Are the Cardinals a playoff team ?

The St. Louis Cardinals have won the most World Series Championships of any National League team in the history of the sport, 11.  It has become a right of passage for Redbird fans to expect their beloved Birds to make the Postseason once the calendar turns to October.  St. Louis has reached the National League Championship Series in each of the last 4 seasons.  They are 2-2 in those matchups, both losses came to San Francisco.  The Cards are off to a 33-18 start to the season, one of the best starts in franchise history.  With 111 games left, if St. Louis posted a virutally .500 record of 56-55 the rest of the way, it would finish with 89 victories, which is likely good enough for a playoff spot.  Last season the Cards won 90 games en route to the NL Central crown.  The 2 NL Wildcard teams, the Pirates and Giants won 88 games.  So barring an unforeseen collapse this year, the Birds on the Bats are likely going to be playing in October.  Is the current roster good enough to make a World Series run ?

 

So far they’ve been able to withstand the losses of Ace Adam Wainwright and 8th inning set up man Jordan Walden.  First baseman Matt Adams will likely miss the rest of the season after his quad injury required surgery.  Veteran Mark Reynolds steps in at first base and some Cardinal fans are calling for the team to make a trade to acquire more protection at the position.  If Reynolds wasn’t on the current roster, he would be exactly the type of player that would fit nicely in this spot.  Reynolds, who has hit at least 20 homeruns in seven straight seasons, will be given every opportunity from Manager Mike Matheny to lock down the position.  If Reynolds fails, then the organization will have to look in another direction.

 

The most intriguing challenge for Matheny will be to find playing time for his five outfielders: Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Jason Heyward, Randall Grichuk and Peter Bourjos.  Holliday is the mainstay in left field and will be in the lineup everday.  Heyward, who has struggled, could see his playing time reduced if his bat doesn’t start to heat up.  For now, Heyward will be the choice most days in right field for Matheny, but there is no doubt Heyward has been a major disappointment thus far.  His sample size has been small, but he hasn’t hit for the power that the club has hoped for and his Gold Glove defense hasn’t been as good as advertised.

 

Jon Jay has returned from a stint on the disabled list, but it’s unsure whether or not his surgically repaired wrist is 100 percent and what production he’ll provide.  Jay is batting just .248 and 25 of his 27 hits have been singles.  Jay plays a solid defensive centerfield, but is limited by his weak throwing arm.  Jay should be really pushed for playing time by the exciting Grichuck who has shown an electric bat and the ability to make every defensive play in the outfield.

 

Then there’s Bourjos who appears healthy again after offseason surgery on his hip.  Despite his great speed, Bourjos hasn’t been an asset on the base paths.  He’s been throw out stealing 5 times, while swiping just four bases.

 

Who will be the consistent 8th inning set up man to get the game to a red hot Trevor Rosenthal ?  Seth Maness has been a solid reliever and ground ball machine, but seems to be a better option when runners are on base rather than on the mound to start an inning clean.  Kevin Siegrist is showing that he is back and healthy.  His ERA is a solid 2.08.  Interestingly, Lefties are batting .308 against Siegrist while righties bat just .185.

 

Rosenthal has put up All Star numbers, an ERA of .074 with 15 saves in 16 chances.  His walk rate is way down since going exclusively to the stretch and abandoning the wind up.

 

The starting rotation has been rock solid, leading the Majors with an Earned Run Average of 2.70.  Jaime Garcia has been very good since returning to the rotation, but how long can his shoulder hold up ?  Will the team make a trade for a pitcher or hitter ?  Only time and performance and health will tell.

Right now, all is well in Cardinal Nation, but in baseball things change quickly.  Stay tuned, but it looks like another exciting Summer is in store for Redbird fans.