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Will the Cardinals Make the Playoffs? A Sampling of National Predictions

Let’s take a tour of the Interwebs to gauge the national baseball-pundit view of the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals.  A big thanks to “Bernie Show” executive producer Travis Green for a big assist in compiling this information.

USA TODAY: 

A seven-person panel (Ted Berg, reporter; Scott Boeck, digital editor; Steve Borelli, Sports Weekly editor; Steve Gardner, fantasy editor; Gabe Lacques, baseball editor; Bob Nightengale, columnist; Jorge L. Ortiz, reporter) … two of the of seven have the Cardinals winning an NL wild card spot;  all seven pick Cubs winning the division. … Our friend Nightengale has the Cardinals missing the postseason but tabs Jack Flaherty as his choice for NL Rookie of the Year

ESPN  Part One:

First up, a 29-member panel. The breakdown: 28 of the 29 pick the Cubs to win the division with the Brewers collecting the other first-place vote … the  consensus pick for the two NL wild card spots were the Brewers and the Rockies

ESPN Part Two:

A smaller five-person group of David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford Doolittle and Sarah Langs voted on the MLB  “Power Rankings” and rated the Cardinals as the 8th best team in MLB finishing with a record of 87-75.

Bradford Doolittle wrote the analysis on the Cardinals:

Best case: While hopes are high that Marcell Ozuna can boost the offense with the power bat it missed last season, the Cardinals’ best chance to break into baseball’s elite lies with its deep starting rotation. St. Louis needs runs to hang with the deep rosters of the Cubs, Dodgers and Nationals, but if the Cards break through with a surprise NL pennant, it’ll be because they outpitched their chief rivals with more high-quality innings from their rotation than their opponents can muster.”

Worst case: If Ozuna returns to his pre-2017 levels, it might lead to a worsened attack. That’s not because the old version of Ozuna was a bad player. No, it’s more because last year’s Cardinals outfield was actually pretty good and needs the improved Ozuna to up its production. Meanwhile, for all that rotation depth we’re emphasizing, the Cardinals are headed into the season without a clear-cut bullpen pecking order. Maybe it works, or maybe leads start disappearing en masse.

Make-or-break player: After missing the entire 2017 season, this much remains true of pitcher Alex Reyes: No one on the Redbirds’ staff can match his upside. Reyes’ role for the coming season remains unclear while the club tries to figure out the best way to leverage his immense talent while protecting him during his first season after elbow surgery. A healthy and resilient Reyes could be the ingredient that allows the St. Louis pitching staff to crystallize into something special.”

FanGraphs 

The analytical site distributed ballots to its network of writers and bloggers … in the NL Central, the Cubs received 29 first-place votes to the Brewers’ 7 and the Cardinals’ 4 … the four first-place votes for St. Louis came from Eli Ben-Porat, Birchwood Brothers, Brad Johnson and Paul Sporer …. the Cardinals (21 votes) and Arizona (18) were the top two vote-getters for the NL wild-card spots … overall, on the question of which NL teams will make the playoffs, let’s count the FanGraph votes in order: Washington (40), Los Angeles (39), Chicago (36), St. Louis (25), and Arizona and Milwaukee tied with 19 … the FanGraphs forecasting model has the Cardinals with 87 wins and qualifying for the No. 1 league wild card.

CBS Sports Staff: 

The picks were made by five analysts:  Jonah Keri, Matt Snyder, Dayn Perry, Mike Axisa and RJ Anderson. All five chose the Cubs to win the division … four of five put the Cardinals in second place… and three of the five predict a wild-card spot for the Cardinals.

SI.com’s eight-writer panel:

The participants: Tom Verducci, Ben Reiter, Jon Tayler, Stephanie Apstein, Jack Dickey, Michael Beller, Connor Grossman and Gabriel Baumgaertner. All eight selected the Cubs to finish first, and five of the eight have the Cardinals ticketed for a wild card …

Gabriel Baumgaertner has the Cardinals making it all the way to the NLCS but losing to the Dodgers.

Jack Dickey’s choice for a surprise team is the Cardinals:  “I’m still not sure how baseball as a whole wound up so lukewarm on St. Louis,” he wrote. “Two playoff misses after five straight appearances—two misses, by the way, in which they outscored their opponents by a combined 123 runs) and suddenly they’re the Padres?  Marcell Ozuna, fresh off a 37-homer season in Miami, will add some punch to an offense that needed more of it, and full seasons from Paul DeJong and Tommy Pham (assuming they play close to how well they played in 2017) will add another win or two. There are some question marks in the back ends of their rotation and bullpen, but there’s upside too.”

Let’s run through the others…

MLB.com polled “more than 50 experts” and:  Cubs take the NL Central; Cardinals win one of the two NL wild card spots.

Yahoo Sports, six-person panel: Jeff Passan, Tim Brown, Chris Cwik, Mike Oz, Liz Roscher and Mark Townsend … the Cubs go 6 for 6 as division champs … three of the six slot the Cardinals for a wild card … Mike Oz picks Marcell Ozuna to be the NL HR Champ, and Tim Brown picks Luke Weaver to be the NL Breakout pitcher of the year.  (Editor’s note: Tim Brown is a smart man.) 

Sporting News:  SN’s four MLB staff writers – Ryan Fagan, Jason Foster, Joe Rivera, Tom Gatto — go with the Cubs atop the NL Central …. two of the four say the Cardinals are destined for the wild-card game.

FiveThirtyEight.com:  predicts the Cardinals to finish as the 8th best team in the majors and the fourth-best in the NL with a record of 86-76. (Editor’s note: That would be in line with the last two seasons combined in which Cards averaged 84.5 wins and were 9th in MLB and 4th in the NL in winning percentage.)  

ZIPs projects the Cardinals to finish 9th overall, 4th in the NL. Record:  85-77.

PECOTA: Cardinals 85-77,  9th overall, 5th in the NL.

Thanks for reading …

And happy opening day.

–Bernie