The 2010 St. Louis Cardinals have relied on home runs and stellar starting pitching to forge a 10-7 record, good enough for first place in the National League Central Division. They have prevailed despite a high level of strikeouts.
Part of that winning formula was followed on Saturday night, as Adam Wainwright held San Francisco hitters off the scoreboard for seven innings but they eventually got to him for two runs in the Giants' 2-0 home win.
On the other half of the ongoing winning formula, the Cardinals offense sputtered again. Not only do they remain stuck on 60.5 percent of their runs scored via home runs (46 of 76 runs), they did not score at all Saturday after plating just one run on Friday. It was their second consecutive defeat at San Francisco and first series loss of the season.
Further, Barry Zito fanned ten batters Saturday night, increasing the Cardinals’ total on the season to 139 strikeouts. Ryan Ludwick leads the team with 16, followed by Colby Rasmus, who took Saturday night off, with 15. Albert Pujols and David Freese have whiffed 14 times each.
Their current rate of striking out at the rate of 8.2 per game is the Cardinals’ worst month since April 2001, according to statistician Tom Orf. That was also new hitting coach Mark McGwire’s final season as an active player. However due to injury, Big Mac appeared in only eight games that month.
With just over ten percent of the 2010 season in the books, 17 games, with 145 to go, it is worth noting that if the Cardinals continue to strike out at that 8.2 per game rate over the remainder of the season, they would finish with 1,325 strikeouts in 162 games.
That total would rank number one in the long and storied history of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise by the considerable margin of 72 strikeouts over the current team record, set in 2000.
McGwire spent less than five seasons as a Cardinals player, having joined the team during the summer of 1997 and retiring after the 2001 campaign. Those five seasons make up five of the top six strikeout seasons ever for St. Louis.
Most strikeouts, St. Louis Cardinals hitters, season, team history
||yes (89 G)
||yes (51 G)
||yes (97 G)
In all fairness, McGwire had just two full healthy seasons in the uniform, but he led the team in whiffs both of those years, 1998 and 1999. While Big Mac was among those who contributed to the record team counts in 2000 and 2001, he could only answer the bell for 89 and 97 games, respectively.
Clearly, there were other players striking out at a high rate during those seasons, as Jim Edmonds led the team twice, while Ron Gant and Ray Lankford paced the club once each.
However, it is worth noting that in all three of McGwire’s partial years with St. Louis, 1997, 2000 and 2001, his strikeout rate per at-bat exceeded that of the team leader in strikeouts over that full season.
Strikeout rate per at-bat, McGwire vs. Cardinals leader in Ks, 1997, 2000, 2001
With all the home runs and now the record strikeout pace, the evidence is mounting that the 2010 Cardinals hitters may be remaking themselves in Big Mac’s image.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Brian pens a column each Wednesday at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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