I’m normally as big an optimist as you’ll find. Yet, when I peer through the future lens of the 2017 season, I see a St. Louis Cardinals team that is unlikely to ramp up to the level needed to grab a postseason spot.
I wrote over a week ago about how the team’s performance against good teams was abysmal. The St. Louis Cardinals have managed to up their game in those games over the past week, dialing up a 4-2 record against the Diamondbacks and Nationals. Progress appears upward-bound, right?
Not so fast.
Most recently, the Redbirds took two of three from the impressive Washington club. However, those guys are hurtin’ for certain. Adam Eaton and Trea Turner, two of their key cogs, were gone to the DL. Plus, the Nats bullpen is as Swiss cheesy as our own. While we should celebrate the result, it isn’t particularly significant of much.
The Dbacks series was actually more notable, as the Cards came two stinky relievers away from a sweep. The 5-2 loss, in which both Seung Hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal imploded, reminds us that even with improved play, the Cards must, most evenings, build an insurmountable lead in the first six innings to secure a victory.
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In that loss, keep in mind the Cards didn’t exactly score five runs so much as the Arizona side handed us three.
The Dbacks did their best Redbird porous defense impression, only for St. Louis to hand those runs, plus one, right back.
With that being said, the Cards finished the first half of their games with a truly mediocre 39-42 record.
For an almost impossibly rosy view of the second half, consider that playing .600 ball — despite their being little evidence that could happen with the team’s current resources — the Redbirds would finish with 88 wins.
So to expect playoff contention, you really need to expect at least one of these three things to happen:
- Neither the Brewers nor Cubs will hit that level.
- One of the Dbacks or Rockies will fold like a house of cards, and none of the other teams bunched near St. Louis — either in their division, or the Braves, or the Mets — will outperform our lads.
- The Cards themselves have to come up with a significantly better performance in the second half.
I really, really want it to happen. I, however, am not holding my breath.
The Cards starting pitching is not likely to be better than it’s been so far. In all likelihood, it could regress closer to the mean (as we’ve already seen from Mike Leake after a torrid run). The Cards have had some stretches of decent fundamental play, but that is not the norm.
Thanks to the absence of a major difference-maker, we’re still asking most of our hitters to play up one level from what’s reasonably expected of them, leaving us in a continuously perilous position for expected run creation.
The bullpen? Well, yes, about that. Ahem.
It’s just not reasonable to peer into the second half, and expect something better than what we’ve seen in the first. Do I wish and hope as much as the next guy? Well, of course.
But absent a miraculous turnaround, my real desire is to see newly-minted President of Baseball Operations, John Mozeliak, and Vice President and General Manager, Mike Girsch, use the next three months (and the two trade deadlines, as needed) well. Their job: to objectively assess our personnel for the future.
In the meantime, I’ll be suspending my disbelief as a fan, but as an analyst. I can’t create something that’s not there.