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The distance between a winning team and a losing team
by Scott Butler 7/28/13

The distance between Philadelphia and the city of St. Louis is 889 miles, roughly 14 hours by car and, as was discovered this week, immeasurably further when measured in ballclubs. The St. Louis Cardinals have dashed Phillies dreams before: in 1964 when they took the NL East title from the Phillies amidst the greatest collapse in baseball history; in 2011 when a 90-win Cardinals team disposed of a 102-win Phillies club in the NLDS; and this week when they unofficially ended the Phillies 2013 season.

The Phillies arrived in St. Louis with a slight glimmer of playoff hopes and left without a flicker. In their three-game sweep in which they outscored the Phillies 18-5, the Cardinals made the distance between a winning ballclub and a losing one abundantly clear. Anyone who suffered through each torturous loss knew the difference. In the home Cardinals dugout was a disciplined, focused, fundamentally sound team. In the visiting Phillies dugout was an undisciplined team, lacking in talent, without any sense of cohesion.

The Cardinals did all of the little things right. They worked the count, moved baserunners, delivered clutch hits, and fielded the ball cleanly, which are ironically all things with which the Phillies have struggled with all season.

It's been a few days since the Phillies played the Cardinals, but it still seems pertinent to point out the drastic differences between the two clubs.

The Phillies have 1 player with an average above .300, the Cardinals have 5

The Phillies have 4 players with an OBP over .325, the Cardinals have 9

The Phillies have no players with an OBP over .350, the Cardinals have 7

Here is how their offenses compare:

Team G R R/G H 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
St. Louis Cardinals 101 496 4.91 946 193 15 83 293 668 .275 .336 .412 .747
NL Rank -- 1 1 2 4 10 13 8 14 1 1 2 1
Philadelphia Phillies 104 394 3.79 896 167 23 95 254 769 .254 .308 .396 .704
NL Rank -- 13 13 8 12 2 9 13 8 7 11 8 9

The Cardinals are very clearly a better offensive team than the Phillies, but we knew that already. It is more than just superior talent (which the Cardinals have) which puts them so far ahead of the Phillies, it is how they utilize that talent. They keep at-bats alive with two strikes and knock guys in when it counts. That, as Sarge would say, is clutch hitting.

Here is how the offenses compare in clutch situations:

Clutch Batting Averages
Team RISP 2 outs/RISP Men on 3rd/less than 2 outs 2 strikes
St. Louis Cardinals .338 .319 .319 .392 .200
NL Rank 1 1 1 2 1
Philadelphia Phillies .248 .236 .255 .303 .167
NL Rank 6 5 5 8 8

No need to belabor the point here. It is just a good thing that it happened when it did because now there is no question the Phillies must sell at the deadline. No prospects will be wasted to improve this team and the Phils can now focus on avoiding this situation next year.

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