Does Busch Stadium Give the Cardinals a True Home Field Advantage? No.

After Wednesday’s series finale in Atlanta, the Cardinals are running out of schedule. Trying to secure a playoff spot, their regular season is down to three series and nine games.

Good news: According to the FanGraphs playoff odds, the Cardinals had a 79.3 percent chance to make it to the postseason. Baseball Prospectus gives the Cards a playoff probability of 76.9 percent. After Wednesday’s 7-3 loss to the Braves, those percentages will drop some — but remain strong.

Good news: As play began Wednesday, the Cardinals led the Rockies by 1.5 games for the second National League wild card. And the Cardinals have a chance to catch the Brewers, who hold possession of the No. 1 wild card. Before Wednesday’s first pitch, Milwaukee was two games above St. Louis.

Bad news: Six of the Cardinals’ nine remaining games will be played at Busch Stadium.

Wait … what?

How is that  bad  news?

All teams want the home-field advantage. Every single time.

I know. And playing six of the final nine games at Busch isn’t bad news. Of course it’s preferable to playing six of the last nine on the road. But I was just trying to make a point.

Because this is also true:  The 2018 Cardinals are better on the road than at home.

That isn’t an opinion. It’s a fact. And backed by many statistics.

Let’s have a look.

While denied in their opportunity to pull off a three-game sweep in Atlanta,  the Cardinals still won the series by taking two of three games.

Except for the Cardinals’ updated record and run differential in road games, the following statistics do not include Wednesday’s matinee against the Braves.

CARDINALS  OFFENSE

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Home Record:  40-35 …  a .533 winning percentage.

Road Record:   44-34 …  a .564 winning percentage.

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Cards’ run differential at Busch:  +6

Cards’ run differential on the road:  +71.

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Cards’ runs per game at home:  4.3

Cards’ runs per game on road:  5.1

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Home batting average:  .245,  20th in MLB

Road batting average:   .254,   11th.

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Home onbase percentage:  .314,  21st in MLB

Road onbase percentage:    .327,   7th

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Home slugging percentage:  .381,  tied for 26th

Road slugging percentage:   .441,  4th

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OPS at home:  .695,  24th

OPS on road:   .768,   4th

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Isolated Power, home:  .136,  28th

Isolated Power, road:   .187,  4th

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Park-adjusted runs created, home:  91, nine percent below average, 25th

Park-adjusted runs created, road:   105,  five percent above average,  tied for 4th

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Home runs per game at Busch:  1.02

Home runs per game on road:    1.57

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Home-run ratio at Busch:  Cardinals hit a homer every 33 at-bats

Home-run ratio on road:  Cardinals hit one every 22.2 at-bats.

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CARDINALS  PITCHING 

Runs allowed per game at Busch:  4.22

Runs allowed per game on road:   4.14

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ERA at  home:  3.72,   13th best in MLB

ERA on the road:  3.84,   10th best in MLB

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Starting pitching ERA at home:   3.39,   6th best in  MLB

Starting pitching ERA on road:   3.46,  3rd best in MLB

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Bullpen ERA at home:  4.22,  22nd in MLB

Bullpen ERA on road:  4.46,  19th in MLB

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NOTES 

  • Since Mike Shildt became manager, the Cardinals are 20-12 on the road with a +52 run differential.
  • Including Wednesday’s defeat, the Cardinals are 17-7 in their last 24 road games with a run differential of +49.
  • The Cardinals have have won 7 of 10 road series under Shildt. The Cards lost the their first two series on the road with Shildt — at the Chicago (Cubs) and at Cincinnati immediately after the All-Star break. But after that first road trip, Shildt and the Cardinals have gone 7-1 in their last eight road series.
  • The disparity in the home/road splits on offense are substantial. The Cardinals are on the short list of the most dangerous and powerful offenses in baseball — well, as long as they aren’t playing at home. At home, the offense tends to bog down because the homers aren’t flying. And when the offense is stagnant, Cards’ hitters start to press.
  • That isn’t surprising; Busch Stadium suppresses offense and power and gives the pitchers a slight advantage. And the Cardinals play a bunch of division road games at three hitter-friendly ballparks: Miller Park in Milwaukee; Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati; and Wrigley Field in Chicago. PNC Park in Pittsburgh favors pitchers. And in going 17-7 in their last 24 road games, the Cardinals played at a bunch of hitter-favoring yards: Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Colorado, Washington, Kansas City and Atlanta.
  • That said, the gap is pretty massive. For example: The Cardinals have scored 4 runs or fewer in 36 road games. In the majors only Houston, with 31, has had fewer road games this season of scoring 4 runs or less.  At home, the Cardinals have scored 4 or fewer runs 42 times; only 12 MLB teams have had more low-scoring games in their home stadiums.
  • And this: The Cardinals have scored 6+ runs in road games 32 times; that’s the highest count by an MLB team so far this season. At home, the Cardinals have scored 6+ 18 times; that ranks 24th among the 30 teams.
  • The most surprising thing to me is the performance of the Cardinals’ pitchers on the road. With Busch Stadium playing tough for hitters this season, it’s natural to assume that STL pitchers would have a much lower ERA at home, and an inflated ERA on the road. But it isn’t true. In terms of MLB ranking, the Cardinals’ have been more effective pitching on the road — starters, relievers and overall.

If the Cardinals make the playoffs and have to play a wild card game on the road, no problem. If the advance to the NLDS, and don’t have the home-field advantage, don’t worry. The numbers show that the Cardinals pitch just fine on the road. And offensively the Cardinals are a dramatically different team — more robust, relentless, brash and confident — when hitting on the road.

But to get to the wild card game — or any kind of playoff game — Cardinals’ hitters can’t afford to have another slowdown — or a shutdown — during the final home stand of the season.

Three vs. the Giants.

Three vs. the Brewers.

And for their sake, the Cardinals’ better put up a bunch of runs in the final six regular-season home games. Or the final weekend of the regular season — three games at Wrigley Field — may present desperate, emergency circumstances for the Cardinals.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: In the Final Days Of the Regular Season, Will the Cardinals’ Bullpen Hold or Fold?