Stacking up Cardinals season at midway mark
Five fewer wins than in 2013, but numbers improved on defense, pitching
LOS ANGELES -- Friday's 3-1 win not only improved the Cardinals to 3-2 at the halfway point on this 10-game road trip, but it also brought the club to the midpoint of its season. The club has five fewer wins than it did at this point a year ago and continues to look up at the Brewers, who hold a 5 1/2 game lead.
Here is a closer look at some of the key first-half numbers and how they compare to last season's pennant-winning team:
RISP average: There was bound to be significant regression in this area, as the Cardinals were coming off a 2013 season in which they batted .330 with runners in scoring position. No team in at least 40 years had come close to that mark. The Cardinals have hit .248 in such spots through 81 games; a sharp decrease, yes, but merely one that brings them exactly to the current Major League mean.
Runs scored: The Cardinals led the National League in runs scored last year and had plated 401 by the halfway point. This year, their total is at 306 -- one reason why the team hasn't fully capitalized on its stellar pitching. That averages out to one fewer run per game so far this year.
Defensive runs saved: The organization didn't overhaul last offseason but it did make a pointed effort to improve defensively. Coming off a year in which the Cardinals ranked second-to-last among all NL teams with a negative-39 defensive runs saved, they currently lead the Majors with a plus-54 in that category. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta tops the team with a plus-12.
ERA: The Cardinals' pitching staff finished fifth in the NL last season with a 3.42 ERA, which was just slightly higher than the mark the group held at midseason. This year's pitching staff has been a bit better. The rotation boasts a 3.08 ERA, after posting a 3.18 mark through 81 games in 2013. The current bullpen has a 3.50 mark, also 0.10 points lower than the relievers did a year ago.
Middle-infield production: The Cardinals have done well to increase the production at shortstop this year, a credit to Peralta's contribution. Though Pete Kozma (the team's primary shortstop in 2013) and Peralta both hit the halfway point with a .240 average, the difference has been in the slugging percentage (.309 to .441). Peralta has 33 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs to Kozma's 15 and 27, respectively.
Production from second base, however, has waned substantially with Matt Carpenter's shift in position. Carpenter was hitting .322/.397/.482 with 33 extra-base hits through 81 games in his All-Star season. The second basemen this year (primarily Kolten Wong and Mark Ellis) are batting .206/.277/.267 with 14 extra-base knocks.
Power: With 47 homers this year, the Cardinals have hit 27 fewer homers through 81 games. They are on pace for their lowest home run total since 1992, when they totaled 94. Power, though, has manifested itself in extra-base hits, and the Cardinals have actually had more doubles this season (151) than at the midway point of last (148).
Shutouts: The Cardinals had nine shutouts through 81 games in 2013 and 15 at the same point this season. Their current total leads the Majors, with the Rangers (13) being the second.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.