16 games really changed the perception of the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals season.
The Cardinals are as of this writing still currently on their 16-game winning streak, which is their longest win streak since they joined the National League in 1892. It is also the longest winning streak in the National League since the New York Giants won 16 straight in 1951, according to the Associated Press.
St. Louis Cardinals could be difficult out in playoffs
For Cardinals, it’s been nothing short of impressive at what is currently happening with manager Mike Shildt’s ballclub. During this winning streak, the Birds on the Bat are the best offensive team in baseball based on fWAR, wRC+, wOBA, and almost every single offensive stat you could think of, according to Fangraphs.
Of course, that has been led by the productions of Paul Goldschmidt, Tyler O’ Neill, and Harrison Bader, the latter recently earned NL player of the week, who have all been excellent during this stretch.
Over the summer, it didn’t feel like this team was capable of reaching the postseason. Consider the following:
1. During the summer, this team was beyond a mess. The Cardinals went 10-17 in the month of June, including losing three out of four to the Pittsburgh Pirates, series sweeps to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley, the Detroit Tigers at Comerica and the Cincinnati Reds at home, the latter of which was the first time since 1990 the Reds swept the Cardinals at Busch in a four game series, according to Cincinnati Inquirer. Opponents were outscoring the Redbirds by 42 runs.
2. Losses of starting pitchers like Jack Flaherty and Kwang-Hyun Kim and flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks to injuries, disappointing seasons with players like Carlos Martinez, Paul DeJong, and repeating blowups of save situations by closer Alex Reyes during unbelievably multiple points in the second half hurt the Cardinals.
3. The Cardinals solutions to fixing their problems this season? Finding old useless players that were somewhat were cheap but could eat innings. Wade Leblanc was signed the day after requesting his release from the Texas Rangers. TJ McFarland and Luis Garcia didn’t have jobs until Cardinals signed them in late June and early July respectively. Their July 31st trade deadline acquisitions were J.A. Happ, who had a 6.77 ERA in 97.1 innings and in his last Minnesota Twins appearance, allowed nine runs in three innings, and Jon Lester, who had a 5.02 ERA and 5.29 FIP in 75.1 innings with the Washington Nationals, all at the cost of only John Gant and Lane Thomas. The last two acquisitions were so bad that we at Call to the Pen already began to mock Jon Lester after his FIRST start with the Cardinals.
Considering the issues, you probably would’ve thought there was no way on God’s heavenly green earth that the Cardinals had any chance of playing in October this season. I personally would’ve called you a delusional Cards fan if you told me they were gonna make the postseason back in June. I honestly would’ve bet my house that the Houston Texans would have a better chance of succeeding without Deshaun Watson this season then the Cardinals making the postseason this. Fangraphs probably would’ve agreed with me. On August 8th, Fangraphs gave them a 1.3 percent chance of making the postseason.
Today, that number is now 100 percent. They have all but wrapped up the second wild-card spot in the postseason, capped off by the still continuing (as of this writing) 16-game winning streak and breakdowns from postseason race rivals Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, and San Diego Padres.
The move that the Cardinals made to help fix their struggling team? All of them have paid off. Happ has been solid with the Cardinals, posting a 3.97 ERA, in 47.2 innings. That number reduces falls down to around a 2.70 ERA if you take out his August 8th start against the Reds at Great American Ballpark, in the second of a doubleheader where Happ allowed seven runs in only an inning pitched. Lester, after his first two innings in his Cardinals debut against the Atlanta Braves in which he’s allowed six runs, has posted a 3.35 ERA since. Garcia and McFarland have solidified the Cardinals bullpen, which was at times leaky, posting a combined 2.72 ERA in 66 innings. Wade Leblanc is now currently on the Injured List but posted a very solid 3.61 ERA, 108 ERA+ in 42.1 innings.
Props to Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, President of Baseball of Operations John Mozeliak, and all the people in the organization, from the front office, to the managerial staff, and to the fans, for not giving up on this Cardinals team.
This Cardinals team is gonna be a dangerous opponent for the San Francisco Giants or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are in a struggle of their own down to the wire for the NL West Title. Whoever doesn’t clinch the NL West will have a tough matchup against the red hot Redbirds in that wild-card game on Wednesday, October 6th.
Neither team should take this Cardinals team as an easy opponent in the postseason. This Cardinals team played pretty competitively against both teams. The Cardinals went 3-4 against the Dodgers and beat the Giants in the season series 4-2.
The Cardinals have shown historically that you should never count them or take them for granted, especially in the postseason. That has been proven multiple times in their history, from the heroics of David Freese and Lance Berkman in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, to heroics of Pete Kozma and others in the 2012 NLDS Game 5 against the Washington Nationals, and many more moments that would make this article way too long than it needs to be.
The Cardinals don’t die till they are out. They have shown that they don’t quit until the ballgame is over. That’s the Cardinal Way. That has always been the mentality around not only this organization, but also Cardinal Nation: the best fans in baseball.
This team is a dangerous opponent. You might not think they are by looking at each individual player. But as a team, this Redbird team is scary and whichever of either the Giants and the Dodgers have to play them in the Wild-Card Game, good luck. This team isn’t an easy opponent by no means.