Obviously, the Cardinal fan in me wants to believe that it’s always possible to make it to the postseason. Even when our backs are against the wall, the Redbirds have been known to do amazing things. Even when we supposedly “backed in” to the playoffs in 2006, the Cardinals pulled off the impossible: a World Series victory. And, in 2005, when all hope was lost in Houston, Albert managed to get all of a Brad Lidge pitch (and then some) to give us one more game back in St. Louis.
But as we all know, not every year is meant to be. So the question is this: do the Cardinals have a legitimate shot at a postseason berth? Obviously, once they’re in, all teams are on equal footing. But, for now, can they squeeze out enough wins to sneak in at all?
I think so. And here’s why.
Ok, first I concede that first place is pretty much a distant hope. Fine. There’s still the wild card and that’s not a bad position to be in, historically speaking.
- Of the 13 years the wild card has been around, 8 of the 13 National League wild card winners have won the first round of playoffs and advanced to the NLCS
- Of those 13 teams, 8 have advanced to the World Series.
- And of those 8 teams, 2 have actually won the World Series.
- And of those same 8 teams, another 2 lost to AL wild cards.
So going in as a wild card doesn’t seem so bad.
Before tonight’s game we sit back 4 1/2 games from the Wild Card. Again, not that bad. The hardest part is the fact that we have 3 teams to climb over. If it was just Milwaukee, I would say it was totally doable. But, now we also have Philadelphia and the always pesky Houston Astros.)
(Side note: Houston fast must drive themselves crazy with the thought that if their club ever played halfway decent first half ball, their 2nd half play would put them in first place just about every year. I checked and since 2004, the ‘Stros have a September .619 winning percentage. If they could play at that level, all year, it would have been good enough for first place for every year, except ’04, when the Cardinals smoked the other teams by winning 105 games. And compare that to the Cardinals September record over the same period: a measly .479 winning percentage. And this is a team who has gone to the postseason every year except 2 since 2000. But I guess that’s why you play 162 games. By the way, I didn’t have the patience to check all of the other teams, but if anybody else wants to figure out your team’s September record from 2004-2008, please post it. I’d love to know if the ‘Stros have the best or not.)
Ok, back to Cardinal baseball. 4 1/2 games out. We have 17 games left and 4 of them are against Chicago. But the teams ahead of us play quite a few games vs. each other. The Cubs have 6 more against Milwaukee including the last 3 games of the season. They also have 3 more against the fore-mentioned, September-hot Houston Astros (although 2 of them will be made up at a later date.) The Brewers have 4 more against the Phillies.
All of this is good and bad. It’s good because someone has to lose. It’s bad because both teams can’t lose. That means we need to play near perfect baseball and all of these teams to pretty much split when playing each other, while losing the rest of their games. It’s hard, but not impossible. Our elimination number is still in double digits at 13, so there is still plenty of hope at this point.
Nevetheless, there is one wild card spots and four teams that want it. Only one will win. Let’s just hope that it goes to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Looking for the rubber match win,
April is officially here and therefore so is baseball. And I couldn’t be more excited. This is what you wait all year for—the first pitch to be throw on Opening Day. Baseball is the best sport on the planet…..no matter what these Europeans tell you. 🙂
So, how do my ’07 Redbirds stack up? Glad you asked. Let’s get started.
You hear it all the time: pitching wins games. So imagine my horror that this was the Cardinals single biggest concern going into the off season. But what’s new, right? Pitching is always hard to come by. This year proved especially difficult though. With the cream of the crop in free agent pitching (aka the Barry Zitos) going for very very hefty price tags, even mediocre pitchers were going for quite alarming sums. Not to mention over in Red Sox nation, the Boston paying over 50 mil to talk to their newest Japenese import. No way we’re going to get somebody like that. The last time we sprung on a “name pitcher,” he was decent for a year. Then he was horrible and now he’s on the DL. Yes, I’m talking about Mark Mulder. Yes, the same Mark Mulder who we traded Danny Haren to Oakland for. Yes, the same Danny Haren who is being pegged by many as an incredible, young talent. Not to mention Kiko Calero and Daric Barton, who has been getting rave reviews in their minor league system. But, I digress.
We have 1 remaining starter from last April to this. And 2 remaining starters from October. Not the best-case scenario for certain. But I think the Cardinals have done quite well considering the circumstances and how bad things could have gotten.
Last April, our starting 5 consisted of Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis and Sidney Ponson. We took Carpenter, Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan and Anthony Reyes to the World Series, leaving 5th starter, Jason Marquis off the playoff roster.
Ponson left early to the disappointment of no one, I’m sure. Marquis is now pitching in a Cubs uniform (disgusting) and while I always liked him, I see why he was left of the playoff roster and now gone. Too much of a liability. He may be dominant, but he also may give up 20 runs in 2 innings—something you can ill afford come playoff time. He’s an innings eater, but overall he’s probably better off in Chicago. Weaver played the unlikely role of comeback kid and eventually World Series hero late in the season with the Redbirds after the Angels deemed him too horrible to even keep around. While I certainly appreciate everything he contributed to the playoff push with very, very key wins, he’s still a guy who had 3 wins prior to coming to St. Louis. I wish him the best in Seattle. Suppan, is the biggest loss of the four. He’ll never be a 20 game winner, but he’s a reliable starter in the middle of the rotation who has a knack for turning it on in October. The Brewers definitely overpaid for him, but overall their fans should be pretty happy to have him. The biggest thing here is not only did we lose him, but we did so to a NL Central rival….especially one that figures to be a bigger contender this year.
Ok, on to the good news this year. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Chris Carpenter, ’05 Cy Young winner and 3rd place in the ’06 vote leading up the staff. He’ll win 15-20 games as long as he’s healthy and certainly be a contender in the vote again this year. Our other returning starter from October is Anthony Reyes. 2006 was a bit rocky for him, but he will definitely benefit in ’07 from a full year in the bigs without worrying about constantly being shipped around. He still has some adjustments to make, but looks to be a very promising part of the Cardinals future on the mound.
Here’s where things get interesting. Adam Wainwright also joins the rotation, though he’s never started a Major League game. Groomed to be a starter, turned temporary reliever, turned last minute closer when Jason Isringhausen went down last year. He was brilliant in the late innings and in all honestly I believe if anybody else had been on the hill in the 9th all those games, the Cardinals would have watched the World Series on TV, much less walk away with the championship. Still, I’m glad he’s making the switch. The BoSox can do what they like with Papelbon….I prefer Wainwright to be in the rotation.
The other two remaining pieces of the rotation are the biggest question marks, in my opinion. Kip Wells has never pitched in a Redbird uniform, has started fewer than 10 games over the last 2 years and has only lost much more than he’s won. Braden Looper has also never started in the Majors and makes me somewhat nervous. The upside is this. Both guys have shown a lot of promise this spring and have Dave Duncan has a pitching coach. Neither guy has to be lights out if they can just do well enough to keep us in games until maybe we shop for another arm later in the season. And there is always the hope that Mulder could once again be an incredible #2 starter behind Carp if he comes back healthy in June or July. That would seal our staff as an incredible rotation.
And I haven’t even mentioned the biggest concern facing the Cardinals. Is Izzy healthy? If he comes back as premier closer, we have nothing to worry about in the 9th, even though Izzy sometimes likes to make things dramatic. If he’s not and we have to use one of the available options to close or yank Wainwright out of the rotation, we’re in for a very long season.
Bottom line: While there is still some concern, our starting 5 look pretty good for a situation that once looked only very bleak.
Overall grade = B+
Easily, the least concering area of this Cardinals team. And why not? It’s virtually the same group that led St. Louis to its first WS win in 24 years. Long time gold glover Scott Rolen is in control of the hot corner and in my estimation, is the best 3rd baseman in the game. Yes, Scott Rolen….not David Wright. At 1st is Albert Pujols, obviously known for his bat. He set out to change that last year, flashing the leather quite a bit and very deservedly winning his first of many Gold Gloves. Add to that World Series MVP David Eckstein at short and Yadier Molina, one of the best arms in the game as the backstop and it makes for a pretty solid infield. Newcomer Adam Kennedy is the newest member of revolving door of 2nd basemen the Cardinals have had the last few years. But, if he’s anything like the other players we’ve stolen away from Anaheim, I’ll take him! Eckstein and Edmonds being among other former California boys. (In fact, the Cardinals sent Kennedy to the Angels in the Edmonds trade.) The other great asset to Kennedy is that he and Eckstein have been DP partners before during their time with the Halos.
Bottom line: If this group, all of which have struggled with short term injuries in Spring Training or in 2006 (oblique strains, concussions, ankles, fingers) and Rolen who had a major shoulder issue, can stay healthy, more Gold Gloves are on the way.
Grade = A
Jimmy Edmonds can do it all in the outfield. But, can he stay healthy? He’s struggled recently with a handful of ailments, though he does always seem to battle through them. Encarnacion is out, so the rest of the outfield remains up the air. Left is likely to go mostly to Chris Duncan with Scott Spiezio filling in the time at right. But, with the lefty swinging Duncan, I’m sure changes will be made according to matchups. Preston Wilson, Scott Schumaker and So Taguchi are all capable of being called upon, depending who is swinging the hot bat. Spiezio will make a fine every day player for the time being, but it is a necessity that Duncan learn how to play the outfield. He simply cannot make the same mistakes he did last year. You could put Taguchi in for his defense, but his plate productivity is nowhere near where Duncan’s is.
Bottom line: Nobody has set themselves apart yet as being the only outfield option…….you really could use any guy at any time and even J-Rod is only a phone call away from being called back up. Nevertheless, you couldn’t ask for better depth. Each option has played and started games in the outfield and alllows the Cardinals to mix and match as needed. But mostly…..we just need Jimmy to be Jimmy.
Grade = B+
To me the Cardinal lineup is built for the game of baseball. Not pure power 1-9, but guys who know how to get on, followed by power and a pitcher who can bunt a guy over. Baseball the way it was meant to be played. These things are all but certain. Eckstein will get things started as our scrappy leadoff guy, Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds will bat 3-4-5 (probably, but not definitely in that order), Molina will hit 7th and the pitcher will hit 9th. That leaves the 2, 6 and 8 holes to be filled by LF, RH and 2B.
LaRussa mixed things up occasionally last year, but at least to start Duncan will probably hit in 2 hole, as he did much of the 2nd half of the season last year. He’s got a lot of power and sees a lot of great pitches hitting in front of Pujols. I look forward to seeing what he can do with a full year in the Majors. I also see Spiezio or whoever is starting in right hitting 6th with Kennedy at 8th, where all Cardinal 2B end up residing. The best part of this very dangerous lineup is that there is pretty much nothing but room for improvement. Most of these guys, while very good, came off of mediocre ’06 campaigns. A little more power or production out of a few of these guys and they’re capable of putting up double digits on the board every game.
Bottom line: It’s time for Molina to take October and turn it into April and for Edmonds to return to hitting like he’s capable of. This lineup is good in general, but the bar is amazingly high for just how good they could be if everyone contributes
Grade = A-
The Cardinals bench is rock solid. Whoever doesn’t play every day can come in and provide extra pop as a pinch hitter. So Taguchi and Aaron Miles are no strangers to being heroes off the bench. And you have an utilityman like Spiezio, who can play anywhere any day to give a day’s rest to a starter without being a serious downgrade. Bennett is no Molina when it comes to his arm, but gets his share of hits and proves to be an excellent backup catcher.
Bottom line: As I said before the Cardinals is loaded with depth. The fact that a couple of spots could still possibly change hands should provide for great competition and hard work from starters and bench players alike.
Grade = A
The 2007 Cardinals look good. Last year I read a lot of people picking the Cardinals to go all the way in March. Then in October, some were skeptical they would even finish first in the Central, and certainly no one thought they’d be a legitimate contender in the playoffs. But the Redbirds fought hard and won with some unexpected guys in some unlikely places. Belliard and Weaver certainly weren’t on the radar this time last year. So who will be added late in the season that just might give us that extra edge? Who will be called up when rosters expand and hit a walkoff pinch hit homer? It’s impossible to know. But for now I’m very satisfied starting the season looking at what we have now. While we will miss a guy like Josh Kinney and wish that Mulder was being a 20 game winner again instead of sitting on the shelf, there is a ton of talent on this team. And you never know. All that talent just might take us to our next championship this October.
I welcome any and all thoughts, opinions, agreements and disagreements. Just how strong do you think the ’07 squad looks?
I’ve predicted it all along and now that it’s finally here I seriously can’t believe it. The Cardinals are at the brink of their first World Series Championship since 1982, since my first birthday. Unbelievable.
So I will say what I’ve waited to say since Opening Day.
The Cardinals are 1 win away from being world champions!!!
I’m sure just about everybody but me is mad about the rain delay. Everyone wants to see who’s going to take this thing: the Cardinals or the Tigers. But for me (and perhaps other people living in Europe as well?) I’m extremely glad that the there was a rain delay last night.
Before there was no Friday game. Now not only is there a Friday game, but it’s a game with which the Cards could possibly win the World Series. And being a Friday game, I can stay up without worry, as I can sleep in as late as I want on Saturday. I’ve made sure to make no plans this weekend so that I can stay up for the game and than sleep in. And for some reason if the Cardinals don’t win both tonight’s game and tomorrow’s game and only take one of the two, I can also stay up Saturday night. I will get up for church on Sunday morning, but it still means I will be able to sleep in a lot later than I would on a weekday when I have to get up super early for work.
So far the postseason schedule, rainouts and the teams who are winning have accomodated me perfectly. If that continues it means the Cardinals will win in 5 on Friday. Although, here in our work contest, I picked the Cardinals to win in 7. Not that it matters. Nobody else picked the Cards over the Mets in 7 besides me, so I’ve definitely won. All of us completely butchered the American league.
I feel very good about the rest of this series. The Redbirds only need two wins. They can get those out of Suppan and Reyes and if they fall short, Weaver and Carpenter are waiting in the wings. I feel pretty confident in getting two wins in four chances with those guys on the hill. Nevertheless, the Tigers are a tough club and will fight to the bitter end to bring a championship home to their city so the Cardinals can’t take anything for granted.
I think pretty much every Cardinal fan has to be thinking about 2004. After being down in Houston and coming back in such unbelievable fashion to push that to game 7 and to get the win. Edmonds and Walker coming through huge for us. All of us fans were on such a high only to be shot down very quickly by the Boston Red Sox. It was so disheartening. Not only did most people favor the Cardinals to win, everyone thought they’d at least get a game or two from the Sox. Unbelievably, it never seemed we had a chance.
The Cardinals seemed to get that monkey off their backs the first game of this series to come out and quickly trounce the Tigers. And of course it helps tremendously to have Carp as part of our post-season rotation this year where he wasn’t able to contribute in ’04. And even if they won’t admit it on camera the guys who were part of the team then and now (i.e. Edmonds, Rolen, Pujols, etc.) have to be quite happy with how the Cardinals have redeemed themselves quite well so far. And now being up 2-1, victory is finally close enough to taste and Cardinal fans across the country can feel how close it is.
My sister isn’t much of a baseball fan and my nephew was explaining to her how important it is because he’s never seen the Cardinals win in his lifetime. But what really surprised her is that they haven’t won since 1982. She assumed they had won it all in the 90s sometime. So she asked me the other day, "So you don’t ever remember the Cardinals winning the World Series?" Yup. Pretty much. Sure, I was alive the last time it happened, but I was barely a year old. And that’s a big part of the reason why I chose the blog name that I did. Because me and the rest of Cardinal Nation is ready to finally…..after all these years…..to
Party like it’s 1982
Let’s Go Redbirds!!!
It’s about time the Cardinals played a game with no drama. I’m running short on Tums from watching all these games.
First, you have game 7 against the NY Mets. Winner take all. A tie game until the 9th when the unlikely hero of Yadier Molina hits a homer. Then, things really get interesting when Wainwright manages to load the bases on 2 outs with Carlos Beltran stepping to the plate……only to strike him out.
Even in game 1 against the Tigers that the Cardinals won, Detroit still struck first.
Then in game 2 of the World Series you have the Cardinals losing virtually the whole game, unable to touch Kenny Rogers. But when the Tigers brought in their closer, the Cardinals pounched pushing across one run and loading the bases before Molina grounded out to short.
Tonight was much simpler. 2 runs in the 4th, 2 runs in the 7th and 1 run in the 8th. 5 runs total combined with Carp definitely back on his game allowing only 3 hits and 0 walks in 8 scoreless innings while striking out 6. And reliever Braden Looper pitching a 1-2-3 (and non-dramatic) 9th inning.
Fun to watch and I’m able to breathe the whole game. What a nice change of pace.
But, a win’s a win and I’ll take them any way I can get them. And being up 2-1 in the World Series against the supposed "favorite" Detroit Tigers is exactly where the Cardinal need to be right now.
Jim Leyland knew the Cardinals shouldn’t be viewed as underdogs, but he was the only one. Now, maybe people believe him as the Cardinals lead 2-1 and still have a couple of games to play at home.
This last game the Cardinals proved once again the old adage to be true, "Pitching and defense wins games in the playoffs." And that could not be any more evident. The Cardinals aren’t smacking the tar out of the ball by any means. But they are pitching very, very good. And Detroit’s lone win? It was won by the outstanding pitching peformance of Kenny Rogers. And the defense could not be more different. Detroit is making crucial errors on easy plays and the Cardinals have sliding catches by their outfielders, their 3rd baseman starting double plays and their first baseman snagging live drives and stealing base hits away.
Tonight’s matchup (Suppan vs. Bonderman) seems to favor the Redbirds and I would love nothing more than to see the Cardinals go up 3-1 and be just one win away. However, my aunt who is in St. Louis says that there is some rain coming down. Honestly, I would love to see either tonight’s game or tomorrow’s night game rained out. Only because then the Cardinals could possibly win the Series on Friday, a much easier night for me to stay up without feeling the horrible effects of getting no sleep.
Well, it’s almost showtime.
And the Cardinals are a mere 2 games away from the trophy,
I would be angrier about the Cardinals loss, except for two things.
- They just came off of a Cubs sweep.
- The Reds lost, so we’re still up 3 1/2 games.
At any rate, I’m still going to talk about something else. And that something is the potential division and wild card winners. As has been the case the last couple of years, some unlikely teams have emerged this season and especially as of late.
Now, some people predicted a breakout year for the Tigers and some even that the Mets might upset the Braves in the NL East. But, nobody predicted the complete meltdown of Atlanta.
Just click here look at these pre-season predictions by the ESPN guys.
Of the 19 polled, over half predicted Atlanta would win the East. And of the 7 who picked the Mets? All of them said that the Braves would end up in 2nd. Only a couple even predicted a wild card for the Phillies and now they look like the clear favorite. Most thought that the AL Central would belong to the Indians and a few picked Roy Oswalt as the NL Cy Young. Both of these things now seem pretty improbable. And that is the fun in watching baseball. You can analyze it until you’re blue in the face, but baseball is baseball and you truly never know what might happen.
Now, with about a month left to play this season, many of the playoff spots are completely up for grabs. KC is the only team that is "officially" out of contention, but a few teams like the Pirates, Cubs or Devil Rays might as well be.
There are about 22 teams that have the possibility of still walking away with one of eight playoff spots. And realistically, about 15 teams that have a very legitimate shot at making it to October.
So, my question now is who are your predictions for the remainder of the season? Which scenario do you now see happening that you never would have said at the beginning of the season? An All-NY World Series? The NL Wild Card coming out of the West? The Tigers winning it all?
Basically, I’m looking for your picks of all the division winners, wild card winners and World Series team from both leagues. So, who’s it going to be? Cardinals over Yankees? Tigers over Mets? Padres over Twins? They’re all very real possibilities.
Come on, be brave and boldly make your picks. Look at it this way. You can’t be any further off than the ESPN crew was.