Well here we are. It is nearing the beginning of September, and the St. Louis Cardinals are in the middle of a division race. Never thought this would happen in June did you? Neither did I to be fair. What an unbelievable turnaround for this Redbirds team. Now, it is time to focus on getting to the end and making these playoffs.
Quick disclaimer, I am aware that the Cardinals are not in the playoffs right now. This is just an analysis of what the best and most likely pathway to the playoffs is for the Cardinals. Basically, what they should focus on to make the playoffs.
The Cardinals have two paths they could make it into the playoffs: the NL Central crown, or through the wild card. Obviously, most Cardinals fans want the NL Central because that means they beat the Cubs, which is always so sweet. Plus, they would avoid playing the Dodgers. However, the NL Central may not be the best route to the playoffs for the Cardinals.
Comparing the Cardinals and Cubs schedule, they have nearly identical schedules based on the teams they play, except for one or two differences. It still balances out between the two teams. Both teams play nine teams under .500 and three teams that are over .500 (including when they play each other, so two teams above .500 that are different). Basing it off of the schedule, the Cubs are more likely to win the division over the Cardinals. It will all come down to those series where they play each other. As we have seen recently, that does not bode well for the Cardinals. So, they must turn their focus to the Wild Card.
Currently, the Cardinals sit four games out of the Wild Card. Of course, that is not ideal in the slightest. But, when looking at the schedules between the Cardinals, Rockies, and Diamondbacks, it looks more favorable for the Cardinals.
We already know how many teams the Cardinals play that are above and below .500, so now we focus on the Rockies and Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks play only five teams above .500 and seven teams below .500. Still, not ideal for the Cardinals, but it is better than nothing for them. However, for the Rockies, they play six teams above .500, which is the highest among the three. That is where the Cardinals can gain the most ground.
The Rockies are a very inexperienced team with a lot of rookies in their starting rotation and in their starting lineup as well. They do not have much experience when it comes to a playoff run, unlike the Cardinals. The Cardinals know at least what it takes to make it to the playoffs. Although Mike Matheny gets a lot of criticism from the media and fans, he does know how to get a team to the playoffs. That is important for this year. He can help guide this Cardinal team.
When looking at division matchups, the Cardinals have to play a MUCH weaker NL Central. They have to play the Reds twice and the Pirates twice. Of course, those are no guaranteed wins. But, it is much easier than what the Rockies have to do.
The Rockies have to play the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers twice. With how the Dodgers have been playing, no one wants to face them. That is a scary thought when coming down the home stretch. The Dodgers are by far the best team in baseball, and having to play them twice is a huge hindrance to the Rockies’ playoff chances. Plus, the Rockies have to play in probably the best division in baseball, the NL West. Having an inexperienced team in a tough division could become a disaster for the Rockies.
With the Rockies and Diamondbacks both playing in the toughest division in baseball, that could open the door for the Cardinals to squeak into the playoffs. The Cardinals schedule down the stretch is favorable, and the experience aspect is big when comparing them to the other two teams in the Wild Card. So, if you’re a Cardinals fan, try to keep a close eye on the Wild Card, rather than the NL Central. It is the best chance for the Cardinals to make it into the playoffs.
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