The St. Louis Cardinals have shocked the baseball world and are very close to securing a spot in the 2021 MLB playoffs.
The Cardinals had brought in some key players during the offseason, most notably Nolan Arenado, but not too many people expected them to finish above the San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, and other alleged contenders.
Against all odds, however, they are about to lock up the second Wild Card spot in the National League (the Los Angeles Dodgers have the first one) with an 87-69 record.
The Cards hold a six-game advantage over the Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds, their closest rivals in the Wild Card standings.
That should be enough to make it to the playoffs in the next day or two, unless something unexpected happens in the final week.
The Streaking Cardinals Have Shocked The World
St. Louis is currently, without a doubt, the hottest team in Major League Baseball.
— Cards Convo ™ (@CardinalsConvo) September 20, 2021
They have won their last 16 games, the longest winning streak by any team in the 2021 campaign.
The Cardinals haven’t lost since September 10, when they dropped the first game of their series against the Reds 4-2.
From that point on, they have been unbeatable.
Judging by weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, the Cardinals have two outstanding hitters in their lineup, four above-average performers, and several decent batters.
The wRC+ stat takes into consideration the player’s offensive contributions and outcomes, and adjust those numbers to park and era, resulting in a single digit that will tell us if that hitter is above or below-average.
Any number over 100 means above-average production, and any register under 100 is below-average.
O’Neil and Goldschmidt have a 140 and 138 wRC+, respectively.
That means they have been 40 and 38 percent above-average.
Arenado has contributed 33 homers and a 114 wRC+, while Dylan Carlson (108 wRC+) and Sosa (106 wRC+) have also been good.
Bader and Yadier Molina are defensive aces at up-the-middle positions, and the pitching has been surprisingly good.
I do think it would be remarkable if the Cardinals made the playoffs with a starting pitching rotation of Adam Wainwright (40 years old), Jon Lester (37), J.A. Happ (38), and Miles Mikolas (33).
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) September 20, 2021
The team is, additionally, enjoying the return of their best pitcher, Jack Flaherty, who recovered in time from a shoulder injury.
How Far Could They Get?
Right now, it’s virtually a lock that the Cardinals will face the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in the Wild Card game.
That is unless the Dodgers somehow overtake the phenomenal San Francisco Giants.
While the Dodgers are rightfully considered the heavy favorites to win the NL Wild Card game, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Cardinals find their way into the Division Series.
It would be an extremely heart-breaking development for Los Angeles given that they are 100-56, or 13 games ahead of the Cardinals.
However, the Cardinals are the hottest team in baseball right now, and if they keep their winning ways into October, they may enter the postseason at even odds to win against the Dodgers.
On paper, Los Angeles is clearly better (the Giants are, too), but one-game playoffs often involve some randomness and a little luck.
Things may very well swing to the Cards’ side.
Only time will tell, but there is one thing that’s true: no one in MLB is playing better ball than the Cardinals.