The Cardinals Have a Chance to Catch the Cubs. Five Weeks Ago, That Was Unthinkable

Can the young and revved up Cardinals catch the Cubs, fend off the Brewers and win the NL Central? No hot takes from me. But considering the Cards are only 2.5 games out of first place on Aug. 22 and have the best record in the National League since July 15, obviously there’s a chance. A good chance.

The Cubs should have a better overall lineup … but that isn’t the case right now.

The Cubs have a more veteran, and expensive, pitching staff … but the younger, cost-efficient STL pitching staff is performing at a higher level.

The Cardinals’ remaining opponents have a .515 winning percentage, and that gives an edge to the Cubs. Chicago has one of the easiest schedules in the majors the rest of the way, facing opponents that have a .496 winning percentage collectively.

The Cardinals are trending in the right direction … that doesn’t mean these trends will continue. But if recent patterns mean anything, then the Cardinals are flying and the Cubs are sort of snoozing. (They’d scored one run, exactly, in each of their last five games through Tuesday)

Let’s take a look at the trends:

Before Mike Shildt became manager: The Cardinals were 47-46, the Cubs were 54-38. The Cubs were comfortably ahead of the Cardinals by a gap of 7.5  games.

After Shildt became manager: The Cardinals are 23-11;  the Cubs are 17-15. The Cards have been 5.0 games better than the Cubs since putting Shildt in charge. In run differential, the Cardinals are a +52 with Shildt as manager (first game July 15) and the Cubs are a minus 23 over that time.

Since the All-Star break:  St. Louis 22-10, and a +53 in run differential; Chicago 16-15 and minus 26 in run differential. The Cardinals have been 5.0 games better than the Cubs in the second half.

Since the Cardinals rebuilt their bullpen before the July 27 series vs. the Cubs:  St. Louis is 19-6, with +50 run differential. The Cubs are 11-11, with a minus 15 run differential. The Cardinals have been 6.5 games better than the Cubs since July 27.

The month of August:  Cardinals are 16-4, with a +48 run differential. The Cubs are 10-8 with a minus 10 run differential.

OK, let’s look at some categories…

What about each team’s offense since the All-Star break?

The Cardinals are averaging 5.18 runs per game — the Cubs 3.64 runs.

The Cards have out-homered the Cubs — 1.40 home runs per game to 0.93.

Batting average: Advantage Cardinals,  .266 to .250.

The Cardinals have a .343 onbase percentage, No. 4 in the majors. The Cubs, .322 OBP, tied for 16th.

Slugging percentage: The Cardinals rank 11th in the majors with a .444 slug. The Cubs are 26th with a .385 slug.

OPS:  Cardinals are 6th in MLB since the All-Star break at .787. The Cubs are tied for 22nd at .707.

wRC+, or park adjusted runs created: The Cardinals are 8th in the majors at 13 percent above league average offensively. The Cubs are tied for 25th at 11 percent  below  league average.

Pitching since the All-Star break

Overall ERA:  At 3.25, the Cardinals rank fourth in MLB and first in the NL. The Cubs, at 4.36, are 18th in the majors and 11th among the 15 NL teams.

Starting pitching ERA:  Cardinals, 3.21. That’s No. 4 in the majors and No. 1 in the NL. The Cubs have a rotation ERA of 4.85; that’s 21st in MLB and 13th in the NL.

Bullpen ERA:  The Cardinals’ 3.31 is tied for fourth-best in the majors since the break. And since the bullpen makeover on July 27, the Cards have the best relief-pitching ERA in the majors at 2.05. The Cubs’ bullpen ERA since the break is 3.61, which ranks 8th overall.

The Cardinals and Cubs teams won’t play each other again until the final three regular-season games … at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are hoping that the LH swing and power of Daniel Murphy will spark their tired offense. He was acquired Tuesday from Washington around the same time that the Cardinals received Matt Adams from the Nationals on a waiver claim.

Thanks for reading …


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