Look, it’s not easy to win the world championship. The Dodgers haven’t done that in a full season since 1988. The Yankees haven’t played in the World Series or competed in the WS since 2009. Given the billions of dollars each franchise has spent over the years, the number of postseason failures is impressive.
This might boggle your mind, even if it’s just a little bit:
During the wild card era, which began in 1995, only five of the 36 teams that won 100 games during the regular season won a World Series.
During the same time frame, teams with between 83 and 92 victories during the regular season have won the World Series 12 times.
Does this make sense? No. Of course not… until you remember that postseason baseball is full of randomness. And once you accept that, it becomes much easier to understand.
As for what the Cardinals can take away from this year’s pennant award winners, I’d take it for granted.
1. Spend more money on talent. According to the Cots contracts, the Phillies are ranked fifth this season in the 26-man payroll and fifth in the competitive 40-man payroll. The Astros were ranked 10th in both categories. The Cardinals were 13th in the 26-man, 40-player standings. Using the 40-man payroll (just to save time), the Cardinals have spent $74 million less than the Phillies and $24 million less than the Astros this season.
As the Yankees have shown us, outside spending on other teams doesn’t include World Series parades. Not to mention the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Yankees have invested $2.3 billion in the 40-man payroll since 2012. Add the $421 million to the 26-man payroll costs in 2010 and 2011—before the payroll tax system was implemented—and now we have it. to approximately $2.8 billion. Throw in a proportionate 2020 season, when the Yankees had a 40-man payroll of $83 million, and we’re close to $3 billion. That’s nearly $3 billion for failing to reach the World Series for 13 consecutive seasons.
I can say it a million times: nothing is guaranteed. But what if the Cardinals were more ambitious and expanded their payroll to strengthen weaker regions for the purpose of getting a stronger roster into the playoffs? Well, I’d like their chances to be at their best losing nine of their last 10 postseason games — which is part of a 5-17 stretch in their last 22 postseason games. They have the revenue and resources to increase payroll compliance…and increase their commitment to winning.
2. Find more home-run hitters. this is important. Old-school baseball media and fans still ascribe to the importance of the home run during the postseason. These people are praying for Wee Willie Keeler to return to baseball. You can win a game, maybe in some games, with good luck singles blobs and globes. But these things don’t happen on purpose. “Let me hit one on the end of the bat for a little dying duck” is not strategic. It’s often an accident—or, to give some credit, making contact increases your chances of making it to base.
However, the teams that outplayed opponents in a game are 15-5 in the 2022 postseason. Last season, the teams that hit more home runs won 25-2. Hitting more teammates than other players in a game has produced a 40-7 record over the last two seasons.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but home workouts were a huge reason why Houston and Philadelphia went up to the World Series. As FanGraphs tells us, the AL and NL champions have the two highest home runs percentages in the postseason — with the Astros coming in at 4.2 percent of their plate appearances and the Phillies coming in second at 4.1 percent.
(In case you were curious, the Cardinals ranked 11th out of 12 postseason teams with a paltry HR percentage of 1.4%).
The Cardinals had a chance to push and add free agent Kyle Schwarber as a DH for right-handed pitchers but they went on the cheap. And they could have used him in left field in the 500 or so runs when Tyler O’Neal was out injured. Schwarber is a solid postseason hitter, driving in 12 yards in 46 games. He has three homers in 11 postseason games this year — including three in his last five to help get past the Phillies to the Padres in the NLCS. For his career, Schwarber hosted all 12 batters in the postseason. Hey, why would the team want that when Corey Dickerson is available?
The Cardinals are not a weak ground hitting team. They finished tied for ninth in the majors during the regular season. But they need more muscle. And the plan that includes this – “We are confident Tyler O’Neal will remain healthy in 2023” – is a great idea. Nolan Gorman could bolster this area by overcoming swing problems in his early career. And Juan Yepez has the obvious potential to hit a lot of reptiles. But the Cardinals are losing 24 completely unexpected homers that Albert Pujols introduced, and that’s a problem.
The front office should not be reluctant to seek authority. Over the past two seasons, the Cardinals have been 96-21 when they hit at least two homers in a game — and 87-120 when they hit fewer than two homers in a game.
3. Rules of aggressive promotion, so adapt accordingly: During the regular season, Houston’s starters finished third in the majors with a strikeout rate of 24.8 percent. Philadelphia starters (23%) were 12th. St. Louis’s starters (18.5%) were 24th.
The disparity was most pronounced in the three bulls: Houston’s relievers had the best strike rate (28.3%) in the majors. Philadelphia was ninth, at 25 percent. The Cardinal Bull was ranked 27th with a strike rate of 21.2%.
The St. Louis front office has spent years building a wide array of relievers that can dominate hitters through ups and downs and upsets. But baseball’s chiefs continue to fail to update their rules to fit today’s game. In the 2022 regular season, this is where the three Bulls ranked in their call rate against: Houston first (70.4%), Philadelphia fifth (73.1%) and St. Louis 26th (76.6%).
And the statistic is another example of the shortage of firepower in St. Louis: This season relievers have been hit at an average of 85.6 percent on pitches in the hit zone—fourth-worst in the seniors. But let’s make sure to go get another Nick Witten or Drew VerHagen, okay?
Post-season 2022 very much confirms what we know about how to make it to the playoffs from a promotion standpoint. FanGraphs notes that pitchers (all teams) have combined so far for 26.7 percent hits which would be the highest in MLB postseason history. embarrassed. But St. Louis pitchers had a meager strikeout average of 19.4 percent In both losses to Philadelphia. The Cardinals have fallen behind on successful postseason tendencies—strong ball, offense and in throwing—so if anything their postseason failures are predictable.
4. Pardon my language, but the Cardinals need a badass. They have a lot of nice guys. too much. This team needs some bold players who are cocky, brave, and have a brash attitude that others can take advantage of. Cardinals players would be ideal as members of some “Polite Society” club, but I’d like to see someone who can cheer his teammates up and give them a little more confidence.
Someone like Bryce Harper. But it’s too late. That chance was long gone… This team still lacks a good, stable playing field. The revolving door is a frequent embarrassment. I wasted lots and lots of words campaigning for the Cardinals to sign him as a free agent after the 2018 season. But of course, Harper was (a) really expensive and (b) really cocky…and we can’t have that here, because ownership wants to keep disclosures. Salaries at a reasonable cost, and the daring Harper might be too much for all the nice, polite, well-mannered guys who don’t get into all that flashy stuff.
So Philly signed him before the 2019 season to become the franchise’s centerpiece in rebuilding. And the plan worked. Harper won the NL MVP award last season, he owns the 2022 postseason championship, and his grit and ferocity lifted his team.
Harper doesn’t shrink when he’s in the big spot in October; He longs for such opportunities.
“He’s proven to me time and time again that no moment is too big for him,” Phillies manager Rob Thompson said. “He’s been through a few times. You just kind of expect it when he goes to the plate.”
The Phillies were trailing the Padres 3-2 when Harper came to the plate with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Before Harper walked to the plate to break down his epic NLCS winning run on Sunday, he turned to Philly hitting coach Kevin Long and said, “Let’s give them something to remember,” ESPN reported.
Philadelphia owner John Middleton is pleased with his investment in Harper. Harper is everything you envision. Harper turned Philly’s famous shout-outs into uninhibited cheers. And Harper’s atmosphere turned into that of his team.
“After three hundred and thirty million dollars and mutual promises to commit to winning and do whatever it takes to win,” Middleton told reporters when asked about Harper’s signing.
In 135 postseason career appearances, Harper batted . 286 with a . 358 on-base percentage and 0.639 slug. Plus 10 home runs, 10 doubles, and 21 RBI. In this postseason, he was hitting .419 with five homers, 11 RBI and a 1.351 OPS. But…but..it’s obnoxious. yes. very Wonderful.
5. The Cardinals must be more aggressive in pursuing international talent at the elite level. The Astros have been bold and successful in this area. They do not hesitate to spend the necessary dollars. The list of international signings includes sophomore Jose Altuve, first baseman Yuri Juriel, and shooters Framper Valdez, Christian Javier, Brian Abreu, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidi. And when the Dodgers outbid Houston for feared future Yordan Alvarez, the Astros stayed on it and traded for Alvarez in 2016. In his three full seasons with the Astros, Alvarez averaged 32 homers, 93 RBI, and a . 590 hit.
It looks like the Cardinals can learn a lot from the two teams that will compete for the World Series trophy starting Friday.
Thanks for reading…
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All statistics used here have been obtained from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net, and Spotrac.
While best known for his voice as the Post-Dispatch’s chief sports columnist for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News, and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C
Bernie, his wife Kirsten, and their cats reside in the Skinker DeBalever neighborhood of St. Louis.