The St. Louis Cardinals are approaching the 2017 with aspirations of catching the Cubs, but with expectations of securing a Wild Card spot.
The St. Louis Cardinals ended their string of five consecutive playoff appearances, and three consecutive Nation League Central titles last season coming up one win short of a wild card tiebreaker. This also came after a season in 2015 in which the cardinals produced a record of 100-62. Bummer.
The Chances of the Cardinals catching the Cubs in 2017 is extremely low, and that’s okay. The Cubs have banked on losing seasons, top draft picks, and trading away veterans and prospects just to reach where they are right now.
How hard will it be for the St. Louis Cardinals to reach the Wild Card? On average, since 2002, Major League teams have had to win 91.725 (which we’ll round to 92) games in order to reach the wild card. Last season, the Cardinals won eight-six games.
A full season from Aledmys Diaz and Alex Reyes, the return of Lance Lynn, and the offseason additions of Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil, it seems fair to expect that the Cardinals will reach a bare minimum of ninety-two wins.
I am also currently in the “Cardinals third baseman for the final game is not currently on the roster” fan club. It also seems fair to expect improvement from the Cardinals outfielders Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk as they continue to mature.
The Cardinals are going to have even more reinforcements this season. If any pitchers go down, unlike last season, we have the depth to withstand it. Luke Weaver Austin Gomber, Harrison Bader and Carson Kelly will all be waiting for their chance to contribute. Another name to watch is Breyvic Valera who batted .347 in 257 PA last season in AAA in 2016.
But the Cardinals aren’t a shoe-in.
Last season, the National League Wild Card winners were the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants. They both won eighty-seven games and are just as ready to compete this year as they were last year.
The Giants have added all-star closer Mark Melancon to their bullpen, and expect to debut their top two prospects this upcoming season. They will also see a full season of Matt Moore in a Giants uniform in 2017. Moore was menacing in the playoffs against the Cubs. Bottom line: the Giants will be right back in it again next year.
The Mets have re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, and are looking for a bounce back season from Jay Bruce (or they may trade him). The Mets can look forward to a full season from prospects Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto, and New York is also counting on a healthier season from their powerful starting rotation.
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Another team you might see in the running is the Rockies. While it may be unlikely, I think the Rockies could at least come close to contention this season. With the acquisition of Ian Desmond, who is planned to play first base, the Rockies have plugged the hole in their defense. I mean seriously. Their lineup goes: Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Ian Desmond, Trevor Story, David Dahl, and then Tony Wolters. Listen, I know pitching there is impossible, BUT they had a very successful season last year from Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson, flashes of brilliance from Jon Gray and Chad Bettis, and a short debut of top prospect Jeff Hoffman.
This is not going to be an easy year for the Cardinals. As of right now, we’re no longer the big dog in the Central. We’re living in the Cubs world now. It isn’t impossible for us to reclaim the division; we just need to get back to what made the Cardinals prosperous– good pitching, quality defense, and hitting with runners in scoring position.
In my own personal opinion, I’m not a fan of the wild card. I don’t mean I dislike the “Wild Card”, I just don’t like the fact that it’s a one-game playoff. It’s bizarre, because nothing else in baseball is one game. Everything is a series.
The regular season consists of a bunch of three- or two-game series, the division series is five games, the Championship series is seven games, and the World Series is also seven games. So why make the Wild Card only one game?
Apparently some people think baseball is boring, and those people think that a one-game playoff is more “exciting”. Which it probably is, but that doesn’t really make sense to me.
The game that teams play to get a spot in the playoffs is one game and then the rest of the playoffs isn’t. So do the “bored” people just watch that first game, turn off the TV afterwards because baseball is too boring, and then wait till someone wins a ring? If that’s the case, then just watch elimination games.