Before you call me insane, just read the article.
The Cardinals are not exactly rolling right now. They’re 3-7 in their last ten, got rolled over by the Cubs, and to say the least did not impress in their first two games against the Giants. There are some glaring issues with this team, most of which have to do with the performances 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate. And there’s also this:
Brandon Moss, Jeremy Hazelbaker, and Tommy Pham are 1 for their last 77 (.013 BA).
— stlCupofJoe (@stlCupofJoe) September 13, 2016
Of course, that was before Moss and Hazelbaker had mini-breakouts against the Cubs. But the situation at the plate is still not too bright. Matt Holiday is on the DL, and Aledmys Diaz is being eased back into things. The hit or miss offense has been missing too frequently, and help is not on the way. Plus, with a starting rotation that features only one starter with a sub-4.00 ERA (not including Luke Weaver or Alex Reyes), the Cardinals’ success depends on whether or not the offense is hitting homers.
Looking deeper, the Cardinals’ focus this year has generally been around scoring more runs than the other guys, rather than allowing less. That’s ambiguous, but you get what I am saying. The Cardinals have allowed, on average, 4.03 runs per game, which is the worst out of all the NL contenders. On the other hand, they have scored, on average, 4.82 runs per game, which is tops for NL Wild Card contenders. Yet, we all know that pitching wins championships. And if the Cardinals do win the Wild Card, they will be lining up against the best starting rotation and arguably one of best bullpens in the form of the Chicago Cubs. They are allowing a ridiculously low 3.05 runs per game. That’s nearly half a run better than the 2nd best Nationals. The only way to beat the Cubs in a playoff series is to dominate their offense, which does not seem likely with the tools the Cardinals have at their disposal. The odds just are not in our favor, especially considering the performance against the Cubs last week.
You still with me?
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Jack, we might not win the World Series, but the Cardinals always get hot in the playoffs and it for sure is better to at least make the playoffs and lose than not to make it all.” And for most teams, I would agree with you. But, this isn’t the year for that. Here’s why:
First, let’s think about the health of the current roster. The Cardinals already have Marco Gonzales, Seth Maness, and Mitch Harris out with elbow injuries that will have them sidelined when the season starts next year. There are no promises that Lance Lynn will be the same after his surgery either. They already rushed Jordan Walden back too quickly, and he had to shut down for the rest of the season. The Cardinals are already a step behind, which means they have to be even more careful when dealing with the future. And that brings the focus to Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes.
Cardinals odds to make 2016 playoffs:
August 19th: 72.2%
September 3rd: 53.9%
September 16th: 43.3%
— High Heat Stats 📎 (@HighHeatStats) September 16, 2016
Of course, the experience of pitching big games down the stretch is great for their growth. But there is an added element of stress and pressure, which isn’t exactly healthy. Reyes has been shuffling back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation, so his arm is not in the shape it was when he was fully stretched out. Weaver is already about 13 innings over his career max. He should make about 2 or 3 more starts in the regular season, hopefully of 6 innings each, so come October, he’ll be nearly 30 innings over. Add a playoff series, and Weaver could be pushing 40 innings over his single season max. And with the likelihood of a World Series win pretty low, do the Cardinals want to risk shelving two crucial arms for the entirety of the 2017 season when they’re already down major arms?
There is also a motivation factor to consider. I don’t know about you, but the Cardinals have not been showing that typical fight that I like to see out of them. Yes, they had a nice comeback win against the Pirates. But I know many people will agree with me when I say that there just isn’t that fire under this team that we’ve come to expect. It just seems that with every series, the Cardinals are digging themselves a deeper hole that they can’t climb out of. Getting nearly no-hit in a huge game against the Cubs, getting dominated by Cueto on Thursday night, playing a downright messy game last night behind a rookie pitcher. A snub from the playoffs this year could light a fire under this team that could drive them to new lengths. Mike Matheny has come under criticism for his decision making, but right now it seems that this team needs a reality check. They need a wake up call, and missing the playoffs could be the thing that shows the Cardinals that average will not cut it in 2017.
I am hoping for a change in this Cardinals team over the next few weeks that makes me look like an idiot. But at this point, a relaxing October might be the best option for our beloved Redbirds.
So, you made it to the end of the article. If you still think I’m insane, tweet at us @cardsblog. Or if you want to get personal, @jbesser22.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry USA TODAY Sports