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That was really the best the NL has to offer?

Oct 17, 2011, 1:32 AM EDT

Mark Kotsay, Nick Punto Reuters

No juggernauts here.

The Cardinals just beat the Brewers in a six-game series despite not having any one of their starters pitch more than five innings. There simply wasn’t a quality start in the bunch.

But then, maybe beat is the wrong word. Unless one wants to apply to what the Brewers did to themselves. Seven errors in the final two games of the series. Everyone knew defense was Milwaukee’s weak link, but it never figured to manifest itself so obviously. Besides the seven errors, there were at least a half-dozen plays that should have been made and weren’t in the team’s final two losses.

So, the NL Central-only NLCS was a bust. As probably should have been anticipated given it’s status as baseball’s worst division. Those six teams combined to go 226-270 outside of the division this year, a .456 winning percentage.

At least these Cardinals are better than their last World Series team. In 2006, the Cards won the Central with an 83-78 record, edged the Mets in seven games in the NLCS and then took down the Tigers in five games in the World Series.

Still, it figures to be a more difficult assignment this time around. The Rangers aren’t going to fumble the ball around like those Tigers (eight errors in five games) or the Brewers did. They also have a bullpen that can match the Cardinals’ and greater depth in the lineup, even in games without the DH.

The Cardinals deserve all kinds of credit for what they’ve done so far. Overcoming a 10 1/2-game deficit to make it to October, taking out the heavy favorites in the Phillies in five games in the NLDS and then surviving a series against the Brewers in which their starters gave them next to nothing. They’re battlers alright.

Unfortunately, they’re battlers who are probably going to get battered if they don’t get a whole lot more from Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Edwin Jackson this week.

  1. cur68 - Oct 17, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    The hitting lineups on both teams look hurt. Both sets of bullpens are getting worn down. Both sets of starting rotations ARE worn. I don’t see the WS as being pretty baseball at all. What we’re going to see is 2 mostly injured teams going at it hammer and tongs. These will be the battles of the training staff, the pain medication, the better sets of stones when it comes to laying through the dreaded new black. It depends on who’s got the most left in the tank. Edge to the Rangers, I think, but the Cards have been giant killers since the regular season. Anything could happen but I think its the Ranger’s to win.

  2. fearlessleader - Oct 17, 2011 at 2:23 AM

    Nice try, but you’re not going to dampen the spirits of Cardinal Nation so easily—not tonight. Yep, game 6 was just about the ugliest mess of postseason baseball St. Louis has seen since….well, I have a list, but I don’t like to think about it. But part of what’s made this team so much fun lately is the multiplicity of ways they’ve found to win. Milwaukee looked like crap the last two games, but the Cards also pounded the ball and kept Braun and Fielder in check. It was only a little more than a week ago that Carpenter and Halladay locked horns in one of the classiest pitchers’ duels we’ve seen in years. We’ve seen them win on walk-off wild pitches, clutch pinch-hits by no-name utility players, and grand slams from their pitchers.

    For pure entertainment, yes, the Cardinals have been the best the NL has had to offer lately, and I for one am beyond delighted.

  3. mgflolox - Oct 17, 2011 at 3:24 AM

    What we really need, is an exciting, back-and-forth 7 game WS with plenty of drama and doubt. There are a lot of terrific, fun to watch players in this series, capable of producing compelling storylines i don’t really have a dog in this particular fight, I just want an exciting, tension filled World Series for a change. I think it can happen.

    • Old Gator - Oct 17, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      Yeah, given what a pair of snoozers the league championship series were for anybody without vested rooting interests in the teams involved, a tight, white-knuckle series would go a long way towards redeeming this postseason for those of us who just love to watch well played games for their own sake. That, plus the final week of the regular season – the final night, especially – set the bar pretty high for the postseason, which except for maybe a couple of games in the LCSes so far has dismally failed to live up to it.

  4. uyf1950 - Oct 17, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    Congratulations to the Cardinals and their fans. Ugly or not the Cardinals did what 28 other teams couldn’t do, that’s get to the “dance”. Like the previous poster I don’t have a horse in this race either, but I expect a good and exciting World Series.

    With that, good luck to both the Cardinals and Rangers come Wednesday evening.

  5. henryd3rd - Oct 17, 2011 at 5:38 AM

    The network Big Wigs must be pulling their hair out knowing that these two team will not generate any buzz beyond their zip codes. Boston generates more buzz when they fire their manager and GM. Plus the games have been sloppy and boring. The Brewers were a disgrace in the field and at the plate. How they won anything is beyond me.

    Give the Cardinal credit they out lasted the Brewers; but I don’t foresee them handling the Rangers with that lineup.

  6. mvd513 - Oct 17, 2011 at 5:54 AM

    Why mention the division’s awfulness as a whole? The NL Central isn’t playing Texas. The Pirates, Cubs, or Astros aren’t playing Texas. The Cardinals are. And regardless of how much I dislike the Cardinals, they won. They won 8 of their 15 interleague games; the fact that they had 3 against the Orioles and 6 with KC is irrelevant if the AL is so much better. They won 22 out of 35 against NL East opponents, took out Philly in the DS and just dispatched Milwaukee. What more could you ask of them? Granted, I want Texas to beat them, but there’s no reason to think its a cakewalk.

  7. badmamainphilliesjamas - Oct 17, 2011 at 6:51 AM

    Congratulations to the Cardinals and their fans. Enjoy the ride (sniff) . . . and let’s have 7 more games of baseball, ugly or not!

  8. a125125125 - Oct 17, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    Was the author’s remote broken? If you don’t like baseball, you can always change the channel. Maybe he should have tried watching the AWFUL football game that was on NBC last night.

    Home runs. Offense, It was an entertaining game. Sorry there weren’t enough Yankees/Red Sox /Phillies in it for you.

    • cintiphil - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:33 AM

      This is the best post yet. I stayed up for the whole game, just to see another dinger or two. I liked the game even if my pick did not win.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 17, 2011 at 10:32 AM

        Yeah…my sentiments exactly.

  9. Jonny 5 - Oct 17, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    I would enjoy a picture of TLR taped to the front of my heavy bag. That would be fun.

  10. mrznyc - Oct 17, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    As a baseball fan you sometimes have to come to grips with the awful fact that some seasons you’re going to wind up rooting for TLR – Oh well, at least the TV guys can comfort themselves that the limited national appeal of these two teams will be somewhat made up for with 12 pitching changes, and the attendant commercials, per game.

  11. paperlions - Oct 17, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    This is weak. Matt, did you watch the ALCS?

    Here are the innings pitched by the Rangers starters: 4.2, 2.2, 5.2, 5.0, 6.0, and 4.2.

    Don’t confuse the ability to pitch more innings with the manager (yeah, I’ve giving Tony a lot of credit here) recognizing situations and going to the strength of his team to control the game.

    Through the first 5 games the Rangers scored 3, 3, 2, 3, and 5 runs in regulation, requiring extra innings to win 2 of the games…in other words, the “dominant” rangers were being outscored by the Tigers during regulation of the first 5 games….a Tigers team that was completely beat up and has Doug Fister as its #2 pitcher. The Tigers totally collapsed in game 6. The ALCS was at least as ugly as the NLCS.

    • cintiphil - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:36 AM

      I would go further than this. IF the Tigers would have won that first game in which they led until the late innings, they would have beaten the Rangers in the series. That ninth inning out forced them to go extra and they lost. It was a lot closer then the series appeared.

  12. natstowngreg - Oct 17, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    The Cardinals are not the best the NL has to offer, but they won, and the best the NL has to offer did not. Proving (as if it still needs to be proven) that the best team doesn’t always win the ring. Congratulations to them.

    The Cards should lose the Series, but the pundits said that about the 2006 Cards.

    • Francisco (FC) - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:26 AM

      That’s why the post-season is a crapshoot. It’s not often the best team in the 162 game regular season wins it all. As a Phillies fan I have to say that the 2008 title is another example. That year the Cubs looked great and poised to win it all, they were ambushed by a plucky L.A. team that ran out of gas when it reached the NLCS.

      • Alex K - Oct 17, 2011 at 10:27 AM

        This is the second time I’ve seen you mae a statement just like this and it warms my heart. The Cubs were the best NL team in 2008, no question. That series against the Dodgers was very painful to watch.

        I looked it up the other day and was surprised to see the Angels won 100 games in 2008. I thought for sure they Rays had the most wins in baseball that year.

    • cintiphil - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:38 AM

      This is why toe season is 162 games. You have to be the best for the whole year, or at least for the time is matters. the Cards were the best team in the NL for the last 30 days of the season. Who is to say that the Philly’s are the best team just because the won more games in July or August?

      • badmamainphilliesjamas - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:44 AM

        Cin, the “time it matters” is the postseason, if you want the ring. The Phillies didn’t just win in July and August–they won all season, they won more games than any other team, and they led their division throughout. Unfortunately, they sucked in a 5 game series when it mattered.

    • thefalcon123 - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:57 AM

      In all fairness to the 83 win 2006 Cardinals, they had something in the postseason they didn’t have the entire rest of the season: a healthy team. I think this is a very overlooked factor when talking about upsets and playoff teams. Like the 2011 Cards, the 06 team had a lot of different players who weren’t there most of the season (and beat a Mets team short 1 Pedro Martinez).

      Over the course of such a long season, I team can stick with failing players for a very long time that impact their record before dumping them in time for the postseason, improving their team to a degree that does not reflect in their record.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 17, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      Yeah…and they said they weren’t going to make the playoffs (divison winner OR wild card). Said they weren’t going to beat the Phillies…said they weren’t going to beat the Brewers. I hope people continue to say they have not shot. That is precisely what I want. Keep counting them out people.

      • spudchukar - Oct 17, 2011 at 11:39 AM

        Correcto. This is my thought process too. Keep dissin’ the Red Birds please. Seems that no matter who they play the other team’s pitching is always underperforming. Granted their starters weren’t good vs. the Brewers but that doesn’t translate into “ugly”. The Cards played some stellar defense, which seems to go unrecognized.

  13. cintiphil - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    Matt: What we all missed in predicting the games in the NLCS & NLDS is the Cardinal record in September. They found a way to win when they needed it, and had one of the best records in baseball for the month. This Cardinal team is not the same team that took the field in July and August. You seemed to have missed that when saying they are in the worst division in baseball. That may have been true in July, but not in September, and certainly not in October. However, I do think the Rangers have to be favored in the WS.

  14. cemdinc - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    Boy, Matt, you’re not raining on anyone’s parade are you?

    It’s true that the Cards starting pitching was awful in this series. But, did you forget that Carpenter just threw a complete game shutout like 10 days ago on the road in Philly against a 102-win team? He gets to pitch at least twice in this series, and I would bet on a couple of good starts from him.

    Secondly, the Cards have a great offense, very good bullpen, and have been playing much better defense in the playoffs. All good things that are needed for success. All things you decide to ignore.

    Third, the whole “worst division in baseball” line that you throw out there is hilarious. If the division was so bad, then why were the two teams in the NLCS from the NL Central? How can the division be the worst in baseball when the two best teams in the NL reside in that division? And don’t use the “the Phillies are better than either team” line b/c they had their chance to prove that and lost.

    And lastly — I must have missed your similar article on the ALCS. You know, since the Rangers’ starting pitchers lines in the ALCS were pretty similar to the Cardinals.

    But I don’t want to be too critical here. I will give you credit in that you seem to have mastered the art of the backhanded compliment. Kudos.

    • Alex K - Oct 17, 2011 at 10:31 AM

      The Phillies did prove they were a better team than either of those teams over the 162 games leading up to the playoffs. It’s all about sample size.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 17, 2011 at 10:44 AM

        They proved it right up until the Month of September…I will give you that. Otherwise…not so much.

      • shea801 - Oct 17, 2011 at 11:48 AM

        Except when the Phillies played the Cardinals head’s up in the regular season and lost the series 6-3. So, yes, they maintained the best record across 5 months, but when it came time to compete against the best in the NL, they lost.

        It happens, Philly. You amass a fantastic record over the course of the season, but you have to bring your A game when competing against the other good teams who are also bringing their A game.*

        *see 2004 Cardinals, 2005 Cardinals

      • Alex K - Oct 17, 2011 at 2:59 PM

        The Phillies were a better team than the Cardinals overall. The much larger sample of games (162 – 14) tells us that. That doesn’t mean that the Cardinals were a good match-up for the Phillies. You can be a better overall team and match up poorly ith an inferior team.

      • cemdinc - Oct 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM

        Completely disagree. The Cardinals were a bad matchup for the Phillies? Well, let’s see — they had Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt against Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia and Edwin Jackson. As a columnist in Philly said, only Carp even makes Philly’s rotation. How is that a bad matchup? Oh yeah, and they had home field advantage as well. Here’s the sample size that matters: in 14 games against the Phillies this year, the Cardinals went 9-5. To me that’s enough games to say they’re the better team.

      • Alex K - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:33 PM

        Do you understand sample size? 14 games is roughly 8.6% of a season. That is no where near large enough to say that one team is better than the other. In fact, If the Cardinals and Phillies played another 14 games I would bet that the Phillies win more of them than they lose. They were a better team, it is plain and simple.

        That doesn’t mean the Phillies deserved to win the World Series. The Cardinals beat them in a tiny sample of games, it’s happened before it will happen again. No matter what team wins the WS they deserve it, but don’t confuse that with the best team.

      • cemdinc - Oct 18, 2011 at 8:52 AM

        Yes I understand sample size quite well — I just disagree with your premise. Exactly what is a large enough sample size to determine who is better than someone else? Would you like the Cards and Phillies to keep playing games until the Phillies have a winning record and then say “AHA! See! The Phillies are the better team!”

        The problem with your sample size argument is that it doesn’t account for teams changing and evolving over time. For example, the Cards lineup, bullpen, etc. aren’t the same as the beginning of the season. They have a new SS, CF, closer, and SP since the season began. Now they can’t go back and replay all the games with that new lineup clearly, but how do you account for that? This Cardinal team as currently constituted went 34-21 in the regular season and playoffs — or a .610 winning percentage — which equates to roughly 99 wins.

        Finally, regarding sample size: flukes happen in one game, winner takes all formats. For example, the Packers are going to beat the Redskins 9 of of 10 times probably, but just b/c the Skins win one game doesn’t make them the better team. I think we can all agree on that. But when teams play 14 times head to head and one team wins 65% of the games, I think that team is better.

      • Alex K - Oct 18, 2011 at 9:39 AM

        I don’t know the exact point when a sample size is big enough, but I know 14 games isn’t enough. If you think I’m a Phillies phan and even care if they are better than anyone then you are mistaken. I am just stating that the Phillies won more games than any team this year, they were the best team in Baseball, that means they were better than the Cardinals.

        How 14>162 doesn’t make sense to me. Should we just choose wthe playoff teams after 14 games? It’s a big enough sample size, right?

      • cemdinc - Oct 18, 2011 at 10:23 AM

        I think you’re missing my point. I’m not advocating a 14 game regular season. I am saying that the Cards and Phillies have played each other 14 times HEAD TO HEAD. And in those games the Cardinals are 9-5. That’s a lot of games head to head — for example, in the regular season the Cardinals played the Brewers, a division opponent, 18 times. I think 14 head to head matchups is plenty of games to decide who is better.

      • Alex K - Oct 18, 2011 at 10:49 AM

        In 2004 after 14 head to head games the Cubs and Cardinals had both won 7. Are telling me that the 2004 Cubs were as good as the 105 win Cardinals team?

      • cemdinc - Oct 18, 2011 at 11:35 AM

        Ugh, enough. You win. The Phillies went 5-9 against the Cardinals, lost 2 of 3 games at home in the playoffs against the Cardinals, but they are the better team. Yep.

  15. cintiphil - Oct 17, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    Badman listen up. The Pilly’s did not look very good after they clinched the playoffs (did it early), except for the last series against Atlanta (who were crashing before the last 3 games). the Cardinals were winning as much as they could and closed an unbelievable 10-1/2 games in the last 30 days. That is incredible at least. check the records.
    the Philly’s were actually crashing before the NLDS.

    • badmamainphilliesjamas - Oct 17, 2011 at 10:53 AM

      Crashing? Granted, they went to sleep for a week after clinching–but they were still 16-14 in September (including the 8 game losing streak) and 12-6 before clinching.
      All I’m saying is that the ring goes to the team who plays the best when it counts–and that’s not the regular season. As much as it hurts to admit, the Phils weren’t the best team in 2008, but they have the ring.

  16. spudchukar - Oct 17, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Why even have a post-season? From what I read here it is not indicative of “true champions”. I have been down this road before, but it is not the “best” team that wins, but the team that “plays the best”. There is a difference. And I for one am happy that the Red Birds are the latter. You can have your teams that win on paper, I will take the one who wins on the field.

    • natstowngreg - Oct 17, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      The true champion is the team that wins the playoffs. Fans who believe their team was the best are left with disappointment, and forlorn claims of being the “true champion.”

      Right now, of the best regular season teams, the Texas Rangers remain. Their fans will be able to proclaim their team actual champions. Or, they will share the disappointment of Yankees and Phillies fans and claim to be the “true champion,” which means nothing.

    • Alex K - Oct 17, 2011 at 3:05 PM

      If you’re saying what I think you’re saying I agree. The best team doesn’t always win the World Series.

      The regular season is designed to find the best teams. From those teams they get a chance to play to be named champion. But, just becuase a team wins that championship does not mean they are the best team. It only means they won a small sample size of games at a certain point of the year.

      • natstowngreg - Oct 17, 2011 at 10:20 PM

        Yup.

  17. Kyle - Oct 17, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    This just in: A deep bullpen of arms throwing at max effort and being utilized to maximize platoon advantages is better than middling starting pitching. I;m no Cards fan, but the “quality start” issue is no issue at all.

  18. purnellmeagrejr - Oct 17, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Any chance the Rangers had to win the Series has just been scuttled by the headline.

  19. bigleagues - Oct 17, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Starting Pitching is over-rated.

  20. kiwicricket - Oct 17, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Yuck- Matthew.

  21. opshuns - Oct 17, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    Wasn’t this what you said last year with the Giants? That’s why they play the games. The Cardinals are very capable…

  22. foreverchipper10 - Oct 17, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    Just think….the Cards made it this far and that was in a year without arguably their best pitcher in Adam Wainwright. If only….

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