The close race in the NL Central this year is shaping up to be the race for 2nd place. The Houston Astros have been as hot the past two months as they were cold during the first two months of 2010. The St. Louis Cardinals now find themselves heading in a completely opposite direction.

At the end of May,
–the Astros were 17-34 (.333) in 6th place and 12.5 games out
–the Cardinals were 30-22 (.577) and tied for 1st place

Both teams played at a .500 clip in the month of June, and each team was just a few games over .500 in the month of July. After the trading deadline saw Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman leave Houston, the Astros have gone on to win 62.1% of their games (29-19). Meanwhile the Cardinals, after jettisoning Ryan Ludwick for Jake Westbrook, have lost 58.7% of their games (19-27).

The Cardinals “magic number” to finish second place in the NL Central is at 8 games with 12 to play. The 3rd place Astros have 11 games remaining on the schedule.

The Astros
–record is at 73-78 just 4.5 games behind St Louis
–have 2 games remaining against Washington, and 3 games against each of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Chicago.
–have a .652 Wpct against their remaining opponents.
–will finish with a winning record against every NL Central opponent except Cincinnati

The Cardinals
–are 77-73
–have 5 remaining against Pittsburgh, 3 against the Cubs, and the final 4 of the season against Colorado.
–have a .333 Wpct against their remaining opponents.

If those percentages held true over the final stretch of the season, the Cardinals would finish with 81 wins (4-8) and the Astros with 80 wins (7-4).

(Editor’s note: I began writing this last night before the Astros gave away 7 runs in the bottom of the 8th to the Washington Nationals. Prior to that loss, both teams projected to finish with 81 wins.)

10 Responses

  1. RiverCity Redleg

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen. As interesting as it is, as long as the Reds are in 1st, I honestly have a hard time caring who finishes 2-6 in the division.

    • renbutler

      As interesting as it is, as long as the Reds are in 1st, I honestly have a hard time caring who finishes 2-6 in the division.

      I was asking the same thing: “Why does this matter?”

      The answer I came up with: “Because it would be humiliating to the WLBs.”


  2. Chris Garber

    The Astros actually still stink. Their Pythagorean W-L is only 65-86 – they’ve been outscored by nearly 100 runs. They have gotten better pitching in the 2nd half (mostly from Wandy Rodriguez – 1.99 ERA in the 2nd half), and the offense improved slightly. But they’re still far from a good team.

  3. pinson343

    The ‘Stros are still weak, just look at their lineup. But they’ve played hard and much better than the Cards in the 2nd half. I’d like to see them overtake the WLBs, rub salt in their wounds.

    Happ and Myers have also pitched well for them.

    The main thing is for us to sweep them at home next week.

  4. Mark in cc.

    We Reds fans need to live in the moment according to Bill James. I read one of his studies a few years ago about teams who move from a history of losing to a breakout championship season. I don’t remember all the details but he basically says the year after the championship year they will finish with a record between the previous 2 seasons and then start improving again. The last example of this would be the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Assuming 92 wins this year (that means.500 ball the rest of the way) and 76 last year that would mean 82 in 2011. So, maybe it isn’t the Astros who will be fighting for second.

  5. irishflash

    According to Colin Cowherd, the Astro’s would be frauds, because they don’t have Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainright…

  6. Travis G.

    I’ve got a feeling this will be the last season for LaRussa in Saint Louis.

  7. Greg Dafler

    Yes, this is as much about how bad the Cardinals have been as it is about how many wins the Astros have racked up. I stayed away from any insight as to whether the Astros were as good as the W-L record indicates because I just hadn’t looked into that question yet.

    On the surface, their 2nd half Pyth W-L is .550 while their actual 2nd half W-L is .597. So, there’s some luck there, but they have still been playing much better ball in the 2nd half.

    Most of that appears to be in the pitching department, where they’ve allowed less than 4 runs per game since the AS break. Rodriguez and Myers have ERA’s under 2 since the break with Happ and Norris posting ERA’s under 4.

    At the same time, they’ve been scoring more than 4 runs per game in the 2nd half. Chris Johnson (3B) has been a huge offensive boost at 3B (.944 2nd half OPS) over what Pedro Feliz provided.

    @Mark in cc.: I wasn’t making any implications about 2011. There are too many unanswered questions about how each team will address their weaknesses in the offseason.

  8. mike

    it blows my mind that Houston has been 37-25 since the all-star break
    and they have the best record in baseball since they traded their two stars Berkman and Oswalt

    I posted over a week ago in a game thread that I thought it would be funny and great if Stl finished below Houston in the standings

    as Chris said Houston still isn’t a good team but like the Reds have taken advantage of the HORRIBLE teams in the Central. Houston is 20-7 vs the Cubbies and Pirates!
    20-7??? Add in how they have played against Stl and Houston is an amazing 30-12 vs those 3 teams.

  9. mike

    one more odd Houston #
    The Reds and Houston are tied for the best record vs other Central teams at 42-27

    Houston was 3-12 in interleague play compared to the Reds 8-7
    The Reds got Cleveland, KC, Oakland and Seattle
    Houston got KC, Yankees, TB and Texas

    and people wonder why some people (me included) can’t stand interleague play?
    not that I’m a Houston fan, but that just isn’t fair