Don’t tell me Cards’ success is all about chance — just ask LA
If Billy Beane’s s**t doesn’t work in the postseason, how come the St. Louis Cardinals’ s**t always does?
Seriously. I want someone to explain this to me. Preferably a sabermetrician, but at this point I’ll settle for a witch doctor.
Don’t tell me it’s random. Don’t tell me it’s a small sample size. And don’t tell me that baseball is crazy, as Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday did in a postgame interview on Fox Sports 1.
No. Sorry. The Cardinals’ annual October magic is not some accident.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and there is such a thing as Clutch.
The Cardinals are headed to their fourth straight National League Championship Series — and it’s only fitting that they will face the San Francisco Giants, another organization with s**t that works in October.
Actually, not even the Giants can match the Cardinals, seeing as how the current San Francisco run started in 2010 and recurs only in even years.
The Cardinals have won 63 postseason games since 2000, most in the majors. And when they prevailed in four games over the Los Angeles Dollars in the Division Series, concluding with a 3-2 victory Tuesday night, only the foolish among us — OK, me — should have been surprised.
Three late-inning breakthroughs. Two comeback victories over Dollars left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Left-handed hitters crushing left-handed pitching. The improbable turning inevitable, again and again.
The Cardinals lose Albert Pujols. Nothing changes. They lose Tony La Russa. Nothing changes. They lose Chris Carpenter. Nothing changes.
Bernie Miklasz, longtime sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, listed a series of classic Cardinals postseason victories after the team rallied from a 6-1 deficit against Kershaw in Game 1:
• Game 6 vs. Astros, 2004 NLCS.
• Game 7 vs. Mets, 2006 NLCS.
• Game 6 vs. Rangers, 2011 World Series.
• Game 5 vs. Nationals, 2012 Division Series.
Now, add the two triumphs over Kershaw to the list.
The Dollars could react violently to the implosion of their record $240 million payroll, perhaps dumping general manager Ned Colletti, who built an expensive but horrific bullpen, and manager Don Mattingly, who had one pitching move after another backfire in part due to his limited options.
The Dollars surely will find some new players, too — and, let’s hope, some new relievers. But whatever they do, they won’t replicate the Cardinals, who beat them with a payroll about half as large and 17 homegrown players on their 25-man Division Series roster.
Right-hander Shelby Miller, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in the 2009 draft, started the Division Series clincher. First baseman Matt Adams, a 23rd-round pick that same year, hit the decisive three-run homer off Kershaw. Closer Trevor Rosenthal, a 21st-round pick in yes, the same freaking ‘09 draft, earned the save.
Oh, it gets better.
Third baseman Matt Carpenter, the unofficial MVP of the DS, was a 13th-round pick in ’09. Right-hander Joe Kelly, half of the homegrown package that helped the Cardinals land Game 3 winner John Lackey, was a third-rounder that year.
No crazier than this series of statistical ditties, compiled and verified by STATS LLC.
• Kershaw had a combined 1.50 ERA in the first six innings of his two starts, a 121.50 ERA in the seventh (nine runs in 2/3 of an inning).
• Adams was the first left-handed hitter to hit a home run off Kershaw’s curveball in Kershaw’s career, including regular season and postseason.
• Carpenter hit two home runs against lefties during the regular season, three in the DS. He and the Cardinals’ other left-handed hitters batted .278 with a .377 slugging percentage against lefties during the regular season, .366 with a .780 OPS in the DS.
• The Cardinals batted .310 with runners in scoring position over four games, .529 (9 for 17) in the seventh inning or later. The Dollars hit .195 with runners in scoring position, .000 (0 for 6) in the seventh inning or later.
I know, I know — small sample size. Well, in the postseason all that matters is a small sample size. And when the results of a small sample size keep repeating, albeit in different ways, it’s a small sample size no more.
Shelby Miller, please explain:
“You know, there’s no doubt the history behind this organization and everything it stands for,” Miller said. “I’ve been with the team for two (full) years and been in three postseasons. And day in and day out they tell us not to take it for granted.”
Matt Adams, please explain:
“Like Shelby said, the mentality is really a never-give-up mentality. I came up with Shelby in the minor leagues. We got to spring training, they hammered it into us that this organization likes to win and knows that they can win. So that was a big thing I picked up on, and that I go by.”
What, you expected the players to provide answers? They’re merely foot soldiers in the Cardinals’ best-of-seven nation army, executing some unknown, mysterious, grander plan.
I want to know what that plan is. First one to explain it to me gets my endorsement for Dollars GM.