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.