Five stats to know: Cardinals at Braves

July, 28, 2013
7/28/13
3:16
PM ET
The Atlanta Braves host the St. Louis Cardinals on "Sunday Night Baseball" 8 ET on ESPN. Here are five stats to know about tonight’s contest:

1. The Cardinals are hitting .337 with runners in scoring position this season, leading the majors by a wide margin. In fact, they could go hitless in their next 138 at-bats with runners in scoring position and still lead the majors (assuming all other teams' averages stay the same).

If the season ended today, the Cardinals would have the highest batting average with runners in scoring position by any team over the last 50 seasons. Currently, the 1996 Colorado Rockies have the highest mark over the last 50 years at .311.

The Cardinals have four of the top 10 hitters with runners in scoring position in baseball. Allen Craig leads the league at .485, Matt Carpenter is fourth, Yadier Molina is sixth, and Carlos Beltran is ninth.

2. Craig is putting up MVP-like numbers this season. If the season ended today, his .485 batting average with runners in scoring position would be the highest by any player in the last 40 seasons. The highest during that span is .469 by George Brett in 1980.

In fact, three of the four previous players who have hit .440 or better with runners in scoring position over the last 40 seasons are Hall of Famers (Brett, Tony Gwynn in 1997, and Paul Molitor in 1987) and the other (Ichiro Suzuki in 2001) is a likely Hall of Famer. Two of those four players -- Brett and Ichiro -- won the MVP award that season.

Despite Craig’s clutch hitting, however, he ranks only sixth on the Cardinals in wins above replacement. Carpenter, Molina, Beltran, Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller all have a higher WAR this season than Craig.

3. Miller has a 2.62 ERA in his first 20 career starts, the seventh-lowest ERA all time by a Cardinals pitcher in his first 20 starts.

Miller’s fastball has been his key to success this season. He leads the majors in strikeouts with a fastball (91), one ahead of teammate Lance Lynn. His average fastball velocity has increased as the season has gone on. It averages 95 mph in July after averaging 92.8 in April.

4. Andrelton Simmons is one of the best defensive players in the league. He has 10 more defensive runs saved than any other player in baseball over the last two seasons despite playing at least 600 fewer innings than the two players in second place on that list. He ranks second in DRS this season, one shy of Carlos Gomez. Among shortstops, Simmons (25) has nearly double the number of DRS as the next-best player on that list (Pedro Florimon, 13).

5. Kris Medlen has struggled lately, posting a 5.53 ERA in his last seven starts (2.87 in his first 13 starts this season). Opponents are hitting .324 over Medlen’s last seven starts.

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