It might not have had the dramatic finality that movies are made of, but last Sunday’s milquetoast 3-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays in Busch Stadium was probably the last gasp for the Cardinals playoff hopes in 2017.
It secured the team another losing series (1-2) and home stand (2-4) after dropping 2/3 to the Padres earlier in the week.
In fact, the Cardinals haven’t won a series since they took 2/3 from Atlanta three weekends ago (AUG 11-13). They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and now sit 6 games back in the NL Central and 5 games back in the Wild Card as the calendar flips over to September.
The math is getting very, very hard for the Cardinals.
The Cubs have won 4 straight games and are projected by FiveThirtyEight’s Elo model to end the season at 90-72. To get to 90 wins and (theoretically) tie the division, the Cardinals would need to win 23 of their remaining 29 games.
That would be a 79% winning rate (basically 8 of every 10 games for 4 straight weeks).
It’s not a likely scenario. And would place the feat with some of the all-time division title comebacks in the Wild Card era.
The Wild Card route to postseason ’17 appears to be an easier path.
Arizona is projected to finish at 91 wins, Colorado at 86 and Milwaukee at 84.
Since there are 2 WC spots, the Cards would need to get to 87 wins to qualify. Or 20 wins in the next 29 games (69% win rate).
To put it another way… the Cardinals will have to improve their roughly 51% win rate by at least an 18% point variance in the last month of the season to qualify for the playoffs.
Past history isn’t an indicator of future performance, no. But the old baseball axiom tends to be true more times than not… you are what you are as a baseball team by September.
The Cardinals? Don’t appear to be a team that can stack wins.
Here’s where the positive leaning people in your life will point out three things:
1 – The Cardinals still have 7 games against the Cubs and 3 games against the Brewers left to be played.
2 – The Cardinals will play 2 more games against the not so good Giants before getting the also not so good Padres for 4 games.
3 – Remember 2011? Anything can happen.
Sometimes they’ll hit you with a combo of two of these things. Maybe even all three.
And you know what? They’re not wrong.
The Cardinals aren’t offically eliminated from the playoffs.
But if you weren’t a fan of the Cardinals and you just happened to be looking in on their current situation? I don’t think that even the most optimistic among us would be betting much that the Birds will be playing October baseball beyond the 1st.
Photo: Sporting News