Nearly three quarters of the 2012 MLB season are complete, and the Cardinals currently stand in third place in the NL Central at 62-53, 7 games back for the division lead and 2 games back in the NL Wild Card race.
Does this situation ring any sort of bell?
A year ago today, the Cardinals held a 64-56 record, were 5 games back in the division, and 6 games back for the Wild Card.
Can you say déjà vu?
The Cardinals sit in a strikingly similar position as they did last season at this time, record-wise and in general. While last year they were comfortably in second place in the division and not chasing two teams, as they are now, the Cardinals were 8 games above .500, just one game separated from the 9 above that they are now. Purely team-wise, it was basically the same story. They were playing fairly good all-around baseball, but just couldn’t seem to gather up enough consistency to go on a big run and get over that “hump.” As we all know, the Cards would eventually fall to 67-63–10 games out of the division and 10.5 behind the Braves for the Wild Card–before having the miraculous combination of an excellent 23-9 run, coupled with an epic Braves collapse, which was just enough to win the Wild Card on the very last day of the season… and then from there, go on another unlikely run to win the World Series.
Now last year’s story was great and all, but the Cardinals can’t count on so many factors falling perfectly into place once again that would allow them to squeak into the playoffs by a hair–a 1.3% chance of making it after August 24th, 2011, to be exact, according to coolstandings.com (as the Braves had a 98.9% chance of making it). As the saying goes, lightning never strikes twice in the same spot, so the Cardinals will not be able to rest on their laurels and hope the baseball gods bail them out again. They simply can not afford any more cold stretches, and need to get hot very quickly, if they want to have a chance at replicating their October magic of last year.
Right now, the Cardinals have a 50.9% chance of making the playoffs–which is boosted because of the second wild card spot. I’ll gladly take a coin flip over being the enemy of the “Occupy Movement,” (the 1%… bad joke) but even that is hard to count on. The Cardinals clearly have the capability to be a playoff team, so now is the time they need to start really showing it, and maybe even work toward clinching a spot early instead of taking it right up to the final day, once again.