The St. Louis Cardinals, at 76-42, are the best team in baseball. They have the best record in baseball, and they have the second-best run differential in the National League – by a landslide.
The Cardinals are sitting pretty at plus-124. Next in line? That would be the Pirates and Giants, who are tied for a second with a plus-67.
But here’s something you might not know about the Cardinals: They are 44-37 (.543) in games in which they score four runs or fewer. If that number holds, it will be the best single-season winning percentage of the expansion era in games in which teams score four runs or fewer.
How are the Cardinals doing it?
“Up the middle,” MLB Network analyst Ryan Dempster said simply on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They are so solid up the middle. When you got Yadier Molina, it’s like practically having another manager on the team – the way he can control a game, slow a pitcher down. I don’t know the number, but I’d be interested to see the number of pitching-coach visits to the mound league-wide and the amount that the Cardinals have. I have a feeling that it’s extremely low. He does an incredible job there. Jhonny Peralta, solid up the middle. Kolten Wong, solid at second base. And (Randal) Grichuk or Jon Jay or whoever’s playing centerfield is solid.
“When you’re solid at these four positions, it just takes care of everything else,” Dempster continued. “It makes your other positions better. Your left-fielder and your right-fielder don’t have to go as far. Your third baseman can stay where he needs to be. They play such solid fundamental baseball (that) it’s almost boring to watch because they’re so routine about it. When there’s a runner on second base, they get guys over. When there’s a runner on third with the infield back, there’s not a guy on the team that thinks, ‘I need a base hit right here.’ If he sees the shortstop back, all he’s thinking is, ‘I need a ground out because that run is going to help us.’ They play probably the best brand of fundamental baseball there is. That’s why year in year out they just win.”
Amazingly, the Cardinals are in first place without Adam Wainwright (Achilles) and Matt Holliday (quad). St. Louis has the best home record in baseball at 45-18 (.714) and has won nine of its last 12 games overall.
“A guy does down, they plug somebody else in,” Dempster said. “Another guy goes down, they plug somebody else in. Adam Wainwright goes down, Michael Wacha says, ‘You know what? I’m going to go out and try to be the ace of this staff.’ And he’s done it. They just are a fun team. If you’re another team trying to build an organization of how you want to model things, I would think that’s pretty much kind of the model. I think a lot of presidents and general managers and baseball people out there would kind of say the same thing.”