By Jack Besser, from Cardsblog.com
The Cardinals are not exactly rolling right now. They're 4-6 in their last ten, got rolled over by the Cubs, and did not impress in their first game against the Giants. There are some glaring issues with this team, most of which have to do with the performances 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate. And there's also this:
Of course, that was before Moss and Hazelbaker had mini-breakouts against the Cubs. But the situation at the plate is still not too bright. Matt Holiday is on the DL, and Aledmys Diaz is being eased back into things. The hit or miss offense has been missing too frequently, and help is not on the way. Plus, with a starting rotation that features only one starter with a sub-4.00 ERA (not including Luke Weaver or Alex Reyes), the Cardinals' success depends on whether or not the offense is hitting homers.
Looking deeper, the Cardinals' focus this year has generally been around scoring more runs than the other guys, rather than allowing less. That's ambiguous, but you get what I am saying. The Cardinals have allowed, on average, 4.03 runs per game, which is the worst out of all the NL contenders. On the other hand, they have scored, on average, 4.82 runs per game, which is tops for NL Wild Card contenders. Yet, we all know that pitching wins championships.
This just in: there is no rule that says you need to have five starting pitchers. There is also no rule that says you must have your starting pitcher throw until he reaches 90 pitches. Mike Matheny took advantage of that second statement when he yanked Jaime Garcia before the second inning was over.
If the Cardinals do win the Wild Card, they will be lining up against the best starting rotation and arguably one of best bullpens in the form of the Chicago Cubs. They are allowing a ridiculously low 3.05 runs per game. That's nearly half a run better than the 2nd best Nationals. The only way to beat the Cubs in a playoff series is to dominate their offense, which does not seem likely with the tools the Cardinals have at their disposal. The odds just are not in our favor, especially considering the performance against the Cubs last week.
You still with me?
At this point, you're probably thinking, "Jack, we might not win the World Series, but the Cardinals always get hot in the playoffs and it for sure is better to at least make the playoffs and lose than not to make it all." And for most teams, I would agree with you. But, this isn't the year for that. Here's why:
First, let's think about the health of the current roster. The Cardinals already have Marco Gonzales, Seth Maness, and Mitch Harris out with elbow injuries that will have them sidelined when the season starts next year. There are no promises that Lance Lynn will be the same after his surgery either. They already rushed Jordan Walden back too quickly, and he had to shut down for the rest of the season. The Cardinals are already a step behind, which means they have to be even more careful when dealing with the future. And that brings the focus to Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes.
Of course, the experience of pitching big games down the stretch is great for their growth. But there is an added element of stress and pressure, which isn't exactly healthy. Reyes has been shuffling back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation, so his arm is not in the shape it was when he was fully stretched out. Weaver is already about 10 innings over his career max. He should make about 3 more starts in the regular season, hopefully of 6 innings each, so come October, he'll be nearly 30 innings over. Add a playoff series, and Weaver could be pushing 40 innings over his single season max. And with the likelihood of a World Series win pretty low, do the Cardinals want to risk shelving two crucial arms for the entirety of the 2017 season when they're already down?
Before diving into possible 2017 additions, we must consider some general information regarding Major League promotions. Specifically, it is important to recognize that promotions happen for a multitude of reasons, as well as at different times throughout the season. In a plain sense, a promotion can occur when a player is simply ready to take the next step.
There is also a motivation factor to consider. I don't know about you, but the Cardinals have not been showing that typical fight that I like to see out of them. Yes, they had a nice comeback win against the Pirates. But I know many people will agree with me when I say that there just isn't that fire under this team that we've come to expect. It just seems that with every series, the Cardinals are digging themselves a deeper hole that they can't climb out of. Getting nearly no-hit in a huge game against the Cubs, getting dominated by Cueto on Thursday night.
A snub from the playoffs this year could light a fire under this team that could drive them to new lengths. Mike Matheny has come under criticism for his decision making, but right now it seems that this team needs a reality check. They need a wake up call, and missing the playoffs could be the thing that shows the Cardinals that average will not cut it in 2017.
I am hoping for a change in this Cardinals team over the next few weeks that makes me look like an idiot. But at this point, a relaxing October might be the best option for our beloved Redbirds.
So, you made it to the end of the article. If you still think I'm insane, tweet at us @cardsblog. Or if you want to get personal, @jbesser22.
So what is truly behind the Cardinals struggles at home? Teams are supposed to beat up on other teams at home while staying afloat when they go on the road. If you look at the Cardinals home/road splits, it's easy to see why they are struggling.