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Cardinals playoff chances – What others said

Much has been written about the late success of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals being at least partially fueled by the team’s familiarity with having been (prematurely) counted out time and time again. The skepticism was not totally surprising, given their 10-½ game deficit in the wild card race on August 25 and a 1.1 percent chance of making the playoffs around that time.

After the 10-20 collapse of the Atlanta Braves over their final 30 games helped open the door for the Cardinals to clinch a playoff berth on the final day of the season, national “experts” were not impressed.

I went back and referenced three of these prediction articles from 30 days ago. None of six CBS writers picked the Cards to survive the first round. Not a one of the 25 ESPN writers polled had St Louis escaping the NLDS, either.

Yahoo did their predictions differently, by seeding the eight playoff teams. They seeded the Cards eighth, or last. Of course, anyone could have done that simply by ranking the teams based on regular-season wins.

Interestingly, in their view, the Cardinals’ post-season opponents actually became easier in each successive round. They had St. Louis’ NLDS opponent Philadelphia (102 wins) seeded first, with the NLCS losing-Milwaukee Brewers fourth and the World Series-runner up Texas Rangers fifth (96 regular-season victories each).

Especially given the success rate of wild card teams in recent times (five World Championships in the last 15 years, including 2011), rankings that seem to echo the regular-season standings just aren’t worth much.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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27 Responses to “Cardinals playoff chances – What others said”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    The Brewers had a terrific W-L record at home during 2011. Yet the Cards went up to Milwaukee and swept the Brewers in a 3 game set, during September. The chance of this happening, based on the betting odds in Las Vegas, was very low, about 3%.
    This sweep was a clue that the balance between the two teams had changed, owing to the improvements to the StL roster.

    • RCWarrior says:

      There is no doubt Jumbo…….when the Trade with Toronto took place it set the bullpen up to be a strong point for Tony’s matchups. Then Rhodes came on board…… remember Repz wasn’t used much at first so he, initially was not really seen by Tony as a viable Loogy. So Rhodes was the loogy of choice initially. Also Edwin coming on board allowed KMac to head back to the pen where he was probably better. All this was well and good but remember, the team initially went south, then Furcal came on board and he jump started the offense and solidified the defense at the SS position, Then the team took off. And the rest is history as the Cardinals got hot and, when Charlie went all out to beat the Braves, the Cardinals were allowed in the playoffs where they dominated the competition. A Cinderella story of sorts.

  2. blingboy says:

    It is time for my annual plea to sign Rick Ankiel and Todd Coffey. Are you out there, Mo?

    Also noticed that two of Jumbo’s favorites, Mighty Miles and Mighty Cesar are free agents.

  3. blingboy says:

    Nice job by Yadi getting the Gold Glove.

    Its amazing how a couple of changes turned things around defensively for the Cards this year. Looking sharp out there may have contributed to the winning attitude that overcame them. There is nothing like solid D up the middle.

    • RCWarrior says:

      Furcal was excellent and Jon was an upgrade up the middle as well. Its not talked about much but I believe you are right in that soldifiying the middle defense was a key component in turning the team around. And Yadi was his usual self behind the dish.

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        It was a lot easier and more fun to watch the routine plays being made, and a real treat to see some great plays being made when a ball was hit up the middle.

        Now we gotta work on not grounding into DP’s at the plate. That was a joy killer.

        Maybe they were just playing more dramatic that way. They really had to have thier backs against the wall to excel. It sure made for a roller coaster of a ride!

  4. Kansasbirdman says:

    The 1.1 percent chance Brian mentions reminds me of a great quote from Dumb and Dumber when Mary tells Lloyd the chances of them being together is “A million to one” and he responds “So you’re saying there’s a chance!”

  5. Kansasbirdman says:

    Any thoughts on when Mo/the FO will decide on a manager? I haven’t even heard any interviews being conducted. I am guessing he will work the process with our free agent negotiations as they can be interconnected too.

    I wonder when we will hear leaks of offers being made to AP. I imagine there will be a lot of reporters/sources working on that one.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I am just finishing up a two-part series on the managerial search that will start on the main site tomorrow. I am going at it a bit differently than most.

      Believe it or not, I first broke the news of Pujols’ last big contract, but doubt it will happen this time. 😉

    • crdswmn says:

      Word on Twitter is there have been Terry Francona sightings in St. Louis.

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        I don’t know about Francona, too much to process, he has been a winner, but the reports coming out about the team discipline in NE are troubling.

        I have been a Madden fan for awhile. I also respect Charlie Manuel and Ron Washington. I think Oquendo could do an excelent job, and I would think that would give us the best chance of getting Dunc back (though any manager would be silly to let him go).

        I think Riggleman has the same analysis issue as Francona, lots of pros to be weighed with lots of cons.

        • crdswmn says:

          I am a Maddon fan and would love to see him manage the Cardinals. That said, I don’t think it is fair to lay all the blame on the Boston debacle on Francona. We don’t know all the particulars there. Maybe Francona’s hands were tied there. I have heard Red Sox ownership is not particularly admired. Besides, I’d like to think most of the Cardinals players wouldn’t behave in that fashion. It would be difficult for me to envision Carpenter and Berkman allowing that to happen. That may be naive of me, but I am going to go with that unless proven otherwise. 🙂

  6. blingboy says:

    Here is a well stated take on Ryne Sandberg’s appeal. Saw it on the MLBTR site.

    The Cardinals have had Hall of Fame-caliber managers in the dugout for the past 31 seasons. Whitey Herzog has a plaque in Cooperstown and Joe Torre and La Russa, the Cardinals’ only other full-time managers since 1980, are strong candidates to be inducted into the Hall of Fame themselves. Sandberg, who entered the Hall of Fame in 2005, would continue the Cardinals’ tradition of high-profile managers.

    • Nutlaw says:

      I think that Epstein is doing his fans a great disservice by not considering Sandberg whatsoever.

    • blingboy says:

      Here is another take on Sandberg, from the Bellville paper.

      Sandberg has no experience as a major league skipper. He has no experience as a winner. . . . Would he want to bring his people along if he became manager? If so, could the Cardinals be serious in trying to purge a regime that played in four of the last eight World Series and replace it with a bunch of guys who could teach our young players “The Cubs Way?” . . . .
      Hopefully the front office is only doing this to make Jose Oquendo seem like a better choice.

    • blingboy says:

      The thing about Sandberg that bothers me is that the Cubs organization knows him like the back of their hand and they aren’t interested. Haven’t been, before Theo and now. There’s got to be a good reason for that. A really good reason.

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    Brian: do you have any citation or link on the 1.1% probability the Cards could make the playoffs? Was that a betting line or a sabremetrician?

      • JumboShrimp says:

        The intrinsic problem with a forecast generated by CoolStandings is its bias to base the future based on the past. Early this season, we had Ryan Franklin, Tallet, and the other southpaw, for instance. Freese lost a couple of months to a broken bone. Albert lost a couple of weeks. Holiday lost some time. Craig lost a month or more. And I expect all this is still used by a program like CoolStandings when it calculates the odds of future wins. It probably does not adjust its predictions to reflect guys returning to health or additions via trades.

        Now the Cards were probably longshots in late August, nonetheless. Its just that the odds were not quite as bleak as 1 percent. I do not know what the betting line was (since I dont gamble, but maybe Westie follows such info, I dont know). Betters will being to factor new data, like trades and injuries or recoveries to health. So a betting line is probably a better predictor of the future.

        If the odds quoted in Vegas were 10 percent the Cards had a chance to make the playoffs, I would not be surprised, though I do not know actually what they were in reality and am not claiming that I do. Maybe the Cards odds to reach the playoffs were as low as 5 percent, again I do not know what the betting data were. I would be surprised if the gamblers were as low as 1 percent, because they are investing their money and will look to invest it smartly.

  8. JumboShrimp says:

    Interesting story about the gamble. Too bad I do not gamble, because I would have taken those odds and might have broken Vegas.
    I never felt the odds were that long. I believe in Pujols, Carpenter, and others. So I would have taken the bet with pleasure.
    But I will qualify this comment as follows. I truly do not care if the team finishes last or first. Instead I am interested in the players achieving all they can achieve, given their abilities. I am most interested in effort. Mo and Tony saw a chance in July and knew the team needed help, so made trades. Then you play all the games out.
    Its like running it out to 1B. The odds are the runner will be out, but run it out anyway.
    Consequently I do not get discouraged or even watch the standings, because I take them one pitch at a time. If the lads give good effort and finish 3rd, fine, this does not bother me in the slightest. This outlook may help explain why I did not care if the team were games down or was not surprised that they won it all. I am not getting my hopes up that they will win, rather hopes up that they play well and put themselves in a position to win. There are so many losses in baseball, its important to learn how to put losses aside and prevail spiritually.

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