Updated: Oct 4, 2018
On Sunday, September 16, 2018, Adam Wainwright pitched six innings of vintage-Waino shutout ball, setting up a 5-0 Cardinals victory over the Dodgers. It stopped the bleeding of what had been a four game losing streak and kept the Cardinals playoff odds just above 50 percent, which now feels pointless but at the time it certainly mattered. It also brought the Cardinals win total to 82 for the season, relevant in that it marked the 11th straight season in which the Cardinals would finish above .500, and 18 of 19 seasons overall. This is their longest such streak since 1939-1953, a stretch during which they won four pennants and three World Series.
Curious, I wanted to see how every team in Major League Baseball stacked up here. Meaning which teams have the longest current streaks finishing above .500, and which teams have spent the most time at or below that mark. So here that is in graph form.
A couple of observations... Even though the Yankees haven’t won a World Series in almost ten years, here’s another thing they’re dominating. They really are operating on a different planet from the rest of the league. That's 26 straight seasons - going back to 1992 when they only won 76 games - in which they've finished above .500. And 17 of the 24 years in which a full season was played (the strike shortened the 1994 and 1995 seasons) they won at least 91 games.
The Cardinals' streak which started in 2008 comes in at a distant second but is impressive nonetheless. And here's something: Make a graphic charting all-time World Series titles and the left side would look almost identical to what you see above, with the Yankees leading the way at 27 and the Cardinals directly behind them with 11.
Stare at the middle of the graphic and you see the current state of parity in the league. Fifteen of the 30 teams have two or fewer consecutive seasons of being a winning or losing club. At the far right end sits the Marlins, who haven't had a winning season since 2009. Near them are the Phillies, who looked destined to record their first season above .500 since their juggernaut 2011 squad but a nine-game losing streak in the final two weeks of this season put a stop to all of that.
My intent here is just an FYI post and I don't want this to read as some glowing defense of John Mozeliak and company, especially in light of them seemingly already throwing in the towel on acquiring Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, and when you consider that 18 teams have made the postseason since the Cardinals were there in 2015. Although this is obviously not meant to be a criticism either. The design to win 88 (or whatever it is) is clearly working to some effect. This is also not indicative of anything that will for sure guarantee a championship in this age of purposely fielding a non-competitive team to jockey for draft position. The last two World Series winners were on the negative side not that long ago. And none of the five teams with the longest consecutive winning seasons (Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers, Nationals, Indians) have won a world Series since the Cardinals did it in 2011.
But there you have it. Even when they haven't made the postseason, the Cardinals have at least entertained us until the very end for a decade and then some, and in that regard they are near the top of the class of MLB. Also: The Yankees are good and probably will be for the rest of our lives.
EDIT: Oops, I somehow forgot about the Royals when making the chart. They have three-straight non-winning seasons and would have been next to the Angels.