The Cardinals Are Working Their Voodoo Magic Again
The St. Louis Cardinals are leading the National League in home runs. Just as we all predicted. And once again, the St. Louis Cardinals are on the verge of making the playoffs.
Just as we all should have predicted.
Never Doubt the Cards
No matter what seems to befall the Redbirds of St. Louis, they overcome. Last year they won 100 games despite finishing 25th in homers and 24th in runs scored. They've dealt with the loss of key young prospects, aces, and free agents (some of whom landed with their bitter intra-division rivals, the Chicago Cubs). They continually recycle new people in, both from the minors and in free agency, and they never miss a beat.
They have made the playoffs five straight seasons and six out of the last seven. And, heading into Wednesday's action, they are clinging to a one-game lead for the second wild card spot following Tuesday's improbable 9-7 comeback win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Some years, the Cardinals win with a ridiculously high batting average with runners in scoring position. Others years, they do it with outstanding starting pitching. This year, they're doing it with a barrage of dingers, 201 so far, trailing only the Baltimore Orioles' insane 218 long balls.
On Tuesday night, they hit a first inning grand slam to give them an early 4-0 lead, but by the time the ninth inning rolled around, they were down 6-5. Fangraphs' win expectancy had the Pirates at 85.4%. When Jedd Gyorko grounded out, the Pirates were 92.1% to win. When Brandon Moss lined out, it was 96.8%.
Two outs, no one on, down by a run. The Cardinals had a 3.2% chance of winning the game.
So of course, their voodoo magic struck.
Need a quick recap of that crazy 9th inning? Here you go! #STLCards pic.twitter.com/LbiJ2oPjdj
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 7, 2016
Matt Carpenter went deep tying the game at 6-6. Pittsburgh was still at 59.4% to win, but Yadier Molina followed with a double (52.6%), and Randal Grichuk put the Cardinals in front with a two-run blast, making it 8-6. The Cardinals were now in the driver's seat with a 92.7% chance of winning the game. Jhonny Peralta piled on with a solo homer of his own, upping St. Louis' cushion to 9-6.
The Cards pulled out a huge win and gave the Pirates a crippling loss. It was the Pittsburgh's 8th straight defeat and pushed them 5.5 games out of the final wild card spot. They're just about done, with our models giving the Pirates a meager 1.4% chance of making the playoffs.
Carpenter's game-tying home run was particularly noteworthy because it was the club's 15th pinch-hit homer of the season, setting a new MLB record. The previous record of 14 was held by the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants, both of whom did the feat in 2001. Eight different St. Louis players have a pinch-hit bomb this year.
It was also the 25th straight game in which the Cardinals had gone deep, tying the all-time National League record, set earlier this year by the San Diego Padres.
St. Louis has two young, highly-regarded prospects who have been big power additions this season. Grichuk has notched 22 dingers and Stephen Piscotty has added 20. On top of that, shortstop Aledmys Diaz, another good young player, has added 14 more.
But it has been the contributions of veteran players having career years that has really buoyed the Cardinals this season. Gyorko leads the team with 26 bombs. His career high coming into the season was 23 back in 2013 with San Diego, and he had hit 10 and 16, respectively, in the the previous two seasons.
Moss has added another 25 bombs of his own, reminiscent of his 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Oakland Athletics in which he hit 30 and 25 jacks, respectively. And Carpenter, the team's leadoff hitter, has 18, one year after he hit 28. In the three seasons prior (2012 to 2014) he totaled 25 homers in 1,766 plate appearances.
St. Louis is by no means guaranteed to make the postseason. The New York Mets are just one game behind them, and New York has (on paper) the easier schedule. But our algorithms say the Cardinals have a 68.0% chance of making the playoffs, better than the Mets' 57.5%.
Given that it's almost become a right that St. Louis makes the playoffs every year, one shouldn't be surprised too see them in the mix. And it won't be shocking if they use some more late-season magic to reach October once again.
I don't believe in voodoo. I don't believe in voodoo. I don't believe in voodoo.