Cut4 2014 Postseason Primer: St. Louis Cardinals
From 30 World Series hopefuls, only a few remain. In case you haven't been following every contender, here's a catch-up on what you missed and what to expect next. In this edition: The St. Louis Cardinals.
For the fourth consecutive year and fifth time in six seasons, the Cardinals are headed back to the postseason. They're like the Jason franchise -- no matter what happens the previous year, they keep coming back for more.
This year was no different. Despite posting a relatively pedestrian run differential and languishing in second place until August 30th, the Cardinals once again look poised for a deep October run. Here are five ways they got here:
5. Peter Bourjos' defense
Though Bourjos has mostly appeared off the bench since being acquired from the Angels for David Freese and Fernando Salas, he's still made a major impact. That's mostly because he's converted center field into a zone of quiet reflection where baseballs do not dare drop in for hits.
There was this game-saving grab in which he traveled roughly a lightyear:
And this game-ending snag:
Then there was this great catch in which he lost the ball in the lights but still managed to track it down:
Doesn't hurt that his sock game is A+, either.
4. Tony Cruz is the Wolf of Wall Street
Playing baseball is a lot like being a wolf on Wall Street. You have to be fast, otherwise Animal Control will catch yo-- what's that? The Wolf of Wall Street isn't about a wild animal loosed on the streets of Manhattan? Sorry, I never saw it.
Anyway, whatever the context, Tony Cruz coming to the plate to this chest-beating anthem from the film is very important.
I'm pretty sure it's why Cruz hit this walk-off single against the Brewers:
3. Jon Hamm's bobblehead led the team to greatness
Since giving away the Jon Hamm bobblehead on August 18th (a walk-off win, by the way), the Cardinals have won nearly two-thirds of their games and vaulted in first place.
The only real question: will the Cardinals put in Jon Hamm's John Ham for the postseason?
2. Adam Wainwright's Cutter/Curve Combo
According to FanGraphs, only Corey Kluber's curve has been more effective than Adam Wainwright's this season. The Cardinals ace's cutter has been unmatched across the Majors. It's not hard to see why each pitch alone is tough to hit. But combine the power of the darting cutter with the diving curve and how do batters even have a chance?
Just look at this deceptive movement. That's an 87-mph cutter, one of the slowest cutters in the league, and batters are powerless against it.
And this curve is like trying to hit George Clooney in Gravity -- it's literally falling off the Earth and hurtling into space.
Of course, the source of Adam Wainwright's power is probably Patriotism:
1. The peerless Yadier Molina
The work a catcher puts in rests somewhere between myth and magic. So even as we begin to know more about catcher pitch framing and their game calling abilities, Molina still comes off a little like Merlin.
But when Molina missed a month-and-a-half between July and the end of August, his absence was definitely noticed. Ben Lindbergh broke down the myriad of ways the Cardinals pitchers changed their approach without the catcher, leading to higher ERAs, longer times in between pitches, and a lower chance that a pitcher would throw a breaking ball with a runner at third base. Adam Wainwright really loves working with Molina -- his career ERA pitching to Yadi is more than a run lower than when he works with other backstops.
And that's not even considering that Molina is the One Direction of baseball.
Or that he can catch a foul ball with his knee:
With that said, here are five, spot-on, completely true postseason predictions:
Like a demonic Chucky doll, Jon Hamm's bobblehead will come to life and create mayhem for the Cardinals' opposition thanks to his winning smile.
Yadier Molina will call for a wholly theoretical pitch, the X-973i0e, that breaks three ways before crossing the plate. Thanks to Molina's confidence, the pitcher will throw it. And it will be a strike.
Xavier Scruggs and Randal Grichuk will lead the Cardinals to the Baseball Name World Series.
Mike Matheny will have another run-in with bird poop. While this one won't lead Matheny to such a monumental decision as marriage, it will lead to a lefthander being called out of the pen at just the right time.