The St. Louis Cardinals are a real pain in the ass for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As you know, they’ve won the National League Central the last two years, forcing the Pirates to play in one-game Wildcard Series’ both years. The Pirates have been resilient through the tough playoff losses and have set themselves up for another playoff berth in 2015. Most people would agree that this years Pirate team is the most talented squad of the past three years, but one thing remains the same – the Cardinals are still the team they are chasing.
As of June 17th the Pirates and Cardinals have both played 64 games, which is 40% of the season. The Cardinals have won 43 of those games while the Pirates have won 37. Only one other team in the league (Dodgers) have won more than 36 games (37). The Cardinals current pace puts them on track to win 108 games this year. While that’s pretty tough to do for 162 games (especially with all the injuries the Cardinals have experienced), the division is shaping up to be a very tough one to win.
The most frustrating part is how hot the Pirates have been recently and how little they have to show for it. On Friday, May 22nd the Pirates were at 18-22. Since then they’ve gone 19-5, the best mark in baseball. Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison have fully bounced back from bad starts. The starting rotation is filthy. Yet despite that, they’ve gained just 2.5 games in the standings. The Cardinals have gone almost step for step with the Pirates despite having a depleted roster.
The sheer ridiculousness of that is shown in this graph of the Pirate and Cardinals progressive win totals (click to enlarge):
While we haven’t even reached the midway point of the season and the order in the standings aren’t very pressing right now, it has to still frustrate a team to play so well and see so little progress on paper. The Pirates have put up win totals deserving of a division crown the last years and have just one trip to the NLDS to show for it.
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On paper, the Pirates look like a much better Major League team than the St. Louis Cardinals right now. The Cards are without their ace, Adam Wainwright, their all-star left fielder Matt Holliday, amongst other role players such as Matt Adams and Lance Lynn. If the standings reset and all teams went back to 0-0, you’d have to think that the Pirates would be the odds on favorite to win the NL Central, but are those odds high enough to make up for a six game handicap? Only time will tell.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have quite the challenge ahead of them. It’s hard to predict the future, but it’s not hard to say that the St. Louis Cardinals are really annoying.