[Or: Regression, It Has to Happen Some Time, Right?]

The once-vaunted St. Louis offense was anything but last season as the Cardinals managed only 619 runs scored for the year, their lowest such total since the abbreviated seasons in 1994 and 1995 and their lowest in a full 162-game season since their 92-loss campaign in 1990. Now, as we all know, they still managed to finish in first place in 2014, largely on the back of their pitching staff.

But 619 runs scored in a year does not sound like a playoff team’s production, right? Among all of the 2014 postseason participants, the Cardinals had the fewest runs scored by a wide margin (the Royals has the second-fewest at 651 and St. Louis was tied for seventh-worst among all 30 teams, alongside the Phillies) and the slimmest differential between runs scored and surrendered (a mere +16, second again to Kansas City, which had +27 differential). Those of you familiar with Bill James’ Pyhtagorean Expectation for standings will know where I’m going with this. The numbers from last year suggest they should have been a wild card team instead of a division champion, but of course that’s not how it actually happened.

It’s interesting to note how the Cardinals outperformed their Pythag last season. Here’s a month-by-month comparison of expected win-loss totals versus the actual (a gigantic thank you is owed to Wesley Jenkins for compiling this information):


Expected W-L

Actual W-L



















Taking it month-by-month, we see they actually underperformed against expectations to begin and end the year, but managed to never have a month below .500 despite the summer doldrums the Pythagorean equation presumed. Now, if you add up the totals, you’ll see the Pythag adds up to just one less loss than actual results—that’s the compounding of rounding error from month-to-month, the expected record was 83-79, seven less wins than their actual performance.

Does this mean anything, though, with regards to 2015? It could if we see a similar offense from the Cardinals this season. Adding Jason Heyward is a certain upgrade over 2014 Allen Craig, but the rest of the lineup remains the same. Molina, Peralta, and Holliday are on the wrong side of 30 (hard to believe that Matt Holliday is 35 years old) and age-induced regression is going to become a bigger factor each year forward. But on the flip side, Kolten Wong, Matt Adams, and Heyward are under 27 this year (Adams will turn 27 at the end of August) and could improve upon last year’s output. Let’s compare these hunches to the projection systems (again, thanks to Wesley for compiling most of this):






Yadier Molina





Matt Adams





Kolten Wong





Jhonny Peralta





Matt Carpenter





Matt Holliday





Jon Jay





Jason Heyward





The projections systems have mixed feelings about Adams and Peralta, expect Jay to regress substantially in his ability to get on base, and apparently see Holliday, Molina, and Carpenter as regression-proof. It seems to balance out to a fairly similar offensive output to last year, as far as the starters go. The wild card is backup outfielder Randal Grichuk; Steamer and PECOTA have him getting a mild share of playing time but walloping the ball when he’s in the lineup (projected ISO of .166 and .172, respectively) while ZiPS projects a 20-homer season with a slugging percentage of .429 over 593 plate appearances. Let’s also not forget the presence of Mark Reynolds—this era’s Russell Branyan—who will add some more pop at the plate when spelling Adams or Carpenter.

There are a couple of extra plotlines which may alter the Cardinals’ production in a way the projection systems aren’t seeing. Most notably, perhaps, is Yadier Molina coming into camp about 20 pounds lighter, which should help with durability as he approaches 33 years of age but may also sap some of his power and keep his slugging percentage below .400 for another season. Health, of course, will be a factor but outside of Jon Jay’s healing wrist, St. Louis’ roster looks to be fit and ready to go.

Lastly, there’s the question of how the young’uns play. Kolten Wong isn’t being thought of as much more than average by the projections and Cardinals fans are optimistic but somewhat cautious in what they’re hoping for from the starting second baseman. Meanwhile, Tommy Pham and top prospect Stephen Piscotty will be waiting in AAA for their chance to shine, which will largely rely on the aggregate productivity of Jay, Grichuk, and Peter Bourjos.

Suffice it to say, the Cardinals look to have a similar offense to 2014’s in place for this season, with the competing effects of age-based regression and improvement being the most interesting variable. Here’s your glimmer of hope, Reds fans—if wear and tear on the older guys isn’t balanced out by the younger players making a step forward, this could be one of the five worst offenses in baseball. At best, it still won’t be a more potent lineup than the other major contenders in the National League (Washington, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles). That’s going to put more pressure on the pitching staff again and if this year’s rotation isn’t up to the level of last year’s, they’re not going to outperform their expected win total like they did in 2014.