The weird 2006 Cardinals campaign continues, personified by starting pitcher Jason Marquis, who on one hand, leads the National League in victories with 12, yet also leads the circuit in home runs allowed and lugs an 5.67 ERA right up there with the worst around.
In fact, Marquis has 50% more wins than any other pitcher with as high of an ERA – Washington's Livan Hernandez, who has eight wins and a 5.70 ERA. At least Livan has a bad knee to help explain his strange results.
To the casual observer, the Cardinals' 58-46 season to-date looks just fine. In fact, it still remains the second-best record in the NL. Yet, like Marquis' year, be careful not to scratch the surface as you may not like what you uncover.
Put the Cardinals in the American League East or Central, and even allowing them to keep their current record, which was fattened up on the NL East and West, and they would be three games behind in the AL Wild Card race.
Anyway, stepping back closer to reality lately hasn't been all that great, either. As Cardinals fans everywhere have been doing all weekend, I have been dodging the not too well-disguised jabs being placed by our Cubs' Scout.com publisher. But, actually something good did come out of our conversations – the idea for this story.
I decided to sit down and take a look at the quantity of series sweeps the Cardinals have been involved in this year, both won and lost, and run a comparison against other years with the goal of proving or disproving my hypothesis that this 2006 team is the most bi-polar in recent memory.
For those who can't wait to get to the bottom line, the answer is "Yes, they are!"
Now, here are a few assumptions. I looked at all series the same, whether two, three or four games. Any isolated single make-up games were disregarded.
While the number of series played each season is a constant 52, the distribution of those 52 among National League Central opponents, NL East and West (grouped together for this analysis) and American League (interleague play) does shift a bit each season.
The first table is the combined total, while the following three are the subsets noted above, which when summed together make up the combined total.
Here in 2006, only 33 of the 52 series are complete as of this writing. Therefore, for full-season comparison purposes, I created a new row called "2006 Proj", or 2006 Projected. That was calculated by continuing the current pace of series sweeps for the remainder of the regular season.
1) The 2006 Cardinals' pace toward 22 total series sweeps (both won and lost) are the most since at least 2000.
2) Their 13 projected sweeps are their second most in this period, with the 2004 World Series team the only one with more (17).
3) However, their nine series during which they are projected to be swept by their opponent would be their worst showing since at least 2000. Hence the schizo conclusion.
4) With 13 projected sweeps and nine projected "swept bys", the 2006 Cardinals net difference of four series is their second lowest since 2000, eclipsed only by the 2003 team, which missed the playoffs.
5) That 2006 projected difference of only four series is ten less than the net 14 series wins posted by the 2004 National League champion squad and is five less than the 2005 NLCS loser.
6) The key difference between 2005 and 2006 is in the NL Central, where last year's team had a net difference of eight series wins, while the 2006 team is projected to end up a startling 11 series worse, with a year-end projection of a net three series "swept bys".
You can draw your own conclusions from this, but to me, it supports with data what many suspect. Series sweep results suggest that the 2006 Cardinals are more inconsistent then any of their playoff teams in recent years.
After looking at this data, it is more difficult for me to be optimistic about the Cardinals' chances in the 2006 postseason. On the other hand, including Sunday's Cubs game, 19 series remain in the 2006 regular season. That could provide ample time for the Cardinals to change their trajectory and sweep their way into postseason success – or be swept away.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2006 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.
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