Outside of St. Louis Cardinals fanbase this season, all the talk seems to have focused on the Cubs and how good they are. Inside there has been some lamenting at times that the Cardinals can’t win the division.
In response to that I say: Remember 2011. That year the Cards finished second in the division to the Milwaukee Brewers, then proceeded to embrace the Wild Card and knock off the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers en route to the Championship.
There are some parallels between our team and that team from 5 years ago:
On the offensive side of the ball, we varied production. While we of course still had Albert that year, as well as Lance Berkman who hit 31 homers. We didn’t just rely on those two though as that team, like this one, had 9 guys with 10 or more homers. Guys like David Freese, Allen Craig and Jon Jay were showing their potential and possible long term future with the club…(Wow what a difference 5 years makes.) Yadi chipped in with 14, Holliday had 22, etc. While the 2016 Cardinals team will have more homers, the principle is the same: Many sources.
On the pitching side of the ball the similarities continue:
We had one guy with a WAR over 3 on that entire staff (Chris Carpenter in his last good year) otherwise we had solid performers in the rotation but nothing awer inspiring. The same is true this year. We have one guy over 3 WAR (Carlos Martinez). Looking at the two, the 2011 version had the better staff as they had 3 guys with 30 or more starts with an ERA under 3.60. Carlos looks like the only one who might do that for us.
So the 2016 version has more power, while the 2011 had better pitching. The most important parallel though is that both teams were Wild Cards and written off. Our divisional round opponent, the Phillies, went 102-60 that year, boasted a rotation featuring Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels (all having good years) and a solid lineup. We beat them in 5 games. Then we gaced a 96 win Brewers team led by a good offense centered around Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. We won that series in 6. Finally we faced another 96 win team in the World Series, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers had a staff similar to ours (one ace, several other solid starters) but had a better offense with three 30 homer guys in Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli (Nelson Cruz chipped in with 29 too). We beat them in 7 games.
So three rounds, three teams with better records, yet we won. For all of you guys out there depairing that we’ll have no shot even if we do make the playoffs, simply gaze back 5 years into the past. We did it then, and we can do it again.
Al always, thanks for reading.