Every year it seems like people think this is the year the Cardinals are going to drop off because of injuries, losses to free agency, etc. And, every year it seems like they overachieve. And, here we are again. As of my writing this, they have a 2.5 game lead for the final NL Wild Card spot. With just a couple weeks left in the season, the odds are good that they will make it into the 1-game playoff as a Wild Card team. But, how much further can they go? Can they defend their title and win it all again?
3 Reasons Why:
- OBP – I hate to use it on two consecutive teams I’m reviewing, but the Tigers and Cardinals simply have this going. In fact, they’re tied for the best OBP in baseball (.337). It’s so important to be putting guys on base however you can, in order to put that much more pressure on the defense, pitcher and catcher. And, the Cardinals are one of the best at doing it.
- RBI’s . . . when you want them – not only do the Cardinals have the 4th most RBI’s in the game, but they also are adept at getting them when they need them the most. In the late innings, (7th or later) the Cardinals have the 6th most RBI’s in all of baseball. When the game’s on the line in the postseason, that’s the kind of thing you need to be able to rely on.
- No unnecessary baserunners – the Cardinals’ pitching staff has walked the 4th fewest batters in the NL. For the same reason it’s important for their batters to get on base, it’s just as important for their pitchers to prevent the opponents from getting on base. A very valuable ability come playoff time.
3 Why Not:
- Road Record – in the playoffs, you eventually have to play some games on the road. Especially as the Wild Card team. But, the Cardinals have the worst road record of any team currently in a playoff spot: 34-41. Ten games over .500 overall, but 7 games under .500 on the road? Eek. It’s one thing to have a discrepancy between your home and road record, but this could be a series-changer if they continue to play this poorly on the road in the playoffs. Oh, and if they make it to the playoffs, they almost definitely will play the first game on the road – in Atlanta.
- Righty/Lefty – I debated on whether to put this as a reason why, or why not. I came down on the why not side because most teams the Cardinals are likely to face in the playoffs are going to be right-hand dominant among their starting pitchers (other than perhaps SF, where it could be 50/50 in the playoffs). The Cardinals tear up left-handed pitching (28-17 vs. left-handed starters). But, this also means they’re under .500 against righties. Most teams aren’t going to have more than one left-handed starter that you’ll have a chance to face in the postseason. That could spell trouble for St. Louis.
- Bullpen – the Cardinals have the 6th worst bullpen ERA in baseball with a 4.10. That’s brutal. Which, of course, is the primary reason St. Louis has the 4th most blown saves in the majors (21). So, once Matheny takes the ball out of the hands of his starters, opposing teams should start licking their chops.
Well, there you have it. Do you think the Cardinals have a shot at being the first repeat world champion since the Yankees won 3 in a row from ’98-’00?