For the third consecutive year, Major League Baseball will not return to St. Louis in 2018. Despite an excellent second half backed by a historic month, an end-of-season collapse cost the Cardinals a wild card spot.
There have already been articles written on the subject, and there will be many, many more. We have a long offseason ahead to talk about what went wrong, what went right, missed opportunities, what moves might lie ahead, and all the other speculative stuff we readers of baseball content know and love.
For now, let’s talk about the baseball being played by the final eight teams still vying for the Commissioner’s Trophy. Specifically, that five of those eight teams are expected to feature former Cardinals on their playoff rosters.
Some are long forgotten, barely making a dent in any Cardinal postseason pushes. Others have carved their names forever into St. Louis lore. Lil Scooter already presented the Cardinals fan’s guide to postseason teams, but this brief review of familiar faces might help you narrow it down a bit further.
Either way, the Cubs are out of the picture, and that’s a beautiful sight. I hope you all enjoy the start of the NLDS tonight.
Career Postseason Line: 51 G, 196 PA, .282/.357/.517, 15 2B, 3B, 8 HR, 9.7% BB, 24% K
Not much needs to be said about David Freese. Everyone knows the impact he had on St. Louis, reviving the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series and sparking an incredible comeback. He’s a hometown kid and a postseason hero, one who will receive a standing ovation every time he steps into the batter’s box at Busch.
He’s also a Dodger now, which tears at me when I think about pulling for him in the postseason.
The inability to do more against this Dodger team late in the season at Busch is partly why the Cardinals missed the postseason—the Dodgers and Rockies were the Cards’ main competition nearing the end when they fell away from the Brewers, and doing better than taking one of four at home in the final stretch would’ve made a big impact.
“Shoulda, coulda, woulda” though, right?
Ultimately, Freese has excelled in the postseason across multiple years and multiple teams, doing well for the Angels in their brief 2014 run. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him turn on the jets again when it counts and, even though it’s the Dodgers, I wouldn’t mind seeing something reminiscent of that slide into third base one more time.
Career Postseason Line: 1 G, 0 IP, 0 R, 2 BB
Sam Freeman is one of many from the Cardinals farm system who filled a somewhat extraneous bullpen position over the past decade. His 20-inning debut in 2012 was a bit shaky with a 5.40 ERA, but he posted a sub-3.00 ERA over the next two seasons, in which he pitched 50.1 innings total.
He made the postseason roster in 2014 and didn’t do much to earn further consideration. A lefty, Freeman was brought in and walked the two batters he faced, removed without recording an out. The Cardinals won that game against the Dodgers, but Freeman didn’t see another appearance and was traded shortly after the Cardinals’ elimination for a PTBNL.
Now 31, Freeman has bounced around between the Rangers, Brewers and Braves, seemingly having found a home in Atlanta, where he put up more WAR in the 2017 season than he had in his entire career. Having thrown 50.1 innings this season, Freeman looks to be a solid part of this Braves bullpen headed into the NLDS.
Career Postseason Line: 74 G, 308 PA, .246/.302/.425, 10 2B, 3B, 13 HR, 5.5% BB, 19.5% K
Matt Holliday will always hold a special place in my Cardinals memory. His final appearance in 2016 was storybook, returning from an injury to hit a home run in his final plate appearance. The curtain call while fighting through tears is an iconic moment for me, one perfect for sending off a player who defined the Cardinal lineup for so many seasons following the departure of Albert Pujols.
Now, he’s on a similarly storybook comeback, with the team that he called home before his move to St. Louis. Holliday started the wild card game and laced a double down the left field line at Wrigley before being replaced by Gerardo Parra later in the game. Holliday got his first taste of postseason baseball with the Rockies infamously touching home plate—or not, depending on your opinion—in 2007 against the Padres. One could say he and the Rockies both have unfinished business in Rocktober, and to see him make an impact on a Colorado run deep into the postseason would be another magical Matt Holliday moment.
Career Postseason Line: 1 G, 1.2 IP, 0 R, 1 K, 2 BB
I looked at Oh pretty closely in the part 2 of the Acquisition Outlook posted last week, so I won’t go into his numbers too much. He follows the pattern of former Cardinal relievers who were good in St. Louis, then bad in St. Louis, then pretty decent elsewhere.
No bad blood, though. Oh and his charismatic translator Eugene Koo are fun to cheer for. Especially after he pitched a solid 1.2 innings in extras against the Cubs in the NL wild card game and contributed to their elimination. Oh’s peripherals didn’t look too great, but they honestly haven’t at all in the second half of the season. If Oh could become a mainstay in the Colorado bullpen as they push further into the postseason, it’d be a great comeback story. Especially if he helped knock off two NL Central rivals in the process.
Career Postseason Line: 1 G, 4 PA, 1 R, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 K, 0 BB
Voit looks like a completely different player since heading to New York. He’s mashing homer after homer for the Bronx Bombers, and he opened the game up last night against the Athletics to secure a trip to the ALDS against Boston.
His only experience on his postseason line is that game, but a triple (which he clearly thought was a dinger, given his celebration out of the box) was a good start. Voit is now hitting in a power-packed Yankee lineup, sandwiched between Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorious, and that is pretty astounding given his status earlier this year. If the Yankees continue on, Voit will be one of the reasons I’m okay with watching the powerhouse continue to steamroll.
Career Postseason Line: 24 G, 7 GS, 52 IP, 4.50 ERA, 50 K, 26 BB
Lynn is the other reason the Yankees will be fun to watch from a Cardinals perspective. New York has already embraced his personality, yelling as he walks off the mound following an important punch-out or giving a dry, blunt interview to the New York media.
Lynn was a consistent presence on the Cardinals postseason staff for many seasons and his second half with the Yankees has been otherworldly. He may or may not be getting starts for this Yankees team, but a heated ALDS between Boston and New York is the perfect environment for the fiery Lynn.
Career Postseason Line: 16 G, 4 GS, 35.2 IP, 3.03 ERA, 28 K, 13 BB
Before Joe Kelly was a reliever throwing 100mph and starting brawls with Yankees, he was an eccentric personality making starts for the Cardinals. His postseason resume for St. Louis is a mixed bag—he was roughed up in relief in Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS and surrendered four runs through five innings in Game 5 of the 2013 NLCS against the Dodgers. Starting what would be the final game of the 2013 World Series against his now-current team, Kelly gave up just two runs in five innings.
His relief role with Boston, though much more limited, has been pretty effective in October. He’s made five appearances over two years, giving up no earned runs and walking none over that span. There’s a possibility that Kelly doesn’t make this year’s roster, but if he does, he’ll add to the fire of the rivalry. Lynn against Kelly in the late innings would be fun to watch for Cardinal fans.