In case you didn’t hear, the Cardinals didn’t make the World Series this year.
The Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks are in. With no Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, or Astros, this should be a much more interesting series. As I started breaking down those two teams, I got sidetracked and couldn’t help but wonder how the Cardinals would match up with either of these teams.
I knew the Cardinals’ pitching would probably be at a disadvantage but surely they would have positional players that would make up the difference. We have Goldschmidt and Arenado after all. I wanted to use stats and not my bias to see just how far off this team is from being able to compete with the two teams that made the World Series this year.
Looking at payroll numbers from Spotrac, the Rangers spent the 4th most in all of baseball with $251 million. The Cardinals had the 17th highest with $153 million, and the Diamondbacks were 21st with only $119 million spent. So, money is not an issue.
For a touch-point, I will use Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Mark Bailey wrote a very good article for the Baseball Bible explaining why this is still a great statistic to determine the worth of a player to his team. My numbers are taken from Baseball-reference.com.
Team Offense (doesn’t include defense)
The Cardinals would barely eek past the Diamondbacks with hitting. There is still a huge gap in pitching and defense, the two areas we know we need to improve. I just didn’t know just how far off we were from becoming World Series-worthy.
It looks even worse when we compare individual parts of each lineup. I am comparing the players that were the biggest part of the team for the biggest part of the year. That is why you see Montgomery with the Cardinals, not the Rangers, and why I have DeJong instead of Winn at shortstop. These numbers include hitting and defense.
If we compare the Cardinals to the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals have only four players of the eleven with a higher WAR than their counterparts. Comparing the Cardinals to the Rangers, they only have four that exceed the players from their team. Four to seven isn’t good. The element that really sticks out is that the Cardinals players with the highest WAR are Contreras and Goldschmidt with 3.4 each. The Diamondbacks have six players with a higher WAR than that. The Rangers had three that were higher than the Cardinals' number one. If you use 2.5 as being above average, the Cardinals have 3, the Rangers 7, and the Diamondbacks 6 players above average.
In case you are wondering, the Diamondbacks have six players of the eleven with a higher WAR than their Ranger counterparts. That is as even as it gets. The defenses are even and the Rangers only have a slight edge in pitching. The Rangers ranked fourth in home runs and the Diamondbacks 24th. But looking at the speed factor, and moving runners over the Diamondbacks ranked higher than the Rangers. This should be a fun and fairly even series.
As you watch this series, think about these numbers and how much work needs to be done this off-season for the Cardinals. Letting my Fanside show just a little bit, it’s going to be fun this winter to see how we put together a team that will be able to compete.