Are the St. Louis Cardinals Late Starters?

Here’s a statement I made in the last No State of the Cubs post a few days ago.

If the current Cardinals were playing up to typical dynasty Cardinals  standards the Cubs and Brewers would both be making vacation plans for the month of October right now.

I happened to be at the local pub talking to a life long Cardinals fan and I thanked him for his team not blowing away the NL Central this year.  He claimed that the Cardinals were late bloomers meaning they finish well making up for bad starts.  That ran counter to my intuition but since I don’t follow the Cardinals I really don’t know off the top of my head.  I do have a massive database at my disposal so we can hunt down all these seasons and have a look see and determine if my Cardinals friend correct.

On  baseball-reference.com you can look up any team’s history here and the St. Louis Cardinals’ data is here.  We’ll confine this study to all years post 2000.  Apparently the Cardinals went to the playoffs 12 of the last 17 years.   Below is a table showing playoff appearance year, around  ASG record and WAA,, and second half record and WAA.  The last column is a note added to specify which half the Cardinals dominated.  If it’s blank then they played around the same both halves.

Year First Half Second Half
W L WAA W L WAA
2000 50 36 14 45 31 14
2001 43 43 0 50 26 24 2nd
2002 47 38 9 50 27 23 2nd
2004 52 32 20 53 25 28 2nd
2005 55 31 24 45 31 14  1st
2006 47 39 8 36 39 -3  1st
2009 46 40 6 45 31 14  2nd
2011 47 43 4 43 29 14  2nd
2012 46 40 6 42 34 8  2nd
2013 53 34 19 44 31 13  1st
2014 49 42 7 41 30 11  2nd
2015 55 30 25 45 32 13  1st

OK, there are a lot of numbers in that table so let’s digest them.  The years in bold blue are when SLN played in a World Series.  They went 4 times and lost 2.  The last column are notes added to delineate the dominant half.  Out of the 12 playoff appearances SLN dominated 1st half 4 times, second half 7 times, and  equal once.

The W-L numbers in tan are the years both MIL and CHN would still have a shot at the division by the end of season.   That’s 7 out of 12 Cardinals playoff appearances.  They had no below average 1st halves and only once in 2001 they were exactly average and ended up going to the playoffs by gaining 24 games above average in the second half.

Also note the 2006 season they bled 3 games in the second half and won the NL Central with only 83 wins.  The Cardinals not only went to the World Series that year they took home  the trophy proving it’s never over until it’s over.

Resolved: Are the Cardinals late starters?  Yes (at least in the 21st century)

Resolved: Are the Cardinals early starters?  Sometimes (but this is a small data sample)

It is possible to run numbers on every team who went to the playoffs but I would expect first half/second half splits  would be more or less equal for playoff teams over a large data set that spanned a century.  Not sure if any of this matters but the Cardinals are right  in the hunt to take the NL Central along with CHN and MIL.  Let’s hope the Cardinals decide not to be late starters.  Maybe the Cubs can be late starters this year.