Perusing the usual election sites as we near the second week in November (and the end of irritating attack ads and social media battles) I came upon a welcome distraction this morning.
The site fivethirtyeight.com, which is chock full of every election statistic that can be dreamed up, has an interesting page that statistically power ranks Major League Baseball teams throughout their history. A much more pleasant read than the alternative.
It was interesting to see the Cardinals history broken down into power ratings in the form of a graph that spanned the entire history of the organization. You can tell, to a specific day time, how the Birds were doing. It’s the heartbeat of the franchise and of baseball as a whole.
According to the site, the greatest the St. Louis Cardinals have ever been was Aug. 25, 1944 when the Redbirds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates to improve to 89-29 on a season that would end with their World Series victory over the team with which they shared a stadium, the St. Louis Browns.
On that date, the Cardinals achieved a power ranking of 1,627. The average MLB team scores 1,500. For the sake of comparison, the 2016 Cardinals finished their season at a high water mark of 10 games over .500 which was good for a score of 1,522. It basically confirms what we saw: The Birds were basically a hair over average team in their most-recent campaign.
The Birds posted a 105-49 record that season and featured Hall of Famer Stan Musial (.347/12/94) and a supporting cast of Marty Marion, Walker Cooper and pitchers Mort Cooper, Max Lanier, Ted Wilks and Harry Brecheen.
Skeptics may say that that was a season depleted by World War II. But the Cardinals roster proved to be sound before the bulk of MLB players left for the war, winning the World Series in 1942, and held up after it was over, winning again in 1946 when the stars were back in baseball uniforms as opposed to military ones.
In deed, the Cardinals lost their share of superior players to the war effort in 1944 with future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter and team captain Terry Moore missing from the roster in 1944.
The power ratings prove not only that current format of baseball often ends up with the best team not taking home the big prize, but also that Redbirds have enjoyed arguably the greatest prolonged stretch in franchise history over the past 12 years or so.
The 2004 Cardinals were the second-strongest team in franchise history. On Sep. 5 of that year, they reached a 1,595 rating with a 7-3 win over the San Diego Padres that propelled them to a 91-44 record. Of course, that club would go on to lose the Fall Classic to the Boston Red Sox while it’s twin, the 2005 edition of the club, lost in the National League Championship Series. The 2006 Cardinals finished the regular season at a barely above average 1,505 rating… But got hot at the right time and went on to win the World Series over the heavily-favored Detroit Tigers. The World Series winning 2011 Redbirds finished their season at 1,529.
The 1934 Cardinals, who also beat the Tigers to win the World Series, finished their season at a 1,562 rating. The 1926 Birds, who won the franchise’s first title, weighed in at 1,558 after defeating Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees to end their season.
You can click here to play around with the numbers: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/complete-history-of-mlb/