No one who claims to be a Cardinal fan is happy about the way the season ended. When you go up 3-1 in a series against an inferior team (it seems that most people agree the Giants are inferior), you need to get it done. There’s no need to go into specifics about the collapse, however — it’s been roughly a month, and we’ve all had time to heal and move on. We’ll do plenty of complaining about the Giants in the future, but for now, let’s venture off to that far away alternate universe where our not-so-beloved Alt-Cards have been patiently waiting to reveal their awfulness for nearly two months.
When we last saw our Out of the Park Cardinals team, they were bad; real bad, in fact. It was the first of September, rosters were expanding, and the Cardinals in this universe were 57-75 with not even the most remote hopes of playoff baseball. Despite running off four wins in their first five September games, there was just no salvaging this season, a season in which every major player missed at least a little time to injury (several players, like Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal, missed a lot) and no one on the entire roster hit at all. Come to think of it, it wasn’t like the pitchers accomplished much either. This was just a bad Alternate Universe team, plain and simple. What was their final record, you ask? Enter, kind reader, and find out all the gory details.
In this universe, the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals finished 73-89, 16 games under .500. Even worse, I was actually kind of pleased that they finished that well. Never in any one month did the team compile a better record than June and September’s 14-13, and they were downright awful in July (9-16). It wasn’t all their fault, certainly not; take a look at the players that were on the DL as the season came to a close: Jake Westbrook (8-9 months), Shelby Miller (9 months), Brandon Dickson (10 months), Victor Marte (10-11 months), and Jason Motte (a week). Those are some serious long-term injuries for several Cardinal pitchers! To go into even more bloody specifics, Matt Holliday only played in 112 games, Furcal in 59, and Beltran in 98. Comically, knee-less Lance Berkman was the epitome of durability, as he logged 153 games and 525 at-bats — posting a .756 OPS in the process.
Which brings me to my next point about the Cardinal players, the one that doesn’t revolve around an overly harsh string of injuries to key contributors: badness. You just saw Berkman’s middling numbers, but have a look at the final results of a few others while you’re at it. Go on, it’s fun. Holliday finished the year with a .236/.313/.400 line and sent just 15 balls over the fence, Beltran slugged .423, Yadier Molina barely cleared the .700 OPS mark, Allen Craig hit .216 with no power, and David Freese was relegated to part-time status since he isn’t good enough to even start. If this had happened with the actual team, you can bet StanGraphs would have been tossed right off the St. Louis Arch, splattering into an indistinguishable pile of blood, guts, and several novels worth of typed words in the process. No way we’d be able to keep this blog going with a team this bad, a team in which every single player manages to disappoint in a colossal manner.
Ironically, this team actually fared well in one-run games (27-23) and held their own in extra innings (9-8), two situations that never failed to send the actual 2012 Cardinals into the soft comforting bosom of their fluffy mascot, Fredbird. The alternate universe club also differed from the real team in the sense that they were horribly outscored by opponents, in fact by a margin of minus-108 runs. Would you like some more damning statistics that will make you want to jump into the nearest space ship, chart out the coordinates of this alternate universe I keep speaking of, and punch every one of the alternate players in their alternate faces? They finished second-to-last in the NL in OPS (.681) and runs scored (619), third-to-last in extra-base hits (431) and dead last in home runs (105), all while drawing 631 walks, the second highest total in the league! What a bizarre offense! Also, are you fucking serious about the 108 home runs? That’s 51 homers less than the actual team hit. Fifty-one! Even the 1987 Cardinals managed 94, and that was 25 years ago in the middle of an era where home runs were about as frequent as perfect games.
So the major league team didn’t exactly hold up very well in comparison to the real team. What about some of the prospects? Well, before tearing his face off and missing many months on the disabled list, the organization decided that Shelby Miller would be best used as a reliever in Triple-A Memphis. He went on to make 24 appearances, all out of the bullpen, posting an uninspiring 1.40 WHIP and 4.03 ERA in the process. Just a win all the way around on that one! Matt Carpenter got around the right amount of playing time, but hit just .246/.345/.359 in this universe. Granted, before the season started I might have projected numbers very similar to that myself. Now, we of course know that the actual Matt Carpenter is the best player on the team; he and Trevor Rosenthal can fight out that distinction among themselves.
In other news, Pete Kozma did what Pete Kozma should have done (and will do if given a chance in the future) by hitting .203/.259/.256 in 172 at-bats and Matt Adams did what Matt Adams should have done (and may do if given in the chance in the future) by hitting .296/.361/.463 in 108 at-bats. Lastly, Zack Cox was a force to be reckoned with in his brief major league appearance, hitting .375/.487/.500 in 32 at-bats; he just wasn’t enough to bring in Edward Mujica in this universe, so the organization held onto him, and despite the “introverted personality” the OOTP scouting director says he has, that decision seems to have a chance of working out for this team.
When it comes to the future of Alt-Cards, though, we’ll never know for sure — we’re saying bye to them forever right now. Next year, we’ll bring back our beloved alternate universe team, but it won’t be a continuation of this group with these stats. We’ll load up a new roster set instead, one that gives the players present on the 2013 club credit for their actual previous season stats. We may also play with new ways to represent this experience to get you, the reluctant public, more involved. After all, OOTP is a great game and one we want to integrate more into StanGraphs, but we acknowledge that perhaps the way it was presented this season needs a tweak or two. For now, it’s time to pull the plug on this project, and blow up the entire alternate universe while we’re at it. This is perhaps the worst Cardinal team I’ve ever seen, and I don’t ever want to think about them again.