ST. LOUIS — To finish tied for the best record in the majors, as the Cardinals did, requires many impressive numbers to be put up along the way. Here are the Cardinals’ 10 most impressive:
.330: Team’s batting average with runners in scoring position
To get a sense of how historic was the Cardinals’ clutch hitting, consider this: In the 40 seasons that the RISP split is available on STATSPASS, 1,108 teams have gone through a season, and none of them hit better with RISP than .311 (2007 Tigers and 1996 Rockies). Until the 2013 Cardinals.
For the Cardinals to better the previous best by 19 points is like blowing out every one of those other 1,107 teams by three touchdowns. This was an aberration that comes along once every 40 years, at most. It also was why the Cardinals led the NL in runs scored.
Five of the majors’ top nine hitters with RISP were Cardinals, with Allen Craig leading the way at .454. His success wasn’t so unusual, either. Craig led the majors last year, too, with a .400 average.
Matt Holliday finished fourth this year at .390, Matt Carpenter was fifth at .388, Carlos Beltran eighth at .374 and Yadier Molina ninth at .373.
“That’s been our trademark all season,” Carpenter said Sunday. “Top to bottom, all of our lineup has done really well. Hopefully, we’ll keep that going this postseason.”
20: Number of rookies used
The Cardinals had not played so many rookies in a season since 1970, but this wasn’t about quantity. The quality of their performances was what wowed.
Shelby Miller won 15 games with a 3.06 ERA. Trevor Rosenthal made 74 appearances, struck out 104 and enters the postseason as the closer. Matt Adams hit 17 homers and came up so big in September that the offense hardly missed Craig.
Kevin Siegrist, a year out of Class A, posted a 0.45 ERA. Seth Maness had a 2.32 ERA and led NL relievers in inducing ground-ball double plays. Michael Wacha went 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA and almost pitched a no-hitter. Carlos Martinez was the only pitcher on the staff besides Rosenthal to throw 100 mph. And while Pete Kozma’s bat disappeared for much of the second half, he played above-average defense and finished second in games played by a rookie.
Think about this: The four most important members of the postseason bullpen are rookies. That could be five, depending on how they handle Wacha.
126: Runs scored by Carpenter
In a season during which he went from a question mark to MVP candidate, Carpenter amassed many memorable numbers. Scoring 17 more runs than any other player in the majors has to rank at the top. That’s saying something, too, since he also led the majors in hits (199), doubles (55) and multi-hit games (63).
2 for 2: Years managing and trips to the playoffs for Mike Matheny
The man who never had managed now has reached the postseason in his first two seasons managing the Cardinals, the first manager to accomplish that since 1931. Just because he makes the job look easy doesn’t mean it is. Matheny had to overcome the loss of Chris Carpenter early and Craig late, change closers three times and deal with a roster stocked with inexperience.
10: Consecutive seasons of topping 3 million in attendance
No matter what happens in the postseason, this season already will qualify as a huge success. Attendance was fifth-best in franchise history and the Cardinals continued their streak of never drawing fewer than 30,000 for a game at newest Busch Stadium. When you draw fans like that and finish with the best record in the league with all those rookies helping to keep costs down, you’re going to feel good all winter. The postseason will determine just how good.
1,115 1/3: Innings caught by Molina
Despite two weeks on the disabled list because of a sprained right knee, Molina still led NL catchers in innings spent behind the plate — by more than four games worth of innings (41 1/3). After returning from the DL Aug. 15, Molina caught more innings than every NL catcher except Wilson Ramos.
Such durability makes Molina’s career bests in average (.319), RBIs (80) and doubles (44) look even more worthy of the NL MVP.
241 2/3: Innings pitched by Adam Wainwright
With 35 walks in 34 starts, Wainwright fell just short of his goal to finish with more starts than walks. (Sort of. In my book, the postseason will count, too.)
Whatever, the 6-7 right-hander still proved beyond any doubt that he is all the way back from Tommy John surgery. This season in many ways was even better than 2010, when he finished second in Cy Young voting. His 2.94 ERA ranked seventh in the NL, his 19 wins tied for the lead and his 6.26 K/BB ratio was second best.
Still, his durability was most impressive. In his second year following Tommy John surgery, Wainwright led the majors in innings pitched. His five complete games also were the most in either league. Take away a few lousy first innings and he would have challenged Clayton Kershaw in Cy Young voting.
.300: Holliday’s batting average
What makes this so remarkable is how Holliday arrived at .300. He was hitting .268 at the All-Star break and was at .285 on Sept. 16. But a 16-for-28 finish in his final eight games lifted Holliday to his seventh .300 season. His .348 average after the break was second in the NL.
12: Wins in their last 16 games
The Cardinals were consistent enough to avoid a single losing month but still, the way they stormed to the finish was most notable. With the division and home-field advantage up for grabs, the Cardinals played as well as they had all season throughout a 19-8 September. Strong finishes are looking like a trait of Matheny-managed teams. The Cardinals also closed out the 2012 regular season going 12-4.
75: Errors committed
This was the fewest in franchise history, and the Cardinals’ .988 fielding percentage was their best all-time. As a result, the Cardinals allowed only 41 unearned runs, tied for seventh fewest in the majors.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.