In the ninth inning of a tie game against the Royals on August 8, Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt threw away a sacrifice attempt, an error that led to the go-ahead run eventually scoring.

The Cardinals ended the day 55-56, 10 1/2 games out of the NL Central lead and 8 games back of the Padres for the second Wild Card spot.

A pair of deals at the trade deadline for pitchers J.A. Happ and Jon Lester seemed like an attempt at feigning a level of postseason contention that didn’t exist.

Per FanGraphs, their playoff odds entering August 9 were 1.3%.

Just over five weeks later, the Cardinals have new life. They’ve soared into the second Wild Card spot with a 20-13 surge.

The Cardinals defense has been a huge part of that. The Cardinals lead MLB with 73 Defensive Runs Saved this season.

If the Cardinals finish the season with the most Runs Saved, they’ll be the first team to lead the majors in that stat in consecutive years.

SIS has been tracking Runs Saved since 2003.

This is a team loaded with defensive talent. The team’s catcher (Yadier Molina), first baseman (Goldschmidt), third baseman (Nolan Arenado) and left fielder (Tyler O’Neill) have all won at least one Fielding Bible Award for defensive excellence.

Our Defensive Player of the Month for August, center fielder Harrison Bader, leads the Cardinals with 18 Runs Saved, 2 shy of Michael A. Taylor of the Royals for the lead among all outfielders.

Three other players have at least 10 Runs Saved. O’Neill leads MLB left fielders with 11. Goldschmidt leads all first basemen with 10. Rookie infielder Edmundo Sosa also has 10.

There’s so much depth on the roster that Arenado, who has won four Fielding Bible Awards, ranks fifth on the Cardinals with 7 Runs Saved. Molina, one of the top defensive catchers in MLB history, ranks eighth on the team with 4 Runs Saved.

Another player worth noting is utility man Tommy Edman, who has 6 Runs Saved in playing time split primarily between second base and right field. Edman leads the Cardinals and ranks tied for fifth in MLB with 28 Good Fielding Plays (Web Gems and heads-up plays such as cutting off a base hit to prevent a baserunner from advancing an extra base).

The Cardinals infield of Goldschmidt, (usually) Edman, Sosa (or Paul DeJong), and Arenado has converted 78% of ground balls and bunts into outs this season, the highest rate in the majors.

Lastly, Cardinals pitchers have done their part too. They rank second at the position in Defensive Runs Saved with 7. Four different pitchers on the team lead the way with 3 Runs Saved.

The Cardinals entered August 9 ranked 9th in Runs Saved with 35. Since that day, the Cardinals have 38 Runs Saved, 10 more than the next-closest team, the Dodgers.

That the Cardinals are tops in the majors isn’t that much of a surprise. Our projection in spring training was that they would finish as the MLB leader. They’ve lived up to the billing so far.

Most Defensive Runs Saved – 2021 Season

Team Runs Saved
Cardinals 73
Astros 66
Rockies 62
Brewers 59
Rays 58
Rangers 55
Marlins 54
Dodgers 48
Mets 48
Braves 41

To read about the Cardinals penchant for great plays behind Adam Wainwright, visit the SIS Blog and to learn more about Tommy Edman’s defensive play this season, check out his interview on The SIS Baseball Podcast.