If you don't read Joe Posnanski on a regular basis, you are missing out on some of the best writing in sports. He is very analytically inclined who can occasionally pull on your sentimental strings and sometimes both in the same ridiculously long post. The post I want to talk about is Bucksense. It's not his best work, by far, but I think it is interesting for a number of reasons. Read the article and come back.
He has 5 points or reasons for the Royals success. I think they're all worth discussing, not as a blueprint for what the Cardinals should be doing, but as a biography of what they've done:
1. Patience and Stability
The Cardinals haven't had to be patient through hard times like the Royals did, waiting for Mouse, Gordon and Hosmer, but they have been excellent in letting young players develop. You could argue that they were impatient with Shelby Miller, but there haven't been many arguments about that trade since May. We have a stable GM. We'll have to see what all of the frequent changes in scouting director means for our future. At the very least, the Cardinals new video scouting hire seems to be in line with the Moneyball principle of looking for new inefficiencies.
2. Starters into Relievers
Rosenthal is the perfect answer to Wade Davis. Rosie wasn't given the same chances to start as Davis was, but we all know he has that starter's stuff. I've seen some still wishing he'd be given a chance as a starter. He could be excellent. We know that a good starter is more valuable than a good reliever. We also know that a team that's going to win in the regular season and playoffs is going to need a good performance from it's bullpen. I think a shut down reliever is more useful to where the Cardinals are now than a fringey starter. I'm going to be very disappointed if Marco Gonzalez or Tyler Lyons or both don't work out of the bullpen this year, giving Matheny more arms he can depend on.
3. Embrace the Uncertainty of Baseball
This is where I think VEB is going to struggle with Posnanski. He understands the numbers behind not batting Escobar first and putting Gordon near the end of the lineup, but that's where both were comfortable. I know none of that is provable, but maybe there's something to it. I am certainly not urging the Cardinals to move in this direction, and I think Yost is a terrible manager, that the Royals won in spite of him. Still, lineup management is one of those areas where everyone knows that it doesn't matter that much but that everyone still loves to hate the manager because of it. But don't give in to the dark side of hatred. If the Royals can win with Yost, we can win with Matheny, and there may even be something to the "go with what works" strategy. Who knows.
4. Scout joyfully
You can't read this section without thinking about Carlos Martinez. Then you think about Wainwright. Listening to Holliday in the booth helped me see him differently too. I think the Cardinals have built around good players that love the game and life. Of course, most baseball players that reach this level might be the same way, and this feels like another way of saying gritty players. Still, it's certainly more fun as a fan when you see the players enjoying what they're doing.
5. Worry about what you are, not what you aren't
The Cardinals are never going to lead the league in runs scored in this ballpark. It seems highly unlikely that they're going to sign two of the top three free agents, despite rumors that they have the money to sign Heyward and Price, because, well, there are 29 other teams in need of good players and that have money. I want these guys as much as the next guy, but I feel like there's no way we're as desperate for options as some of the other teams out there. I wanted Pujols back, but no one wants to compete with the crazies out there. St. Louis is not a top salary team and that's OK.
In the end, the Royals haven't done anything that the Cardinals haven't, but they have done many things equally well. Let's enjoy the great things the Cardinals have done. Let's admire their patience, their ability to develop so many starters they can stick some in the bullpen, the uncertainty of baseball that leads to the 2013 RISP Cardinals and the 2015 LOB% Cardinals, the joy with which they play, and the fact that their inability to pay big free agents means developing more young players.