The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals were known for being opportunistic. They obliterated the prior MLB record for batting average with runners in scoring position, which was .311. The 2013 Cards batted .330 in that situation and improved to .370 and four grand slams with the bases loaded.
That translated into 783 runs scored, the most in the league by a 10 percent margin.
Regular season summary
Finishing on a six-game winning streak, the 2013 Cardinals completed the regular season with a 97-65 mark, a nine-game improvement over 2012. St. Louis took the National League Central Division crown, their first since 2009 after three straight second-place finishes.
The Cards ended up three games ahead of Pittsburgh and seven ahead of Cincinnati, both of which won the Wild Cards. The Cardinals compiled the best record in the league and tied Boston for the top regular season mark in MLB. The victory total was highest by a Cardinals team since the 100-win club of 2005.
Mike Matheny again guided the Redbirds to the post-season in his second year at the helm. He is the only manager in team history to pilot the club into the post-season in his first two seasons.
The Cardinals followed a traditional success formula by winning two-thirds of their home games while winning (just over) half their road contests. They logged a very solid 54-27 record at Busch Stadium, second only to Atlanta in MLB. On the road, the Cards were a respectable five games over .500 at 43-38.
The offense was prolific – first in the league in runs scored by a considerable amount – 783 to second-place Colorado at 706. While averaging 4.8 runs per game, they often had trouble finding key runs in close contests for the second consecutive year. One indication is their very average 20-16 record in one-run games. Further, the Cards were just 6-6 in extra inning contests.
Opposing left-handed pitching was the Cardinals’ weakest area of performance as the club went just 19-23 in games in which they faced a lefty starter.
Like their 2012 predecessor, the 2013 Cardinals did not seem to get too high or too low. The club rarely had long consecutive game-winning streaks, but also avoided long losing streaks. In fact, the Cards had just one losing skid of more than four games – a seven-game stretch of defeats in Atlanta and Pittsburgh to close out July.
An inability to crack off long stretches of winning baseball slowed their divisional title aspirations. Before taking the division lead for the last time on September 6, their longest winning streaks of the season were six games in late April and early May and five consecutive wins against woeful Miami and Houston in early July.
As the September schedule eased, the club had only one winning opponent in the final six series. That helped enable the Cards to crank out five- and six-game winning streaks and enter the post-season with momentum.
|Molina led the Cards in batting for 3rd straight year|
Comparing the Cards to the NL
In the regular season, the Cardinals were second in the NL in hitting (.269) for the second consecutive season, just one point from the top. They led the league in on-base percentage (.332) for the third consecutive year. They paced the circuit in doubles and were third in slugging (.401). The Cardinals had a whopping +187 run-scored differential (783-596), which led the NL and was +70 over the high-scoring 2012 Cards.
Though there were few offensive negatives, the Cardinals showed their lack of team speed by finishing last in the league in stolen bases with 45. The next-worst team had 63. The Cards grounded into more double plays, 154, than every NL squad except one.
On the pitching side, despite (or should I say, because of) the infusion of rookies, the Cards finished fifth in the 16-team league in ERA at 3.42. That was almost a third of a run per game improvement from their 3.71 mark (sixth) the year before.
The starters were second in the NL in ERA at 3.42 while the relievers were exactly in the middle of the pack, eighth at 3.45. (That was almost half a run better than the 2012 pen, which logged a 3.90 ERA). The staff finished fifth in strikeouts and only three NL teams issued fewer walks.
Year-to-year, the bullpenners dropped the number of blown saves slightly, from 22 in 2012 to 20 in 2013. Their 69 percent conversion rate – 44 saves in 64 opportunities - placed them exactly in the middle of the NL pack.
The Cardinals staff led the NL in complete games with seven. They allowed the second-fewest home runs at 112 and threw the fewest wild pitches (44). Amazingly, they committed just one balk all season long.
Thanks in large part to the presence of Yadier Molina behind the plate, the Cards allowed just 39 stolen bases in 2013. That compares to the league average of 85!
In fielding percentage, based on errors and chances, the Cardinals tied for first in the league at .988. In terms of raw errors, the Cards committed 75, tied for fewest in the league, and down dramatically from the 107 miscues the year prior. In fact, both the error count (low) and fielding percentage (high) set new team records.
Yet, newer measurements put the Cards defense into question. The club was just 23rd in the majors with -39 defensive runs saved, according to Baseball Info Solutions data.
All this was accomplished while breaking in 20 rookies – the most since the 1971 Cardinals had 21 first-year players.
Individual highlights – position players
|Carpenter was most improved Cardinal|
Matt Carpenter’s emergence as leadoff hitter and regular second baseman had to be the most pleasant surprise of 2013. The 27-year-old set the Cardinals single-season doubles record for a left-handed batter with 54, breaking Stan Musial’s mark of 53 in 1953.
Carpenter finished the season with an NL-best total of 199 hits, the most by a Cardinal since Albert Pujols led the league with 212 in 2003. He also topped the league with 126 runs. Carpenter’s 18-game hitting streak was the team’s longest and he paced the team with 157 games played.
Matt Holliday batted .300 or more for the seventh time in his 10-year MLB career. A consistent offensive force, the right-handed hitter became the only MLB player to have 20 home runs, 30 doubles and 75 RBI in each of the last nine seasons. Holliday ranked in the top 10 in the NL in runs (103, third), RBI (94, ninth), on-base percentage (.389, 10th) and average with runners in scoring position (.390, third).
Despite missing the final 22 games of the season due to injury, Allen Craig ranked in the top 10 in the NL in RBI (97, eighth) and batting average (.315, eighth). His prowess with runners in scoring position was best in MLB in terms of average (.454) and third in RBI with 83.
Carlos Beltran led the Cardinals in home runs for the second consecutive year with 24 in 2013. The right-fielder placed in the NL top 10 in multi-hit games (50, tied for seventh), total bases (272, tied for ninth), slugging (.491, 10th) and average with runners in scoring position (.374, fifth).
Molina set a new franchise single-season record for a catcher with his 44 doubles and led the club for the third consecutive season in batting average at .319, fourth-best in the league. His other NL top ten offensive placements include average with RISP (.373, sixth), multi-hit games (50, tied for seventh), three-hit games (14, tied for fifth), four-hit games, (4, tied for third) and toughest to strike out (one per 9.84 plate appearances, fifth).
Defensively, Molina remained the best in the game. He led MLB with a 42.2 percent caught stealing percentage, throwing out 19 of 45 attempted base stealers. Despite missing 14 games with a knee injury, Molina led all NL catchers in games (131), innings caught (1115 1/3), total chances (1043) and putouts (976). Following the season, the 31-yare picked up his sixth Gold Glove Award in the last six years.
Jon Jay led the station-to-station offense with just 10 stolen bases.
Carpenter paced the team with 7.0 WAR. Next were Molina and Holliday at 5.6 and 4.5, respectively. Craig and Beltran were next at 2.6 and 2.0.
Molina, Beltran, Carpenter, Craig and Wainwright represented the Cardinals in the All-Star Game.
David Freese remained healthy, but on the disappointment side, the third baseman hit just nine home runs and drove in 53. Pete Kozma batted just .217.
Individual highlights – pitchers
|Wainwright won 19 games|
19-game winner Adam Wainwright tied for the NL lead in wins and became the third pitcher in franchise history to twice top the league in victories, joining Dizzy Dean and Mort Cooper. The ace also paced the NL in innings pitched with 241 2/3, was first in MLB with five complete games and was third in the NL with 219 strikeouts. Wainwright also was named the 2013 National League Gold Award winner, his second such recognition.
Yet youth was the name of the game for the Cardinals staff. The Cardinals received a Major League-leading 36 wins from rookie pitchers, most since 1941 when the franchise record of 42 was set. Shelby Miller led the way with 15 victories.
67 of the Cardinals 162 games were started by pitchers age 25 or younger. The club went 45-27 (.625) with a 3.10 ERA in those contests. The team’s winning percentage in its other games was .578.
Four pitchers on the Cardinals' staff recorded more than 10 wins. In addition to Wainwright and Miller, Lance Lynn contributed 15 to go with 19 quality starts and 201 2/3 innings. The right-hander tied Miller at the top of the rotation with 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Though Joe Kelly made just 15 starts, he delivered nine victories plus one in relief.
Kelly also logged the lowest ERA among the starters at 2.28. Wainwright and Miller were among the NL’s best at 2.94 (seventh) and 3.06 (10th), respectively.
At opposite ends of the season, Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha made nine starts each. Garcia posted a 3.58 ERA before his shoulder gave out. Wacha’s ERA of 2.78 also included six relief outings.
Before running out of gas late in the season, Edward Mujica was a very valuable reliever. He contributed 37 saves in the absence of injured Jason Motte, including his first 21 in a row. Mujica blew four saves.
Among the impressive rookies was Trevor Rosenthal, whose 74 appearances led the staff. His 108 strikeouts were the most by a Cardinals reliever since 1978 and ranked third among all NL relievers. His 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings led the club and 29 holds were second in the league.
Kevin Siegrist did not join the major league club until June 6, but made an immediate impact. The left-hander posted a team record 12 scoreless appearances to open a career and had 43 in 45 outings overall. Siegrist’s strikeout rate of 11.34 per nine innings was second to Rosenthal among Cardinals.
Seth Maness arrived from Memphis in late April and ended up second on the team with 66 appearances. Often called upon in tough spots, Maness delivered. The right-hander induced 16 double plays, first among National League relievers. He ranked third in the NL with 58 inherited runners and second with a 12.1 percent inherited runners scored mark.
Pitching disappointments included left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski, traded to Cleveland after being banished to Memphis and right-hander Mitchell Boggs who followed a similar route to Colorado. Fernando Salas did not approach his 2011 success for the second consecutive year and was used in low leverage situations when not in Memphis.
Jake Westbrook had a tremendous beginning, logging a 2.88 ERA in his 12 first-half starts. The veteran faded badly after the break, however. His second half ERA was 7.78, leading to him being kept off the post-season roster and cut loose after the season.
Lineups and batting orders
The most common regular-season lineups and batting orders used by Matheny during the 2013 campaign follow. He established a more set lineup pattern than during his rookie season. After utilizing 124 different lineups in 162 games last year, he used just 93 this time. Compare that to the 134 penned by Tony La Russa in his final season of 2011.
Not only did Matt Carpenter stabilize the leadoff position in the batting order, his 136 starts at number one were the most by any Cardinal at any spot in the lineup. Others appearing 100 or more times in the same spot were Matt Holliday (121 games batting third), Allen Craig (110 starts at cleanup), Yadier Molina (111 games batting fifth) and Pete Kozma (100 starts at number eight).
In an indication of the lineup fluidity at the number six and seven spots, no player started 70 games at either. Not counting the pitchers’ spot, the most different names – 11 and 12, respectively - appeared next to “6” and “7” on Matheny’s lineup card at least once in 2013.
The Cardinals drew a total of 3,369,769 at Busch Stadium during the regular season, or an average of 41,602 at 94.6 percent capacity. That total ranked St. Louis second-best in the NL to the Dodgers. That is up from 3,262,109, 40,273, 91.6 percent and fourth-place, respectively, in 2012.
St. Louis’ per-game increase of 3.3 percent from 2012 was the team’s second-consecutive year-to-year growth after four consecutive seasons of declining attendance since the opening of the new Busch Stadium.
It was the 17th time in franchise history the Cardinals eclipsed three million fans and the 10th straight season it was accomplished.
This was done against a backdrop of overall MLB attendance being down 1.1 percent compared to 2012.
Click here for Part 1 of this article, which recaps the 2013 Cardinals results from spring training through the regular season finale.
Part 3 will break down the Cardinals post-season, along with a 2014 outlook.
Previous articles in this series
Link to master article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club as well as 2013 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers.
Not yet a subscriber? Join now!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
© 2013 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.