lance Lynn (4-0, 1.33). Like McClellan in 2011, the unexpected current level of success by Lynn, Kyle Lohse (4-0, 1.62) and Jake Westbrook (3-1, 1.30) will not be sustained for the entire season.
Starters going deep into games, backed by high levels of run support, meant less pressure applied to a relatively-inexperienced bullpen. Performance in close games remains an open question.
|Cardinals thru April||2011||2012|
|Record||16-11 (.593)||14-8 (.636)|
|NL Central lead||plus 2||plus 3|
|Wins from Carp/Waino||0||0|
|Wins from #5 starter||McClellan 4||Lynn 4|
All is not perfect. The Cardinals are just 5-5 in their most recent 10 contests, though in all fairness, for most of that time, the offense was missing two of eight position player starters in Lance Berkman and since-returned Jon Jay. Further, in 2012 there has been greater exposure with starters out since top reserve Allen Craig has been unavailable as well. Skip Schumaker also missed considerable time.
The concerned point to the easier first-month schedule for St. Louis, primarily made up of NL Central opponents. That is a fair question, in my opinion.
May should offer a better cross-NL test for the Cardinals. After Pittsburgh and Houston, St. Louis will face Arizona, Atlanta (twice), San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Philadelphia. Of that group, only the Padres and Phillies have losing records. In contrast, the Cardinals are currently the only NL Central team with a winning slate.