The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Wild Card Winner Batting .500 in Reaching Championship Series

Running a free message board has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, I engage in some interesting discussions and often get ideas for topics to explore. On the other side of the coin, some people are excessively and irritatingly negative, even when the big picture is favorable.

For example, take regular season won-loss records and division titles. Some insist that these factors are a primary determining factor in post-season success. As in, “The Cardinals won just 90 games and barely finished in first place. They have no chance in the playoffs.”

Anyone who has any knowledge of how Major League Baseball post-seasons have evolved in recent years already understands how short-sighted such comments are.

I have said it before and I will continue to repeat it over and over. A lot of regular season wins and the division title is nice, but reaching the playoffs then getting hot in October is far more important.

In other words, a wild card berth can easily be enough. Recent results indicate those clubs have not been disadvantaged the post-season.

Here in 2014, we have one of the most vivid reminders of that fact – make that two reminders. Two of the four finalists in the hunt to win the World Series are wild card teams – clubs that could not finish first in their own division during the regular season. They are the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants.

In fact, in the three years since the second wild card was added, three of the six Championship Series included that league’s wild card winner. The other was the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals.

One does not have to go back very far to find a Wild Card World Champion – with the most recent example being the 2011 Cardinals.

Reviewing the single wild card years of 1995 through 2011, 17 seasons – the message is clear. Wild card teams have always done well in the post-season.

During those 17 years, there were of course, 34 Championship Series. Over half, 18 times to be specific, the wild card team was represented in the league finals. 10 of those 18 clubs won their LCS and advanced to the World Series, including both league champs in 2002.

In what matters most, five of those 10 wild card teams went on to win the World Series – Florida in 1997 and 2003, Anaheim in 2002, Boston in 2004 and St. Louis in 2011.

I have said it before and I will continue to repeat it over and over. A lot of regular season wins and the division title is nice, but reaching the playoffs then getting hot in October is far more important. If you don’t believe me, look it up.

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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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