The unstoppable force vs. the immovable object: Which STL team is 2014?

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by Mike Bailey / BaseballStL | @MikeBailey4

KMOV.com

Posted on June 19, 2014 at 3:07 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 19 at 3:07 AM

(BaseballStL) -- This is, quite obviously, a trick question. 

Team A is an offensive juggernaut. The worst hitter in the starting line-up hit .280. Over the course of the season, Team A hit .315 as a team. Yes, incredibly, the team batting average is .315, .324 if you don’t count pitchers.

Team A finished first in the league with 1,783 hits, was second in doubles and third in homers. In fact, seven of their top 10 hitters finished the year with at least a .300 average.

Team A’s stud jacked 40 homers, drove in 170 runs and hit .386. Yes, 170 RBIs. Behind him in the order was a .383 hitter who had 22 homers and 97 RBIs.

Team A scored 944 runs on the season for an average of 6 runs per game.

Team B hits a shade over .250 and is on a pace to score just 612 runs, or fewer than four runs a game. Team B ranks last in homers, next to last in stolen bases, near the bottom in triples, slugging percentage and runs scored.

Team B has just two .300 hitters and nobody currently on pace for even 100 RBIs, much less 170. Its leading home run hitter may hit 20.

But Team B is second in the league in ERA, first in fewest hits allowed, least runs scored and fewest homers allowed. The staff is so good that it has recorded 14 shutouts and leads the majors in complete games.

So effective is that pitching that in more than half of the games, Team B’s pitching has held the opposition to three runs or less. 

OK, so which team would you prefer to be, Team A that has the thumpers who pound out 6 runs a game or Team B that keeps the score close but can’t hit nearly as well?

Well, duh.

Team B, is of course, the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals, winners of eight of the last 10 games and, at 39-33 is putting some distance between themselves and the field.

Team A is the 1930 Philadelphia Phillies who batted .315 as a team and finished (drum roll please) dead last. They scored 944 runs but gave up 1,199 and finished 52-102. With a team ERA of 6.71, their staff was last in every pitching statistic that mattered, including a WHIP of nearly 2, meaning two runners per inning.

The point of this is that offense cannot carry a team all year but pitching can. The Cardinals’ offense has been spotty, with moment of brilliance and stretches where it appears someone spiked the water cooler with Melatonin.

Several truths have emerged. The Cardinals will not have a consistent home run threat nor will they have anyone who drives in more than 110 runs this year. Their rallies will be strung-together hits, not three-run homers. If they fall behind by four runs, they generally will not win. Their magic number is four, meaning they will prevail in nearly every game they score four runs and will struggle when they don’t.

But at six games over break-even nearing the halfway point, the Cardinals could easily win 90 games and figure to be in contention as long as the pitching can keep them there.

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