Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Does Cardinals’ slow start portend losing year?

The good news for the Cardinal offense is that they have been consistent. The bad news is that they’ve been consistently bad.

The Cardinals, who have begun the season 2-4, have tallied a total of 15 runs in their first six games and haven’t scored more than three in any single game. And it’s not like they’ve been getting unlucky: They have a similarly feckless total of 17.5 weighted Runs Created.

Longtime friend and reader DaveBug asked last night about the record number of games starting a season of with fewer than four runs a game. We side with Tony La Russa on the issue of whether it’s reasonable to draw many conclusions with a mere six games in the books, but the question is interesting, all the same. Dating back to 1919, the earliest point for which the invaluable Baseball-Reference.com has data, the following teams have begun the season with at least seven games in which they have scored three or fewer runs:

Year Team Games < 4 RS
1988 BAL 12
2004 MON 11
1997 PHI 11
1966 KCA 10
1968 PHI 9
1992 KCR 8
1969 SDP 8
1949 WAS 8
1919 STL 8
2008 COL 7
1973 CLE 7
1969 CLE 7
1963 CHC 7

Starting with those 1988 Baltimore Orioles, it’s a who’s who of pathetic teams. And that got us wondering: Does a lousy start portend a long season? To find out, here are those teams’ records:

Year Team Games < 4 RS W-L Win%
1988 BAL 12 54-107 .335
2004 MON 11 67-95 .414
1997 PHI 11 68-94 .420
1966 KCA 10 74-86 .463
1968 PHI 9 76-86 .469
1992 KCR 8 72-90 .444
1969 SDP 8 52-110 .321
1949 WAS 8 50-104 .325
1919 STL 8 54-83 .394
2008 COL 7 74-88 .457
1973 CLE 7 71-91 .438
1969 CLE 7 62-99 .385
1963 CHC 7 82-80 .506

Wow, that’s a sobering list. Only one of the 13 teams surmounted .500 — the 1963 Cubs — and that was by the thinnest of margins. The average winning percentage of the teams was .413.

Can a team’s first seven games really spell disaster for the season? History isn’t on the Cardinals’ side. However, none of those teams had Albert Pujols (though those Cubs had three future Hall of Famers in Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Lou Brock). As we noted, we’re tempted to say along with TLR that it’s too early to tell. Or is it?

One Response to “Does Cardinals’ slow start portend losing year?”

  1. Weekend Round-Up – 4/10/2011 | Fire Brand of the American League Says:

    [...] at Fungoes wonders if the Cardinals slow start portends a losing season.   No, someone seems to be sticking the voodoo doll into Cardinals players left [...]

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