The St. Louis Cardinals ended their regular season over the weekend with a three-game sweep of the rival Cubs. The Redbirds will be off until Thursday when they host the winner of today’s Reds/Pirates game in the National League Division Series.
The Cardinals won their eighth NL Central Division title since 2000 and ninth since MLB switched to a three division format. The playoff berth is the 10th this century.
Twenty-five times the Cardinals experienced a sellout this season. With that, the Cardinals drew in over three million fans for the 10th straight year and the 17th season overall. The season attendance total of 3,369,769 was the fifth highest mark in franchise history and the most since 2008 (3,432,917).
Before the playoffs begin though, let’s take a look back over the course of the 162 game season and what the Cardinals accomplished this year.
First and foremost, the Cardinals are the National League’s best team. There were times when things didn’t bounce the Cardinals way, but over the long haul, no NL team had a better season, win/loss wise than St. Louis. Because of that, the Cardinals will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Is there a better success story in all of baseball than Matt Carpenter?
Traditionally a third baseman, the Cardinals asked Carpenter to learn second base in spring training. Not only did Carpenter learn the position, but he excelled there. Carpenter committed just nine errors at second in 370 chances and he earned a spot on the All Star team. But that doesn’t take into account his offense.
Carpenter became the first Cardinal second baseman to score 100 runs in 66 years! The last time a Cardinals second sacker scored 100 runs was Don Blasingame in 1957. Not only that, Carpenter also led the National League in hits with 199. He set a new franchise record for most doubles in a season, breaking the record previously held by Stan Musial (53). Carpenter finished the season with 55 doubles, setting a record for not only left-handed batters, but also for the most by a Cardinal second baseman. Carpenter trails only Joe Medwick (64 in 1936 and 56 in 1937) for most doubles in a season for the Redbirds.
While the Cardinals did not match last season’s feat of five players having 20-plus home runs, they did accomplish another rarity. The Cardinals had seven players finish the season with 60-plus runs batted in. Allen Craig led the Redbirds with 97 while Matt Holliday had 94. Carlos Beltran turned in 84 RBIS while Yadier Molina finished with 80. Carpenter collected 78 and Jon Jay had 67. Rounding out the seven was David Freese with exactly 60 RBIs.
The last time the Cardinals had six players collect 60 or more RBIs in the same season was 1979.
In addition, Carpenter, Molina, Craig and Holliday all batted .300 or better for the season, a feat not reached since 2008.
The offense wasn’t the only thing leading the Cardinals to success, the pitching was there this season too.
Adam Wainwright finished the season with a league leading in both complete games (5) and innings pitched (241.2). He tied for the NL lead with 19 wins. In addition, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller both had 15 wins. The last time the Cardinals had three starting pitchers with 15 or more each was the 2009 season.
Wainwright (219), Lynn (198), and Kelly (79) all set career highs in strikeouts while Wainwright and Lynn both went over the 200 inning pitched mark. Trevor Rosenthal finished the year as the Cardinals’ closer and had three saves and 108 strikeouts in 75 innings.
The postseason is going to be an exciting time, but everything starts over. To collect their 12th World Series championship, the Cardinals will need to win 11 games. With a 54-27 record at Busch Stadium this year and home field throughout their stay in the playoffs, this team can pull it off.