The Postseason Cardinals don't have to worry about Jake Westbrook any more—and they also don't have to worry about replacing Jake Westbrook. They don't have to worry about the back of the bullpen, which at this point is more a concept than a guy—is it Fernando Salas? Tyler Lyons? In any case, not a problem. Pacing Carlos Beltran? Even if it was working before, it's irrelevant now. This is what you pace them for. That guy, name of—name of something or another, wore Yadier Molina's big hat sometimes? Tony, I think it was.
Every team is getting this bonus, unfortunately, but the 63 plate appearances that went to Ty Wigginton, the 62 that went to some version of Kolten Wong, the 18 runs in 15 innings that Mitchell Boggs allowed—that's all gone.
What the Cardinals have instead is their best pitchers, their 100-percent (minus Allen Craig) position players, their completely unrepentant usage of Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist.
They've also got Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso. This is how the season ended for the Cardinals at shortstop, where Rafael Furcal was a good idea at one point: .222/.280/.303, with mostly above-average defense.
The Pirates, if not the Reds—well, at a glance it seems like they've dealt with basically the same problems, which is confusing. (It's always humbling to realize that other people also think they're just barely dealing with something historically bad.) The Pirates gave Clint Barmes 49 plate appearances in September, during which time he lowered his OPS from .585 to .558. But his stronger defensive numbers mean he's more firmly over replacement level, and the starting job has gone to 26-year-old Jordy Mercer, who's hitting .285/.336/.435.
That keeps happening, actually, the more you look at the other NL postseason teams—pseudo-Kozmas dissolve into thin air. Until you get to the Braves.
It's when I look at the Braves that I realize I should truly and permanently apologize for ever complaining about Pete Kozma. Have you been paying attention to B.J. Upton lately? (It took me three tries to not type 'B.J. Kozma' there.) He hit .184/.268/.289. He had a strikeout-to-hit ratio of 2.09. He played an average center field and was still worth -1.8 rWAR.
He's been so bad that he's pushed Jason Heyward into center field, in a way the Cardinals could never quite bring themselves to push Kolten Wong to short; Upton came in as a late-innings defensive replacement four times in the season's last week, because what else was he going to do?
Combined with Dan Uggla, hitting .179/.309/.362 and playing Dan Uggla defense at second base, he gives the Braves -3.1 rWAR in their "real" batting order, far more than Pete Kozma and David Freese (-0.5) could combine to unproduce.
Everyone's looking forward to escape some of the bad decisions and unavoidable trainwrecks that accumulate over the course of a 162-game season. Some of them you can dodge. Others, though, you run right into. So the Cardinals will ride into the NLDS platooning Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma at shortstop. And the Dodgers—well.
That leaves a scenario with Skip Schumaker the mostly every day center fielder, maybe with a splash of Yasiel Puig.
"We've tried Yasiel a little bit, and were not that happy about it. But in desperate times you do desperate things. We'll continue to have discussions," Mattingly said. "I'm happy with Schu the way he plays center."