The St. Louis Cardinals would be in the playoffs if the season ended on Thursday and are just one game out of the National League Central Division lead.
Inspired by discussion at The Cardinal Nation’s message board, I asked researcher Tom Orf if any club had finished 29th or 30th in run scoring and made the post-season since baseball’s most recent expansion in 1998.
The answer is “no.”
In fact, of the 32 teams to finish last or second-to-last in runs scored in those 16 years (1998-2013), only two managed to even post a winning record. They are the 86-76 2011 Giants, 29th in runs, and the 2003 Dodgers, a club that finished 85-77 despite finishing dead last in MLB in run scoring. Both stayed home in October.
Expanding the aperture to include last and second-to-last place run-scoring teams at any time, one has to go back over 40 years to find a playoff participant.
The 1973 New York Mets came on at the end to win the NL East Division despite an 82-79 record. Yogi Berra’s club scored the second-fewest runs in Major League Baseball that season, ranking 23rd of 24 clubs. Not surprisingly, those Mets were led by strong pitching, including future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and 1972 NL Rookie of the Year Jon Matlack.
Though the 1973 Mets defeated the heavily-favored Big Red Machine of Cincinnati in the NLCS, they fell in Game Seven of the World Series to the Oakland A’s, a club on its way to three consecutive titles.
The 2014 Cardinals could only hope to be so successful in October.