The Cardinals aren’t getting much attention around baseball as the postseason begins, but that doesn’t bother them. Here’s why they could make a surprise run
ST. LOUIS — It’s been quite an interesting and unique road, but the St. Louis Cardinals are back in the postseason in 2020.
It’s no secret the Cardinals will have their hands full. They have a first round opponent in San Diego who is one of the most explosive teams in baseball.
The Cardinals themselves also need to find a way to magically muster some sort of offense, as they had the fifth worst OPS in all of baseball during the regular season.
But, there are some reasons for optimism, even if it seems like every baseball journalist and expert in the country seems to be picking against them right out of the gate.
Here are five reasons why this year’s Cardinals could make a run in the 2020 postseason.
5: This team is tough
Everybody loves a good underdog story.
The Cardinals have arguably been through more than any team in baseball this season.
They not only lost key players like Miles Mikolas, John Brebbia, Jordan Hicks and eventually Dakota Hudson for the season over the course of the year, their entire team literally had to stop playing for two weeks.
While “toughness” doesn’t score runs or hit will with runners in scoring position, this team has shown a massive amount of spirit this year.
When they were stuck in their hotel rooms in Milwaukee, it wasn’t a certainty they’d ever resume play. They did, and then did what they needed to do to make the playoffs.
Don’t count these guys out. They proved they’re fighters, and are going to go down swinging.
4: Dylan Carlson could be on the cusp of a break out
Sure, Dylan Carlson had a -0.1 WAR and .200 batting average in his first foray into Major League Baseball. But there are signs an awakening could be on the way.
Since he returned to the Cardinals on Sept. 18, Carlson hit .278 with an OPS of .936, seven extra base hits and 11 RBI.
Mike Shildt has been experimenting with Carlson in different parts of the lineup, including right in the middle of the action hitting cleanup.
Carlson has been taking much better at-bats, and looks like he could be ready to flash the talent that made him one of the top prospects in baseball. If he can get hot, that would be a huge shot in the arm for a Cardinals offense that needs a jolt.
3: An emerging bullpen tandem of Reyes and Cabrera
The Cardinals’ stash of bullpen arms was always a big advantage, even after the loss of Brebbia and Hicks. But right now they have two exciting talents who seem to be on the way up at the perfect time.
The tandem of lefty Genesis Cabrera and righty Alex Reyes could be lethal.
Yes, both of them have been wild and prone to imploding at times, but recently they’ve both been great.
They throw hard, have nasty stuff and could be a legitimate weapon in the postseason.
Shildt has said the role of “closer” in the playoffs could be based on the specific situation, but with these two firing like they have been it would be hard not to turn to them to shut the door.
2: Unpredictability rules this season
This season is so bizarre that just about anything could happen in the postseason.
Sure there are teams that on paper look better than others, but under this strange of a season and this weird of conditions, who knows what’s going to happen?
The Cardinals, or any team, could get two hot starts from pitchers in the Wild Card round and end the season of a much higher favored opponent.
The Cardinals are pretty good at capitalizing on weird things and creating big moments when people think very little of them. Why not them this year?
1: Pitching, pitching and more pitching
The Cardinals wouldn’t be where they’re at without the herculean effort from their pitching staff this season.
From injuries, to a mountain of doubleheaders to dealing with COVID-19, this pitching staff was about as impressive as it could be.
If they can figure out a way to scratch across a run or two, this pitching staff could steal series.
Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Kwang-Hyun Kim all have the ability to shut down a team and almost win a game by themselves. Daniel Ponce de Leon and Austin Gomber are incredible options to put out a fire or even get a start in a longer series. And Reyes, Cabrera, Ryan Helsley, Andrew Miller, Giovanny Gallegos and company make up one of the most dominant bullpens in the postseason.
St. Louis pitchers have had to be better than they should have this year to overcome an often anemic offense. It’s asking a lot for them to do it in the playoffs too, but I wouldn’t put it past them. They’ve shown they’re up to the task.
If the Cardinals want to play deep into October, their pitchers are going to have to step up and continue to go above and beyond.