The Cardinals World Series odds are long, as Vegas views the Cardinals as no real threat to reign supreme come October. Well, could they?
A $1 bet for the Cardinals to win the World Series would yield $100, for anyone concerned with that sort of thing.
— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) September 23, 2017
The above tweet popped up on my feed after the Cardinals thrilling ninth inning comeback over the rival Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. My first reaction: that seems steep. The Cardinals were rolling, and are still within striking distance of the second prized wild card spot.
The road ahead is long and rife with obstacles.
Alternatively, the playoff gauntlet the Cardinals would have to run would be nothing short of epic. It would start with a road playoff game against Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke, one of the league’s most dominant arms of the last decade, who’s still performing at peak level. Let’s imagine, for a second, that Carlos Martinez out-duels Greinke, and the Cardinals earn a real playoff series.
The Cardinals reward for toppling the formidable Diamondbacks? Goliath himself. In the best of five series vs. the Dodgers, the Cardinals would face Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Yu Darvish. If they were to get through three games—color me doubtful—they’d get (presumably) Rich Hill, after which, the titan, Kershaw, would toe the rubber once again.
But sports are dumb, and within the last year alone, we’ve seen the impossible happen—never let your Falcons fan friends forget that they blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl—so let’s work under the premise that David does slay Goliath.
In this path we’re going down, we’ll assume that there are no upsets, which is definitely not going to happen, but I’m somewhat constrained in the scope that I can cover in this piece by several limiting factors, namely that I’m a college kid with stuff to do, and while I’d like to shirk my responsibilities, submitting a full-fledged dissertation probably wouldn’t be fair to my editors, who are also college kids.
As follows, next up for the Cardinals would be the Nationals. The Nationals would trot out an obscene lineup, featuring Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman, all of whom are running wRC+ of at least 130. While not the 3-4 legitimate aces the Cardinals would have faced against the Dodgers, the Nationals would have an imposing playoff rotation of their own.
Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are two of the game’s truly elite, both placing within the top-six in 2017 fWAR among pitchers. Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark would bring up the back end of the rotation. Gonzalez and Roark have submitted quite successful campaigns in 2017, both having topped 2 fWAR, which indicates that they have been above-average players. The Nationals are a behemoth, but the Cardinals catch lightning in a bottle, and it’s on to the World Series.
From August 24th through September 14th, the Indians played 22 consecutive professional baseball games at the highest level of competition (well, there was a series vs. the White Sox in there) and lost zero of them. The Indians demonstrated an unfathomable amount of consistency, resiliency, and pure talent; they showed the immense heights they’re capable of reaching.
The Indians would come out strong, kicking the Series off with former and potential 2017 AL Cy Young, Corey Kluber, who is one of the three (or so) best pitchers in baseball and has an outstanding postseason track record. I hate to write anything off, but Kluber is as close to a trump card as there is in baseball; if the Cardinals were actually to pull this off, they’d probably have to do their damage during games 2-6.
Keep in mind, games 2-6 would be no walk in the park. The Cardinals would have to face Carlos Carrasco, who’s 8th in the MLB in fWAR among pitchers, and Trevor Bauer, who’s had a strong season in his own right. The Indians position players are elite too, as the team ranks 3rd among all teams in total fWAR produced by batters.
Naturally, the Indians also have arguably the MLB’s most dominant bullpen led by the league’s most dynamic reliever. Andrew Miller’s 2016 postseason run was thrilling, featuring a series of unforgettable performances and an ALCS MVP Award. Miller is dominant in the regular season, but his dominance is magnified in October.
He can be deployed in any situation; he’s unhittable. When Indians manager Terry Francona sends Miller to the mound, he’s essentially saying, “sorry, better luck next time.” And while Miller can’t pitch every available relief inning, the Indians have options: Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Cody Allen, and Danny Salazar would all be available for Tito to deploy.
The Cardinals would have toppled one of the best of his era, slain Goliath, and overcome the unstoppable force from DC just to dive headfirst into this pool of sharks.
Is this last-second push just fool’s gold, the prelude to yet another Cardinals season ending in disappointment?
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs
Photo Captured By: USA Today Sports- Charles LeClaire