The St. Louis Cardinals are pushing toward postseason (perhaps surprisingly) and should hope to maintain the second wild card for the best chance of advancement.
The St. Louis Cardinals have had what many fans would call a frustrating season. Having said that, however, the team is currently maintaining the second wild card spot in the National League. The Cardinals are trailed by the Marlins (1.5 games back), the Pirates (2.5 games back), and the Mets (3.5 games back) in the wild card standings.
The St. Louis Cardinals currently, as of August 27, sit a mere 1.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants who hold the top wild card spot in the National League. The Giants trail the Dodgers in their division by only 1.5 games. Should the Giants overtake the Dodgers, the Cardinals would still hold the second wild card spot, and this is a good thing.
The second wild card spot, for some, might not be the goal to which a team should aspire but this year’s St. Louis Cardinals should count their lucky stars for this spot for a few reasons. First, the 2016 Cardinals have taken a few knocks with injury, a few surprises in performance, and a few managerial blunders. Second, the Cardinals hold a better road record than home record.
Let’s take a look at the record a little deeper and how this could well impact the wild card game. The 2016 St. Louis Cardinals hold a record of 30-35 when playing at Busch Stadium and a 38-24 record when playing on the road. This is odd for Cardinal teams as Busch Stadium has served as a welcome respite for teams of old.
With this record in mind, it would arguably behoove this year’s team to play the single wild card game on the road, no? But wait, there’s more…
If we keep this line of thinking active, let us examine the team or teams that the St. Louis Cardinals might face in a wild card game. Should the season end today, the Cardinals would face the Giants in San Francisco. The Giants hold a home record of 36-28 so they would certainly be a tough competitor.
Should the Cardinals take the top wild card spot from the Giants, the Giants would visit Busch. The Giants hold a road record of 34-30 so this venue change would somewhat equalize the chances of a Cardinals advance in postseason.
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What if the Dodgers and Giants swapped places? If the Dodgers were holding the top wild card spot, and if the season were to end today, the St. Louis Cardinals would travel to Los Angeles. LA holds a home record of 40-26 which would make them an even more formidable opponent than the Giants.
If the Cardinals were able to top the Dodgers in the wild card standings, and if the Dodgers were to visit Busch Stadium, the Dodgers would bring their road record of 31-31 and might not fare as well. This would certainly seem to be a better chance for the Cardinals but is also quite unlikely.
I’m sorry to also share the elephant in the room: 2016 is an even year and, don’t look now Cardinals fans, we all know that the Giants have magic in even number years. The Giants are in the top five MLB teams with win records in even years. The Giants hold a record in even years since 2010 of 274-212 (.564 win percentage). In odd years, the Giants’ record is 246-240 (.506 win percentage).
All this to say that this year’s St. Louis Cardinals should do all they can to hold the second wild card spot and then hope for magic in the one game with the Giants (the opponent at this point). In this regard, let us all hope that Mike Matheny is wise enough to use Carlos Martinez in this one game winner-take-all.