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Can the Cardinals Catch the Rockies and Brewers and Snatch a Wild-Card Ticket? Yes.

The Cardinals can catch the Brewers and the Rockies. Oh yes they can.

This isn’t a largely futile endeavor, like trying to chase down the first-place Cubs, who through Monday had gone 32-17 since the All-Star break to open a five-game lead over the third-place Cardinals.

The Cardinals can hone in on a more reasonable and realistic challenge: grab the second National League wild card voucher, good for an admission pass into the NL postseason.

As of Tuesday morning, the playoffs were still an unlikely possibility. According to the FanGraphs Playoff Odds the Cardinals have a 17.8 percent chance of claiming the second wild-card spot, putting their chances about even with the Brewers (17.9%). The Rockies, however, are still listed as a 57.9% probability. But I don’t think it’s as improbable for St. Louis as it seems.

Here’s why:

1. Colorado has been trending in the wrong direction since June 21. The Rox zoomed out to a fantastic start, shaping a superb 47-26 record in their first 73 games. But their climb stalled, and the Rockies were 26-38 in their last 64 games through Monday.

2. The Rockies’ pitching isn’t holding up. Their ERA over during this 26-38 slide is 5.23. And that includes a 5.61 rotation ERA that’s the worst in the NL since June 21.

3. The rotation attrition can’t be blamed on the offense-injected Coors Field. Over this 64-game time frame we’re looking at here, the Rockies’ starters actually have a better ERA at home (5.34) than on the road (5.99) … though the Rox relievers have been better away from Coors, with a road ERA of 4.17 since June 21.

4. Rockies closer Greg Holland has declined, dramatically, after a bulletproof beginning to the season. In his first 23 appearances Holland had a 1.09 ERA and averaged 12.04 strikeouts per 9 innings. His WHIP was an excellent 0.85. And home runs weren’t a factor; during those early weeks Holland gave up homers at a rate of only 0.36 per 9 innings. But in his last 27 appearances … ugh. Holland’s ERA is 6.48, his strikeout average has dropped, his WHIP has spiked (1.56) and homers are coming more frequently (1.8 per 9 IP.)

5. The Colorado offense is increasingly dependent on the Coors Effect. Since the All-Star break the Rockies have averaged 6.0 runs per game at Coors — and 3.8 runs on the road. That road scoring average in the second half ranks 12th among the league’s 15 teams.

5a. And with the road being such a significant factor for Rox, this is notable: After playing two games to conclude a home series  against the Giants the Rockies will travel for 14 of the next 17 games. And eight of their next 14 road games will be played in Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium) and Arizona. The Rockies’ road record is 33-34 this season, but check this out: since June 11, they’re a woeful 9-24 away from Coors.

Of course, the Rockies are only a part of this equation. A big part, yes. But the Cardinals have had their own problems in trying to play consistently good baseball on the road … or anywhere, really. With three games remaining in their series at San Diego, the Cardinals are 5-2 on a 10-game road trip. And their starting pitching has settled down a bit after an unnerving stretch.

You may be a little surprised to know that the Cards’ 27-22 record (.551) since the All-Star break is tied for eighth-best in MLB, and tied for fourth-best in the NL. The Cardinals have a better second-half record than the Brewers (22-25) or the Rockies (21-25.)

Thanks to the Memphis rock n’ rollers who have brought some noise and funk to this offense, the Cardinals are second in the NL in runs per game (5.10) since the All-Star break, and rank third in onbase percentage (.348) and OPS (.794.)  Since the All-Star break the Cardinals’ non-pitchers are No. 3 in MLB in park-adjusted runs created (115 wRC+) trailing only the Cubs (121) and the Orioles (119.)

Despite having to deal with so many pitching issues in recent weeks, the Cardinals are still No. 3 in the NL in run prevention during the second half, allowing 4.14 runs per game. The Cards’ arms must stay strong.

The Cardinals will have to play well to elbow their way past the Brewers and shove the Rockies out of the way. This team has duped us many times already. And if the Cardinals drift into another losing fog, I don’t think anyone will be startled.

Still, the Birds on the Bat have a chance for a wild card. That may be more about the Rockies’ cracking or the Brewers straining to score runs. The reason doesn’t really matter; the Cardinals have a shot at this.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Miklasz – Here Are Five Delightful (and Unexpected) Cardinals 2017 Surprises

  • LawrenceKScardsfan

    There can be no doubt that the Cards have a chance to make the playoffs. Certainly the current games behind can be overcome, for both the division lead and the wild card lead (though the wild card lead is more likely).

    Getting rid of Leake was a good thing. I know Bernie liked Leake to begin the season and blamed much of his woes on the defense behind him. But I was never convinced he was a good deal and his signing suggested panic instead of a reasoned approach.

    One loss I hope Bernie will come back to is the loss of Seigrist. I cannot for the life of me understand why he was put on waivers. Yes, he was injured this season, but so what? So was Reyes and we didn’t DFA him (I say this facetiously of course, but Seigrist was a good pitcher). If I had to cite a single reason why our season has been so problematic, I’d point to the bullpen.

    • James Berry

      Seigrist was a good pitcher 2 years ago(2015). He was even better than good 4 years ago(2013). But Matheny absolutely destroyed Kevin’s arm. He ran him into the ground and no longer can he get his fastball at 98-99. He was at 92-93 when we last saw him. That is a huge drop off for someone so young in their career. I’d expect that they tried to get a trade partner, but no one would bite. Best thing for him was to get far away from Matheny.

      • LawrenceKScardsfan

        Totally agree with what you say James. But wouldn’t it be easier to simply replace the manager? Bullpen churn has been a major problem for the Cards over the last three seasons.

        • James Berry

          Bull pens churn every season. Bull pen arms, save for the elite, are the most unpredictable parts of a team there is. It’s why signing anyone, other than the elite, for more than 2 years is a very high risk. Very often, but more so in past eras, bull pens were where young starters got their first taste of the bigs. Now, specialization is much more prevalent and organizations and even the pitchers know their likeliest of career paths by AA. Let’s take Tuiavalala for instance. He was a SS that was turned into a pitcher. He was touted, from an early age, to be the closer of the future. He was never really considered starting material. Now, at best, he’ll likely have a journeyman’s career as a 6/7 guy with an upside of being a setup man. He’s going to probably have some good years, some bad years, but mostly just some average years. That’s why he’ll probably pitch for at least 6 teams over that span.

          As far as changing managers goes. I think we’d mostly all like to see that happen. It will, someday, but don’t expect the next guy to be head & shoulders above Matheny in regards to running a pen. Few managers are really ever good at it and since most teams carry 12 or 13 pitchers on a staff, there are a lot of options to be wrong about.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            I agree – bullpen churn is a part of every season. But I still believe the Cards could’ve helped themselves greatly by acquiring a quality closer in the off season and using Rosie and Oh and Seigrist as setup men.

          • James Berry

            Oh was ineffective from the start of Spring Training. Seigrist has been injured for some time because of how Matheny ran him into the ground. We still would have lost Rosey to TJ surgery. Who were these closers we could have acquired?

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Plenty of data out there. Look it up. Or are you saying the Cardinals were unable to trade for closers (or bullpen help from which a closer might emerge)? The Cardinals just picked up Nicasio and he’s closed two games in a row. Bernie had a nice list of relievers/closers that competitors picked up at the trade deadline. Every team in competition for a playoff slot in the NL except for the Cardinals picked up bullpen help at the trade deadline.

          • James Berry

            You’ve proven nothing but your own arrogance. The really really bad list you posted some time ago are not and were not viable closers. So yes, who are these actual good closers with actual closing track records who could have been acquired?

  • dn3524

    As long as the bullpen is handled with the foolish “matchup” philosophy, this team cannot make the playoffs. Saturday is a perfect example. Mike Matheny has 1 reliever pitching exceptionally well….Tyler Lyons. Rather than keep him in, he chose Oh, simply because he throws righthanded. What makes more sense, leave in Lyons to either face or walk Posey, or replace Lyons with Oh, then Sheriff? Of course the answer is Lyons. Of course that is not what happened. Of course they lost.

  • geoff

    On the show today Bernie talked with some guy who is a frequent guest about the Cards trying to keep Lynn, bot thought it was a bad idea. They both agreed that Lynn was not having a fantastic year, and that it made more sense to go with all of the young guys with Wacha and Wainwright next year. They singled out the return of Reyes as a major reason that Lynn was not all that important. Neither of them mentioned that Lynn is back this year from Tommy John surgery, I know Bernie is at least aware of that while I’m not sure the guest is or was. I will be more than shocked if Reyes comes back off of TJ surgery and pitches anywhere close to 200 innings. You guys referred to Lynn as an average number three starter. I would say that , this year that might be true, any other year Lance Lynn is a horse. He may be, no, he is the most consistently good pitcher on the entire staff this year, and he isn’t even at full strength yet. I don’t know what it would cost to sign him but, I am sure that trying to find someone as good will cost a pretty penny, especially if the Cardinals have designs on contending for an entire season. If you want to see how fine young pitching holds up over the course of the year, simply look at all of these tank and rebuild teams because their pitching woes are pretty much what Bernie and his friend were advocating for the Cardinals. The Cubs had success after they tanked because they went out and hired expensive, one or two good years left pitchers who carried them to the championship. Their run is not as easy this year and they are going to have to replace over half of their rotation next season. I would bet a dollar against a do-nut that they will contact Lynn’s agent, as Mo has so cavalierly refused to do. I would love to hear suggestions from anyone about what pitcher the Cards have or could acquire who could fill Lynn’s shoes. Has Mo once again undervalued a member of the organization, while overvaluing others. This article is about reaching the post-season this year and the truth is, from what I have seen this season…If I need to win one game to continue the season, Lance Lynn gets the ball.

    • Jody Wassmer

      Weaver and Flaherty should make up for the loss of Lynn. Lynn’s given up a lot of HRs this season because he’s high in the zone a lot after the TJ surgery. That may never change. Lynn will get big bucks on the free agent market and the Cards feel they have the youngsters to replace him. Only time will tell if that’s a smart move.

      • Big T

        I agree with his high pitches yet he has a high number of swing and miss pitch ratios. Looking forward to Flaherty’s game tonight.

      • geoff

        Weaver particularly, and Flaherty both look they are going to be good but, as you said, it may well take both of them to make up for the loss of Lynn. That’s two guys to replace one, and I wouldn’t bet on Reyes coming back from TJ and pitching like Lynn has pitched this year. I think they will be hard pressed to replace a workhorse pitcher of Lynn’s quality. Mo thought he had that in Leake but he missed.

        • Jody Wassmer

          Pitching is always a big question. Mo was lucky to dump three years of Leake’s money. Who know how Reyes will respond to the TJ surgery.

          • geoff

            I will be surprised if Reyes is a regular in the rotation next year. The Cards do a good job of bringing players along. Can you imagine the whaling and gnashing of teeth next year if the Cards start three rookies in the rotation? I’m sure MM and Lili will be vilified. This year they were criminalized because they couldn’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear of a bullpen.

    • Big T

      Geoff, I agree Lynn is certainly the most consistent pitcher on the team to date. Weaver is not far behind but admittedly a small sample. Carlos Mart is the most dominant when he is focused. His two routine over throws cost him and the team two victories recently. The C mart who pitched against San Diego gets the ball.

      I believe the truth to the Lynn decision will come down to business. He wants to come back and that is a plus for it happening. However, if they spend big on a number 3 type bat no way they resign him. Weaver, Flaherty and Hudson are all rising stars. By signing him it would create a log jam that would cost us an unprotected prospect off the 40 man. Rule 5 draft protection is a shift in consideration when your farm is full of good talent. How many of their current outfielders are moved will play into this.

      I for one would love to see him resigned but their moves don’t point to this happening.

      • geoff

        I agree about the good Martinez…it’s his evil twin Skippy that I worry about. It looks like they have no interest in bringing Lynn back.

  • rightthinker4

    It sits up well for the Cardinals to get the play in game. It does for the Brewers as well. We have a few games with the Brewers, but a lot with the Cubs. As is well documented, the Cardinals don’t do well against teams in the Division.

  • badgerboy23

    Every host on WXOS seems to believe that Waino will be in the rotation next year? Why? Because he will be owed $19mil? I love Waino, he IS smart, he IS competitive, he IS a leader. But his curve is trending down, his breaking stuff was always set up by his heater, and he cant throw 85. Why is this going to change, especially given the history of the Cardinal medical staff? Reyes is not going to throw more than 125 innings (if that) Lynn is going to be gone, Martinez should be there, Wacha is always questionable. Right now, that leaves us Carlos, Weaver, maybe Wacha, maybe Reyes…….and a couple other guys that pitched most of the year in Memphis. It can be done, but it might be a 6 or 7 man rotation, and there will FINALLY be a good reason for MM to have 13 pitchers.

  • James Berry

    Sometimes, the worst thing that can happen is to make the playoffs. Especially for a fringe contender in need of quite a bit of re-tooling. Playoffs can be a lie for a players worth. Fool’s Gold.

    We have to get clarity on our OF mess. We have to get clarity on our BP mess. We have to get clarity on our SP mess. I’d be more than happy to have the Cards miss the playoffs again this year, if it spurred the FO in to the right course of actions.

    • Jody Wassmer

      Agreed! A playoff spot would allow MoTie and Dewitt to get away with doing nothing in the off-season expect their usual plan of hoping.

  • silencedogoodreturns

    The Cards end the year with three against the Brewers. THAT could be an exciting series…

  • Christopher Toth

    While I can buy the Cards could overtake the Rockies in pitching and the Brewers in scoring, I can’t overlook that thus far they haven’t been able to win games they’ve lost due to Matheny’s inept in-game managing.

  • Jim Parisi

    The wild card may get them in but I don’t think they’ll be in for very long. Too many boneheaded plays in the field and on the bases. Last night was a perfect example but they weren’t playing a good team and got away with their mistakes. I don’t think you can lose 3 players on the base paths and beat a team like Washington or the Dodgers.

    On a positive note it was great to see Bader pickup Piscotty after the failed safety squeeze and Jose Martinez had another solid game at the plate. It would be great if he could spend some time in the off season with Oquendo working on his defense.

    • Big T

      Jim – I would love the Cards to have a chip and a chair in the playoffs. Much different team than even a month ago. Getting some of these young players some playoff experience would pay dividends now and in the VERY NEAR FUTURE.

      Bader looks so much more confident and controlled this time up. Great to see Jose Martinez playing well. His defense definitely needs some JQ tutelage. I could see him developing into a first baseman, Outfield defense not so much.

      By the way our record against D Backs is 4-3, Dodgers 3-4, and Nationals 3-3. Go Cards!!