The Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs and Cardinals’ fans promptly went insane. God bless you if you are reading this and have managed to avoid being online, truly keep doing what you’re doing. Because man... if you have any sanity at all, avoid being online like the plague. The takes you will see. I can honestly say the fever pitch of anger, irrationality, and stupidity is unmatched in my time as a Cardinal fan, which is saying something.
The most popular one by far that I’ve seen that just lacks logic and understanding of baseball is “Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt can’t handle the big postseason lights.” You have no idea how much I’ve seen this. Retweeted and liked by tons of people. First off, Goldschmidt has a 136 wRC+ in the postseason, which is pretty close to his career 144 wRC+ and by the way, that includes his two games this year. Hitters face tougher pitchers in the postseason, so this is probably about right. Then there’s this:
Playoffs are random. Moneyball has been saying it for over a decade.— Carter Chapley (@ChapleyMedia) October 9, 2022
But for Nolan Arenado to come out of those 2 games with an xBA of .436 & exit velos of 96.7, 96.9, 98.1, 98.9, 103.7 & go 1/8? Really is the cherry on top.
His one hit? 72.1 EV.
In baseball, the only thing you can really do is hit the ball hard. Where it goes is out of your control. That’s why the sport is difficult. You can do everything right in a plate appearance and fail. That happened to Arenado fives times and the sixth time where he didn’t do everything right was a freaking hit. To suggest these players wilted under pressure is just asinine. Goldschmidt had no pressure in late September games and played about the same. Pretty sure his slump had nothing to do with the pressure of the moment.
Also there’s an alternate reality where the Cardinals win this series... because Ryan Helsley didn’t have a jammed finger. Like entering this matchup - win one of the two against Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler - should have happened. This idea that they weren’t better than the Phillies or that they’re weren’t good enough to win is also dumb. They were in a position to win Game 1 and then Game 3 was against a mediocre left-handed starter. That was the plan. With two aces, the Phillies weren’t a great matchup in a three-game series, in fact that team almost seems designed to win two games.
Here’s where people lose me: they use this loss as some sort of grand sweeping statement about the failure of the Cardinals and how they’re not built for the postseason. They don’t have a true ace. Their offense isn’t good enough. You get the idea. I’d understand these complaints more, if ultimately, the strengths of the team weren’t what failed them. They weren’t undone because of the typical reasons people say the Cards aren’t a playoff team.
They were undone by Ryan Helsley. They were undone by Paul Goldschmidt. They were undone by Nolan Arenado. They were undone by Tommy Edman. Yeah they only scored three runs, but Friday’s game went exactly to plan except for Helsley’s finger. Then Edman missed a play he makes nine times out of ten. Goldschmidt made a poor decision to go home. Arenado missed a play he makes 99 times out of 100 times quite frankly. It was a full blown collapse by arguably the four best players on the Cardinals!
What you should do at something like that is wipe your hands of it, realize you got bit by one of those baseball innings, and deal with the fact that it’s something that happens sometimes. What you should not do is say that Arenado and Goldschmidt can’t play under pressure and that Oli Marmol should be fired or Jeff Albert should be fired. Ridiculous. And by the way, I’m not sure a double play ball is turned if Edman is at normal depth, because it was hit slowly. Yeah the inning goes differently, but that’s hindsight! Edman still should have made the play, and gone home. And again, 9 times out of 10, he would have made the play.
Anyway, I think people just have trouble with hearing that the playoffs are random, anything can happen, and it’s not a reflection on the team if you don’t make it far. The Mets won 101 games and just got knocked out. This is pretty much exactly the reason some people are against expanded playoffs, because playoffs are random, the general managers know it, and owners know it, and it doesn’t matter if you spend money or not, everyone is a longshot to win the World Series. I don’t think anybody could argue that the 2006 team or the 2011 team were the two best teams the Cardinals have had this century. 2006 in fact might even be worse than every other Cardinal playoff team in this century. Certainly is by wins.
Do the Cardinals have improvements they need to make over the offseason? Yeah and you can be sure we’ll discuss them at VEB all offseason. There was nothing wrong with this team though. They went 93-69 and had a pythag even better than that, at 95-67. Plus they played four months without either Jordan Montgomery or Jose Quintana, so they were arguably better than even their final record. They were a good team. They could have went far. Yeah we were due to face some great pitching, but again Max Scherzer was terrible in Game 1. Anything can happen in the postseason.
I don’t know, this kind of stuff bothers me. Baseball isn’t like other sports. I mean I do know the hockey playoffs are about as random, might be similar to that, people who know more about hockey than me can tell me if that’s true. Three of the four matchups in the Wild Card series were won by a team with a worse regular season record. The Blue Jays and Mariners were close enough, but ours and the Mets series were noticeably different. This is just how it goes.
The Cardinals are in a good position. They could bungle this offseason of course. But they have two MVP candidates at the corner positions, a 4 WAR shortstop, two rookie second baseman, one who almost had a .400 OBP and one will hit 30 homers one day. Their most disappointing outfielder was a 23-year-old who had a 2.4 fWAR season, their other disappointing outfielder was still an average player who got hit by injuries, and we get a full season of Lars Nootbaar next year. Oh yeah and Jordan Walker might make an appearance soon. They finally might have some rotation depth for the first time in years. Real rotation depth not “maybe Alex Reyes or Jordan Hicks can start.”
And they have a black hole at catcher where literally any change will be an improvement. They have money to spend and a multitude of options. Maybe they’ll sign Willson Contreras, who I started thinking was not a Cardinals move, but have turned around and think it might be. While the best catcher on the market, he’s more of a mid-tier free agent and that’s EXTREMELY Cardinals. Maybe they’ll sign another starter. They’ll spend some money, it’s just a matter of on who and how much. Maybe they’ll make a surprise trade for the next Goldschmidt or Arenado. Who knows? They will do something.
Baseball is supposed to be fun. The regular season was a blast. With how random the playoffs are, I encourage everyone to enjoy the regular season and treat the playoffs like an extra treat. Because if you’re riding your entire enjoyment on winning the World Series or even success in the playoffs, you’re not going to like this sport very much. The regular season is very long - way longer than even a deep playoff run - and happiness with watching baseball should be tied to that - not a fluky tournament. Have a blast if the tournament goes your way of course. But when it doesn’t, just don’t let it affect your entire sense of being as much as it seems to be affecting online Cardinals fans.
I believe I said this in the NL Wild Card preview, but basically the regular season was so fun that I was satisfied. Didn’t need success in the playoffs, anything that happened in the playoffs was gravy. This isn’t always the case. The 2022 Cardinals were a very fun team. The playoffs were not. That’s just the way it goes. The Cardinals will probably make the postseason next year and we’ll get to experience it all again and nobody will learn anything. I can’t wait!