St. Louis Cardinals: If nothing changes, winter is coming early

Sep 30, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals General Manager talks with manager Mike Matheny prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals General Manager talks with manager Mike Matheny prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports /

The inability of the St. Louis Cardinals to defeat decent teams this year signifies something very bad indeed: Winter is Coming, and maybe even earlier than the premiere of Game of Thrones’ final season in mid-July.

On the morning of June 21, here’s how the St. Louis Cardinals stood in series against teams that had a .500 or above record as of that day: two series won, two series tied, and nine series lost. Yes, you read that right; we absolutely, positively cannot beat winning teams.

So what happens if we extrapolate this trend for the remainder of the 2017 baseball season? Well, at this point you might want to avert your eyes if you’re weak of heart. Put another way, consider this a SPOILER ALERT, as in, the only meaningful role this team may end up playing is as a September spoiler.

Right now, the team’s record against those clubs who’ve won half or more of their games is…don’t pass out when I tell you…14-27. That’s right, a .341 clip. So to be where they are today, the St. Louis Cardinals have had to beat up on losers, and that they have, with an 18-10 record and a .643 winning percentage.

Let’s be somewhat gracious and assume that the team won’t play quite that badly against contenders, but also not that well against also-rans.

We’ll for sake of this argument assign a .400 percentage to the Cards’ games against those currently at .500 or better, and a .600 percentage to those games versus all others.

We won’t try to guess the home-road splits, as they balance out pretty well — there are slightly more games away from Busch, but a few more home games against the better teams. All in all, the balance on geography seems a wash.

After reviewing the results, we can’t put it much more bluntly than this: The results are not pretty.

Here’s the good news: the number of games against better teams is significantly downhill from here. Of the ninety-three remaining games, only thirty-five are with better-than-average teams, leaving fifty-eight with the lower half.

Given the St. Louis Cardinals’ assumed win percentages against the two groups, we’ll assign fourteen wins to the first set, and thirty-five against the rest.

Overall, that leaves the St. Louis Cardinals with an above-.500 performance for the final ninety-three games, a total of forty-nine wins and forty-four losses, for a .527 outcome. Not too terribly shabby on its face.

In fact, playing at that level for a whole season would create in the neighborhood of 85-86 wins, and might or might not net a wild card spot. As fans well know, it didn’t net the spot last year.

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But we’re not talking about a whole season. Instead, we’re laying those forty-nine wins atop only thirty-two to date. That cumulative total gives the St. Louis Cardinals a grand win total of 81.

In other words, an average team. And even if you give the team even further benefit of the doubt, keeping intact the to-date .643 percentage against lesser teams, the Cards only pick up a couple wins, bringing the total to 83-79. Almost surely that will not suffice for a playoff spot.

If we assume for a moment that this result will come to fruition, let’s speculate on what this says about the Cardinals.

The above says that it would take a significant turn of events with the current team to make a credible run for the postseason. It says that even adding a difference-maker could fall short if the remainder of the team continues as-is.

Even the very best guys available are unlikely to add more than 2-3 wins, so even with a trade, the team is going to have to prove its potential regardless; a savior just won’t be enough to save them.

On the other hand, hope does spring eternal, and we’ve seen teams string wins together seemingly out of thin air.

In fact, one of the most notable such runs came literally out of thin air, from high-altitude Coors Field. In 2007, the Colorado Rockies won fourteen of their last fifteen regular-season games en route to being swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

Can the Cardinals produce a similar second-half miracle? There’s nothing so far to suggest it, but indeed, stranger things have happened. They just don’t happen all that often.