The Second Half of the Season in the Tony La Russa Era


As the Cardinals close in on the All Star Game break in a bit of a funk, many fans are looking forward to the second half of the season, hoping that the team will finally play up to our expectations.  How do the Cardinals typically do after the break, particularly in the Tony La Russa era ?  Let’s take a look, courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

Year Record after
All Star Game
Season Record Finished Postseason
1996 42-33 88-74 1st Lost NLCS
1997 32-44 73-89 4th
1998 43.33 83-79 3rd
1999 32-41 75-86 4th
2000 44-31 95-67 1st Lost NLCS
2001 50-26 * 93-69 2nd Lost NLDS
2002 50-27 * 97-65 1st Lost NLCS
2003 32-42 85-57 3rd
2004 51-24 * 105-57 1st Lost WS
2005 44-30 100-62 1st Lost NLCS
2006 35-39 83-78 1st Won WS
2007 32-39 78-84 3rd
2008 33-33 86-76 4th
2009 42-29 91-97 1st Lost NLDS

* led the National League
In 14 seasons, the Cardinals Cardinals posted a winning record 8 times, a losing record 5 times and once an even 33-33.  Three times, in a span of four seasons, the Cardinals posted the best  record after the All Star Game, winning 50 or more games in each of those seasons.  The best of these years was 2004 when the Cardinals entered postseason on fire and made it all the way to the World Series.

I tend to believe that the more recent history is a better predictor though.  Unfortunately that doesn’t bode well for our postseason chances as three of the last four years were losing records and the sole winning season wasn’t terribly dominating (+13 at 42-29).  Assuming that the Reds aren’t going to go away, the 2010 Cardinals need to be a lot more 2001-2004 Redbirds than we’ve seen in recent years.  With their current record, they will need one of those 50 win second half performances.

Perhaps the key to the second season lies in the right arm of Chris Carpenter.  It is no secret that when he pitches, the Cardinals play late in October.  While Chris Carpenter may not be as dominant as he was in his Cy Young 2004 season and runner up years in 2005 and 2009, if he is in the rotation, I would not bet against the Cardinals.  There is also little doubt that Adam Wainwright has become the best Cardinals pitcher since Matt Morris, and continues to improve his game.  I also think we have a closer in waiting with Jason Motte, if we can just survive the wait.

I was originally planning a companion article, linking late season trades (Woody Williams, Larry Walker) to the Cardinals second half success, but I just discovered that our friend Angela Weinhold (Cardinal Diamond Diaries)  has already written one for Baseball Digest, and it is much better than what I would have come up with.  Please take a look Angela’s  Tony LaRussa and the Second Half.  It is an excellent read.  Then let the trade deadline speculation begin.

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