With 52 games left, tied for the second Wild Card and a few teams on their tail, what are the Cardinals chances of pulling away?
The Cardinals are 10.5 games behind the Cubs with 52 left. It’s definitely possible for them to come back (remember 2011?), but not very likely. So assuming they don’t, where do we sit with the Wild Card race? First, let we should break down who’s in contention. As you probably know the Dodgers hold the first Wild Card spot right now, and they are 3 games in front of the Cardinals and Marlins who are tied for second. Behind us are the Mets and Pirates (2 games back), and the Colorado Rockies (3 games back).
Based on how teams are looking and strength of remaining schedule, what’s going to happen?
First, let’s take a look at strength of remaining opponents, and home vs. away games remaining for the teams in contention. I’m assuming the Dodgers will be one of the two teams in the mix, so I’m not diving more into them. That definitely might not be the case, but it’s a conservative approach, so if they end up falling out it will only help the Cardinals.
Cardinals: 24 games at home, 28 games away. Opponents have a winning percentage of .498.
Marlins: 28 games at home, 24 games away. Opponents have a winning percentage of .487.
Mets: 26 games at home, 26 games away. Opponents have a winning percentage of .461.
Pirates: 27 games at home, 27 games away. Opponents have a winning percentage of .502.
Rockies: 27 games at home, 25 games away. Opponents have a winning percentage of .502.
There’s some slight variation, but everybody is roughly in the same boat here. The biggest disparity is that the Pirates and Rockies have schedules 8% harder than the Mets. And all teams have similar home vs. away games remaining. (Side note: the Cardinals having 4 extra away games might actually be a positive).
Other than the remaining schedule, it’s important to look at how each team is doing currently (in regards to injuries, momentum etc.) and how they might finish out the season.
The Rockies: Currently hottest of the teams, the Rockies have gone 7-3 in their last 10. But their stud shortstop, Trevor Story, is out for the season, and with the hardest schedule of these teams, it’s tough to look at them as a serious contender.
The Pirates: Although Pittsburgh is right in the race, they have many games remaining against the Cubs and Cards. And most negatively, a Pirates broadcaster said just two days ago “It appears as though they don’t care.” Hearing that after the team went 1-5 against the Brewers and Braves last week is a big sign of concern.
The Mets: Despite the easiest remaining schedule and bringing on Jay Bruce, they still don’t seem to be in a great place. They’ve gone 3-7 in their last 10, have dealt with a plethora of injuries, and their hitting is having serious issues, sitting at second-to-last in all of baseball in runs scored. They’d need a serious momentum shift to become a serious contender.
Worst team batting averages with RISP in MLB's expansion era (since 1961):
1. 1969 Padres, .201
2. 1968 Mets, .204
3. 2016 Mets, .205
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) August 6, 2016
Only the Cardinals and the Marlins remain. And of course I’m biased, but that’s a battle I’m willing to take. The Marlins have solid pitching, sitting 8th in the majors in runs allowed. But their hitting currently sits at 21st. And the Cardinals are 10th in pitching and 4th in runs. Plus, outside of Ichiro Suzuki, the Marlins are very inexperienced. So down the stretch when winning games, and staying relaxed is crucial, the Cardinals will have the leg up.
Of course, anything can happen, but here’s the takeaway: The Cardinals are in a position where they can entirely control their fate. The majority of their remaining opponents are below .500, the competition they’re up against all have some form of issues, and we have a roster of strong hitters and pitchers that have been in these situations before.
It might be a wild last two months, but I really do believe, from a statistical and roster standpoint, as well as in spirit, that the Cardinals will prevail and capture a Wild Card Spot.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports