Sometime in early July, it became obvious this season's Cardinals offense was a lot different than the previous few Cardinal teams. Much of this is a welcome change. They have hit 204 home runs with twenty-five games remaining in the season. They have four players with at least twenty home runs and nine with at least ten. They score an average of 4.94 runs per game, compared to an even 4.00 in 2015 and 3.82 in 2014. However, there is one statistic fans find really frustrating: The Cardinals are 33-38 at Busch Stadium.
With the Cubs a whopping 15 games ahead and only 20 remaining, the Cardinals are in the hunt for the NL Wild Card. They are only 1.5 wins behind the Giants heading into play Monday for the top Wild Card spot. They are a half-game behind the Mets, five ahead of Miami and six ahead of Pittsburgh for WC #2. If the Cardinals make the postseason, the odds are they will be the first team in the era of two wild cards to do so with a losing home record. Take a look at the amount of home games every team has won since 2012:
Most teams in the playoffs hover around 50/51 home wins. The lowest home win total since the beginning of the win-or-go-home WC is 42 (2014 Royals). St. Louis has 10 remaining games at home. To get a winning record, they need to win eight of those 10 games. Even then, they'd only have 41 home wins.
In the likely event the Cardinals finish with a sub-.500 record at home and head to October, they will make some history. I checked back to 1995, the beginning of the Wild Card Era, and the 2016 Cardinals would be the second team to make it to the postseason with a losing record at home. They'd be the first club to do so since the Braves won the NL East in 2001 and went 40-41. Unless the Cardinals win eight of their 10 remaining home games, they will tie for the worst home record of any playoff team since 1995.
As a WC team, however, relying on a winning road record may actually be a benefit.
The 2001 Braves finished 88-74 but won their division. The Cardinals, barring an epic Cubs collapse, will not win the NL Central. However, that may be a gift. Along with their subpar play at home, the Cardinals are 43-27 on the road this season (.614). The Cardinals have scored 697 runs this season, 315 resulting from home runs. About forty-five percent of their runs scored come via the long ball, they have hit a home run in 62 of their 75 wins, so they should play in parks favoring home runs.
Their likely one-off Wild Card game opponents are the Giants. In 2016, Baseball-Reference gives batters the edge at AT&T Park (batting — 104, pitching — 103). The Cardinals need offense, and AT&T Park may be better for a homer-happy team than Busch Stadium in a one-game playoff. If the Cardinals wind up playing the Mets at Citi Field, the edge there goes to pitchers (batting — 99, pitching — 99), but it's about on par with Busch (batting — 100 pitching — 99). They did hit two home runs during their three games in New York.
If the Cardinals make it past the Wild Card round, they will face the Cubs. In theory, Wrigley is not a great ballpark for home run hitters. Baseball-Reference has it at batting — 95 and pitching — 93 this year, heavily favoring pitchers. Ever the contrarians, the Cardinals have played seven games at Wrigley in 2016 and hit fourteen home runs. Two home runs per game in a pitchers' park? Go figure. They are 5-2 at the friendly confines this season.
As the cherry on top, the AL won the All-Star Game, so the NL team must win a game on the road in the World Series. For the Cardinals? Bring it on. While the odds are stacked against any WC team, their road record indicates the Cardinals could pull off the improbable.
Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.