Two weeks ago, I posited that the Cardinals' road success may give them an edge as a Wild Card team. Get excited, because they would be the first team in the wild card era to have such lopsided home / road splits! How will this affect them? Since they are competing for one of two wild card spots, I wanted to look at whether there is a correlation between home / road splits and post - 2011 postseason success. I found that, strictly speaking, there is not, and the Cardinals present a unique case. Here are the average home win totals based on how far teams made it in the playoffs:
There is no correlation suggesting that home wins can determine how well a team does in the postseason since the addition of the 2012 wild card. How about road wins?
There is no correlation there either. The four World Series champions have had a higher average road win total, but it's just as easy to win on the road during the regular season and lose in the Division Series. Overall split correlation? None.
There have been eight wild card #2 teams. Only one, the 2012 Giants, made it to the World Series. All second wild card teams have had a winning record at home. The lowest home record is 45 - 36, and the Cardinals will be scraping to get to 40 - 41. So, statistically, there is no basis for a second wild card team that loses at home.
Since 2012, there have been only two wild card teams to reach the World Series. The 2014 Royals (WC #1, lost) and 2012 Giants (WC#2, won) had winning records both at home and on the road. If the numbers are widened to all postseason teams to reach the World Series since 2012, they all win. The only team of those eight with a losing record anywhere is the 2012 Tigers, who went 38 - 43 on the road. If teams want to make it to the postseason, then, they need to win both at home and on the road.
Going into play on Monday, the Cardinals have a rather abysmal home record of 34 - 42 with five games remaining. The 2001 Braves have the worst home record of a postseason team at 40-41, and the Cardinals are guaranteed to be worse than that.. If they scramble to a wild card spot, they will have the worst home record of any playoff team since the addition of the wild card in 1995.
They will end the season with 48 road wins, a distinct improvement over every championship team since 2012. The only team with more road wins was the 2014 Dodgers, and they lost in the Divisional Series to...the Cardinals!
Let's broaden the data set to every postseason team since 1995. There are three teams with home records on or about what the Cardinals will end up with if they make it to the postseason ...
The lowest home wins total is 39, probably close to the minimum the Cardinals will need to get to the wild card game, but that belongs to the 1995 Dodgers in a strike-shortened season. Those 39 wins were part of a 39 -33 record, so they finished over .500, so it's not exactly an even comparison. That team was, oddly enough, the least successful of the bunch, as they lost the '95 Division Series.
The 2001 Braves are the optimal scenario for the Cardinals. They were just below .500 at home, finishing at 40 - 41.As of Monday, that is the Cardinals' ceiling. That is all they've got and must win seven straight games to do it -- a feat they haven't accomplished all season, so it seems likely they'll finish worse at home than that Atlanta team. The Braves had the same road record as the Cardinals, finishing at 48 - 33. For Cardinals fans, there is light at the end of the tunnel because the Braves made it all the way to the Championship Series in 2001! If the Cardinals barely get intot the postseason, if they can win enough home games, there is an iota of precedent that it may, in fact, be possible for them to get far in October.
The Royals snuck their way to a winning home record in 2014, finishing with 42 - 39. They had a similar road record, 47 - 34. The Royals were better at home, but the Cardinals can make it close. If they make it to 39 or 40 wins, factoring in their road record, they will have a similar mark to the 2014 Royals who made it all the way to the World Series. The Cardinals just need to get hot right now, and they might be able to force their way to the World Series. It's been done before.
The Cardinals lack of success at home would be an anomaly for any wild card team. The only precedent based on teams who were bad (but not as bad) at home, is promising. The Mets and Giants have more conventional splits for postseason teams, with winning records both on the road and at home. The Cardinals have their work cut out for them but if they manage to make it into the postseason, they would be the worst home team since the introduction of the wild card.
Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.