Are The Cardinals The NL Central’s Only Good Franchise?


Oct 16, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Travis Ishikawa (45) hits a walk off three run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning of game five of the 2014 NLCS playoff at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The elimination of the St. Louis Cardinals, which was a joyous occasion, means that 2014 will be yet another season where the National League Central doesn’t win the World Series.

The last non-Cardinals NL Central team to even make it to the World Series was the 2005 Houston Astros, who were swept in four games by the Chicago White Sox. The Cardinals made the big dance in 2004, 2006, 2011, and 2013, including wins in 2006 and 2011.

In the last 20 MLB post seasons, since the playoffs were expanded in 1995, those five World Series trips above are the only five that the National League Central has managed.

The Cardinals four trips to the World Series in that span are tied for the most in the National League with the San Francisco Giants. The Braves went three times, the Phillies and Marlins each went twice, and the Padres, Mets, Diamondbacks and Astros each went once.

Since 2000, the Cardinals have had just one losing season, a 78-84 effort in 2007. They’ve won the central division nine of the last 15 seasons (again since 2000). They took home a wild card spot in two of the six seasons they didn’t win the central. So if you’re keeping track, they made the post season in 11 of the last 15 seasons.

They didn’t buy all those championships either. While they are consistently near the top of the central in spending, other than having the sixth highest payroll in baseball in 2005, the Cardinals have been in the 8th-14th range the rest of that time.

In that same 15-year stretch, the Brewers have nine losing seasons, the Cubs have nine losing seasons, the Pirates have 13 losing seasons and the Reds have 11 losing seasons. For the 13 years in that span the Astros were in the National League, they had six losing seasons.

Four of the six teams in the National League Central Division in the last 15 years (13 for Houston) have had more losing seasons than winning seasons. The Cardinals have more Central division crowns in the last 15 years than any of the other teams in the division have had winning seasons.

The Brewers have been better under Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio; the Pirates finally turned around their losing; despite being awful for most of the 00’s the Reds have been better for the last five years (even with injuries destroying their 2014), and the Cubs have a lot of young talent and a fancy new-ish general manager.

Before the season Baseball Prospectus ranked all three major league farm systems and the Cubs led the way in the central at second overall. The Pirates were third. The Cardinals were sixth, because of course they were. The Reds were 16th. The Brewers were 29th.

The Cubs have a system, money, and finally have a General Manager who knows what he’s doing (I miss Jim Hendry). The Pirates don’t have a lot of money, but they’ve also got a system that can help.

So things are looking up for the Central division but when I look long and hard at the division I really only see one franchise that is consistently good.