Tha Sports Junkies 101

2016 St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals Antony K via


St. Louis Cardinals

A look into the successes and failures of the St. Louis Cardinals and how they fit into the playoff mix

Coming off an NL Central division title in 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals were hoping to continue their success into the 2016 season. With the improvement of the Chicago Cubs and bumps along the way, the Cardinals find themselves in the thick of a playoff race with less than a month left in the regular season.

If the season were to end today, the Cardinals would not make the playoffs as they trail the New York Mets by a half game for the second NL wild card. The wild card is St. Louis’ only hope as they trail the best team in baseball, the Cubs, by 16 games in the NL Central.

The Cardinals have four games remaining against teams ahead of them in the wild card standings. Those four games all come against the San Francisco Giants starting on September 15th. Two games separate the Cardinals and Giants in the standings so the outcome of the NL wild card race could hinge on this series.

At 75-67, the Cardinals have had a pretty good offensive season. They have scored 697 runs as a team which ranks 5th in the majors and is only 12 runs less than the Cubs. With a .447 slugging percentage, the Cardinals rank 4th but their run differential is only +77.

Second baseman Jedd Gyorko is a big reason why the Cardinals offense ranks among the best in baseball. His 26 home runs lead the team but his .244 batting average could be improved. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty is having a very solid season as he is batting .279 with 21 home runs and a team leading 81 RBI’s. Veterans like catcher Yadier Molina and third baseman Matt Carpenter are also turning in great seasons for the Cardinals. The two have combined to hit 26 home runs while Carpenter’s 4.1 WAR leads all Cardinal position players.

Pitching has been average for the Cardinals this season and that has attributed to their struggles. They have allowed 620 runs this season which almost cancels out their great offensive year. Usual ace Adam Wainwright has an ERA over 4 in 29 starts this season. With Wainwright having a rough season, fellow starter Carlos Martinez leads the team in ERA (3.05), wins (14), and strikeouts (144). He has made 27 starts this season while 18 of those starts have been quality starts. Martinez has thrown 171.1 innings this season which rank only behind Wainwright for most on the team while his 4.5 WAR leads all Cardinal players. Jaime Garcia and Mike Leake have made 28 and 26 starts respectively but they both have an ERA north of 4.50. They have been innings eaters for a Cardinals team that lacks rotation depth.

Seung Hwan Oh has been a great bullpen arm for the Cardinals this season. He has a 1.87 ERA and 17 saves this season while also recording 14 holds. Oh’s 72.1 innings are the most by a Cardinals reliever this season. His solid play has stabilized the Cardinals bullpen and has given manager Mike Matheny a go-to option in the latter innings of games.

With six games against the Cubs and four games against the wild card leading Giants remaining on their schedule, the Cardinals hold their playoff fate in their hands. The NL wild card is between the Cardinals, the Giants and the Mets. If the Cardinals can keep hitting the ball and scoring runs like they have all season, they might find themselves in the playoffs. If they do beat out the Mets or Giants they would still face a one game play-in game against one of those teams. The winner of that play-in game would face the Cubs which presents a whole different set of challenges within itself.

The Cardinals have enough talent to at least make the playoffs but would quickly run into more talented teams which would eliminate them from contention. Expect the next three weeks to be interesting for the Cardinals and for major league baseball as a whole.