St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals

September 26, 2015

Can Cards avoid Wild Cards?

You've got one strong MLB division that finds its top three teams clinching playoff berths while the rest of the MLB divisions can only claim one team entitling itself to the post-season.

Talk about baseball muscle, the NL Central Division is ripped.

With the best record in the MLB at 97-57, the St. Louis Cardinals still haven't reached a comfortable zone to clinch the division crown, even as they approach a 100-game season. That's because the second best record in the MLB at 94-60 belongs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are breathing down the Cardinals' neck, just three games behind.

And the team that has surprised everyone, including themselves, the Chicago Cubs, own a 89-64 record, which happens to be the third best record in the MLB (shared with the Kansas City Royals).

Imagine being down in third place in your division, but able to make these claims:
  • two wins better than NL East New York Mets, who have yet to clinch
  • two wins better than NL West Los Angeles Dodgers, who have yet to clinch
  • one win better than AL East Toronto Blue Jays, who have yet to clinch
  • five wins better than AL West Texas Ranges, who have yet to clinch
  • same record as AL Central Kansas City Royals, who have just now clinched

No other MLB teams have secured a playoff spot other than the:
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Kansas City Royals

The Cardinals may have been the first to clinch a playoff berth, but they are fighting for their playoff lives trying to avoid slipping into one of the Wild Card spots.

Why?

Both the Cubs and Pirates have a bigtime starter already figured on the slate to be available for that one-game shootout called the Wild Card Game. Jake Arrieta for the Cubs and Gerritt Cole for the Pirates provide great odds for their respective clubs versus anyone, including the Cardinals.

Configure these aforementioned three clubs in a multi-game series and St. Louis has a clear advantage when it comes to starting pitching rotations. Of course, it's baseball, anything can happen.

And anything happening is the Cardinals big fear. Should be the team that clinches first can coast to the end of the regular season with only apathy and overconfidence to combat going into the post-season. The Cardinals, however, have this constant pressure to avoid that Wild Card.

A danger faced by all three Central Division contenders is playing the also-rans, meaning Milwaukee and the Cincinnati Reds. When teams have been so far out of contention for such a long time, they play loose, which is conducive to success in baseball. Quite simply, the bottom-feeders have nothing to lose, so they can play relaxed as their respective seasons grow short and vacations are just around the corner in early October.

St. Louis still plays
  • 2 games vs. Milwaukee, 32 games out, also-ran danger
  • 3 games vs. Pittsburgh, a potential NL Central race deciding series
  • 3 games vs. Atlanta, nearly 100 percentage points below .500, also-ran danger

Pittsburgh still plays
  • 2 games vs. Chicago, of great impact on NL Central race
  • 3 games vs. St. Louis, a potential NL Central race deciding series
  • 3 games vs. Cincinnati, 33.5 games out, also-ran danger

Chicago still plays:
  • 2 games vs. Pittsburgh, of great impact on NL Central race
  • 1 game vs. Kansas City, make-up game from May of great importance to both teams
  • 3 games vs. Cincinnati, 33.5 games out, also-ran danger
  • 3 games vs. Milwaukee, 32 games out, also-ran danger

And every day's games for the NL Central contenders changes the breakdown of this entire post.