St. Louis Cardinals: Bring on the powerful Padres offense
By Matt Graves
Beginning our preview of the Wild Card round of the playoffs, we are comparing the St. Louis Cardinals offense to the powerful San Diego Padres offense.
On Sunday, the St. Louis Cardinals booked their ticket to the 2020 playoffs with their victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Because of tie-breakers and their winning percentage, they not only didn’t have to play their final two games of the season, but they were jumped all the way up to the 5th seed.
Unfortunately, that 5th seed means the Cardinals will be facing off against the San Diego Padres. The Padres finished the year 37-23 after having one of the best offenses in baseball. At the trade deadline, the Padres were easily the most aggressive team, and it worked out for them. If the Padres had been in any other NL Division, they would’ve easily won. Unfortunately for them, they finished second behind the 43-17 Dodgers.
However, that doesn’t mean that chaos can ensue during a best-of-three series ending with the St. Louis Cardinals moving on. Before the series starts, we are going to be going through the different positional groups to see how the Cardinals grade out against their first-round foes. First up is the offense.
At a glance
We know that the St. Louis Cardinals don’t have a great offense. There’s no way to avoid saying it. On the year, they ranked 22nd in batting average, 27th in slugging percentage, 19th in wRC+, 30th in ISO, and 14th in OBP. I’m sure you didn’t need to see it all laid out to guess that the Cardinals weren’t prolific this year.
On the other side of things, the Padres ranked 10th in batting average, 3rd in slugging percentage, 5th in wRC+, 3rd in ISO, and 8th in OBP. They are at least a little better.
Among their starters, the Cardinals had just three players above average by wRC+. Paul Goldschmidt (146), Brad Miller (121), and Harrison Bader (113) were the only three. Even though these three were above average technically, they all had their warts. Goldy didn’t hit for power, Miller batted near .200 from September 1 on, and Bader struck out 32% of the time.
Beyond these three, the Cardinals have seen flashes of greatness this year from Paul DeJong, Dexter Fowler, Kolten Wong, and Tommy Edman, but none of them have been consistent enough to look good overall.
For the Padres, they didn’t have a single player in their regular lineup grade out as below average by wRC+.
Led by Fernando Tatis Jr. (149 wRC+), Manny Machado (149), and Wil Myers (154), the Padres’ lowest-rated starter (minimum 20 games) was defensive catching wiz Austin Hedges at a 63 wRC+. Hedges only played in 29 games as well.
Every other player had at least a 100 wRC+. From rookie Jake Cronenworth to Jurickson Profar to former Brewers outfielder Trent Grisham.
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The Padres had four players break 10 homers, three of whom hit 15 or more. The Cardinals failed to have a single player hit more than seven. This was all playing in a home ballpark that statistically was more pitcher-friendly than Busch as well.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is just 21 years old and has a realistic shot at a top-3 MVP finish in the National League. The 27-year-old Manny Machado finally looked like the player who signed the $300M deal he signed before 2019.
I’m not sure what else to say. I could go around the diamond and look position-by-position, but the Padres are just simply light years ahead of the Cardinals offensively. There is not one place where the Cardinals are better offensively than the Padres. It isn’t unrealistic to expect the Cardinals’ offense to be even more supressed by Petco Park than what we have seen already, but that doesn’t mean there is no hope.
Comparing the two offenses side-to-side isn’t encouraging, but this is a three-game series. How many times has the lesser team beaten a much better team in a short series? That is what is going to make this year fun. There will be plenty of chaos and the Cardinals need the dice to go their way to make it past Slam Diego.
As we saw last year in the NLDS, good pitching beats good offense. The strength for the Cardinals is going to be their pitching staff, and they are going to need to leverage every bit of it. As good as the Padres are, they don’t have the postseason experience that this Cardinals team does. Even without fans, the stress will be huge on the unexperienced Padres. The Cardinals need to find a way to sneak by.