The mathematician in me has a hard time calling the segment of the major league season that just completed “the first half.” After all, the St. Louis Cardinals have already played 96 of their 162 regular season games or 59.3 percent of all games and would be at 97/59.9 percent except for a rainout.
With different lengths to each year’s “first half,” it is a worthless effort to compare first halves using any counting stats, such as hits, home runs, wins or strikeouts. However, rate stats can offer valid comparisons. (Thanks to researcher Tom Orf, I have first half data for the last 101 years, all the way back to 1914. Though in reality, before the All-Star Game was created in 1933, the delineation of halves may be up for debate.)
Here, we look at the 2014 Cardinals’ exceptional pitching staff. Compared to prior years, their team ERA of 3.42 is good but not great, ranking them in the 20s of 101.
Where the Cardinals pitching really stands out is their opponent batting average of .241 and the related on-base percentage of .307. That ranks seventh- and 11th-best, respectively, since 1914. The .241 batting average posted is lowest by a Cardinals pitching staff since 1966, almost 40 years.
Their opponent slugging percentage is least impressive of these slash stats, but still just missed the top quartile at 28th. Putting it all together in OPS, on-base plus slugging, the 2014 Cardinals staff ranks in the top 20 over the last 101 years.
The main question in my mind is whether it can be sustained for the remainder of the year given the injuries and workload some of pitchers have taken on.
Next time, we will take a quick look at the hitters.