The 2017 Cardinals Vs the League Averages: Or More Proof the Balls are Juiced

Each year I compare the Cardinals offense to that of the NL and MLB as a whole.  This year, per a request, I have expanded it to compare 20 years of data between the team and the league.  This will give a general idea of if the Cardinals offense has been shifting with league-wide trends, or if there are outliers.

One thing I identified in this study was 2014 was an overall down year for offense.  It might explain why the ball was identified as juiced this year; the offense gradually increased each year overall until this year, where people noticed the difference in power numbers this past season.  The lone offensive exception was hits, which regressed; runs, RBIs, homers, average, OBP, Slugging, and OBP all saw a year over year increase.

The Cardinals didn’t match the trends of MLB and the NL; they regressed in several areas.  It proves that the Cardinals had a subpar offense, even if the league was helping them hit better.

Counting Stats

As we saw with the Cardinals, there has been a general decline in runs until 2015 when they started heading back up.  The Cardinals were above the curve in 2016, but regressed to the mean in 2017.  If they don’t add a slugger this off-season, I would expect them to dip down below the league averages.


Hits were the outlier here; they dipped in 2017 across the board.  The difference was the stark drop in hits after the 2013 season for the Cardinals; that just happens to coincide with Carlos Beltran leaving the team.  The drop for the Cardinals was more noticeable than that of the leagues.


After hitting a lot of homers in 2016, the Cardinals matched the NL and were below the league in general.  The Cardinals went against the trends here, as there was so much press about the balls being juiced this year.  It’s amazing considering there were 5 players with 20 or more homers (Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Jedd Gyorko, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk) and 8 players with double digit long balls (Yadier Molina, Dexter Fowler, Jose Martinez).  Like everyone has been saying for the last year, the team needs a slugger and that might get them to an above average power team.


While the Cardinals regressed to the mean in 2017 on runs, they stayed above average for RBIs in 2017 compared to the leagues even with regressing.  There’s not much else to say at this point about the declining offense.

Slash Stats

The Cardinals were a slightly above average hitting team in 2017, which puts them slightly above where they were in 2016.  It’s great that they have improved each of the last 4 seasons, but they are still way below the teams from 10+ years ago.  Even the 1998 team, who finished with the same record as the 2017 team, and below sub-.500 teams in 1999 and 2007, had a better batting average than the 2017 team.


The bright side of the Cardinals offense is that they have been above the averages since the 2009 season.  Their on base has consistently risen since 2014, at a higher rate than the averages over the last season.  It’s might be the lone bright spot.


While OBP might be the bright spot, 2017 slugging is the opposite.  They dropped .016 points from 2016 to 2017; this dropped them to right at the MLB level and slightly above the NL average.


So, with the increase in OBP and drop in slugging, how did the OPS do?  It dropped; again, against what they leagues did for 2017.

Other Stats

It’s a little disturbing to see the NL and MLB averages increase steadily since 2005.  The Cardinals went against that steady trend to a degree, but they were right there with the league averages in 2017.  The team needs to find a way to cut back from strikeouts; really, the whole league needs to.  While most would argue an out is an out, strikeouts prevent stress on the defense and stop players from reaching base on errors.  That might not impact their stats, it definitely helps their teams win.


I was expecting to see walks increase with strikeouts and the offense; instead it’s below sub-2000 levels.  Like the rest of the MLB offense, it’s increased since 2014; I don’t think this can be attributed to the juiced baseballs.


Finally, a stat that doesn’t really have to do with juiced balls (more so than walks).  Stolen bases have been pretty consistent for the last 15 years, except if you are the Cardinals.  While the team moved back to league average in 2017, they have been all over the board for the last 10 years.


Caught stealing has been a little more erratic than stolen bases, but I don’t know if there is much to read into the stat.  For the Cardinals, they were league average again; that would make sense with their stolen bases being league average.  My personal theory is the focus on pitch framing is causing a decline in throwing out runners; it’s something I want to look into in the future.


I think everything we’ve learned can come from the last 2 graphs; this just reinforced it all.

Conclusion
The increase in offense in the last 3 seasons could be more proof that the ball is juiced; it also shows that the Cardinals offense is an issue.  If the league can increase consistently, but the Cardinals can’t, there is something wrong with the team.

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