Tag Archive | "National League Division Series"

Carlos Martinez could follow Shelby Miller path to starting rotation

St. Louis Cardinals righthanded starting pitcher Shelby Miller had to beat out Joe Kelly for the fifth and final spot in the rotation through somewhat of a spring training-long duel between the two pitchers in 2013, and Kelly faces a similar challenge that could produce a similar result in 2014.

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Miller has a lock on a starting job for the 2014 season, so righthanded pitcher Carlos Martinez has taken his spot as the rookie on the verge of a spot in the rotation and in competition with Kelly, who could easily fall victim to another young Cardinals pitching sensation.

Martinez has done plenty to impress through roughly the first half of camp. He is 1-0 after a four-inning, two-hit performance Wednesday in a 6-4 victory over the New York Mets. That was his third start of the spring, and he lowered his earned-run average to 1.80 to go with five strikeouts.

Kelly, meanwhile, struggled his first two starts of the spring. He allowed seven runs and walked four batters in a combined four innings before he settled down for a 5.1-inning winning performance Saturday in a 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves when he allowed one run on four hits with no walks and three strikeouts.

Kelly did not pitch particularly poorly during the 2013 spring training camp, but Cardinals management obviously thought Miller was capable of a strong rookie season that started with him in the rotation on Opening Day, even though Kelly ended up in the rotation in the postseason while Miller sat in the bullpen unused aside from one inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Division Series.

Miller still set the bar high for Martinez or any of the other young Cardinals pitchers after he went 15-9 with a 3.06 earned-run average and finished third in the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year voting, but Martinez has the talent to have a comparable first full season in Major League Baseball.

Martinez pitched in 21 games for the Cardinals in 2013 and became the eighth-inning setup reliever toward the end of the regular season and in the postseason, where he posted a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 innings.

Still, the Cardinals were cautious in how much they used Martinez in 2013. They first called him up from the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in May but sent him back to the minor leagues in June and late July to try to keep his arm fresh, as well as let him start at Memphis to maintain his endurance in case an injury befell one of the other starting pitchers with the big-league club.

They would obviously take care of Martinez again in the upcoming season, and he could very well move start the season back in the eighth-inning role because the Cardinals have few options for that spot, particularly if righthanded reliever Jason Motte is not yet fully recovered from the elbow injury he suffered at the beginning of spring training a year ago.

Martinez has all but guaranteed himself a roster spot for when the team opens the season March 31 against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, but he has pitched so well in his first three starts of the spring that he will await his first appearance from the dugout rather than the bullpen, just the way Miller did the year before.

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Matt Holliday and Measuring the Moment

For all that can be said about Matt Holliday, one thing that can’t be taken from him is his flair for the moment. On Tuesday night, for the second time in this season’s playoff run, he delivered a decisive and momentum swinging blow for the Cardinals, and has once again delivered them to brink of moving to the next round.

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Yet when looking at his plain performance, it is easy to see why he receives some of the criticism he does. Despite being leaned on to be the main producer for the struggling Cardinal lineup, he has more often than not failed to live up to that billing. In the NLCS, he is hitting .125 and hadn’t had a hit in over 10 at-bats before his massive fourth inning home run against Ricky Nolasco, which drove in Matt Carpenter and was a resounding moment in reviving a Cardinal offense that seemed to be on the verge of an early hibernation for a second year in a row.

The motivation of this big statement was very familiar, because it was the same thing his Game 4 home run in Pittsburgh did just last week. With the Cardinals on the brink of elimination, he provided the support to make Michael Wacha’s masterful performance stand up, via a two-run seventh inning home run. And now, as a revived Cardinal team finds itself awakened and with three chances to advance itself to the World Series, the team’s fortunes have been pulled in place by the most incorrectly criticized player in recent Cardinal history.

The image of Holliday is tarnished by the shadows it stands in, as well as the image it is supported by. From day one, there was the idea that he was rental player, which cost the team too much to land (the now laughable expense of Brett Wallace and two other minor leaguers who never made it far). Yet in his first postseason, it was one dropped fly ball in Game four of the NLDS during the Cardinals last October trip to Los Angeles which remains the highlight of his first campaign in St. Louis. Much more than the .353 average he hit once coming over from Oakland which provided much needed non-Pujols created offense and helped the team win the NL Central by a runaway 7.5 games.

He was John Mozeliak’s first blockbuster acquisition, as well as his first big dollar contract dealt out. The purpose of Holliday’s acquisition was to be the second half of a potent heart of the lineup along with Pujols, but to also be security in case he was not able to be retained. Ultimately, the latter became reality, albeit after the Cardinals won a World Series in a season where Holliday put up a .296 average, All-Star effort. At this point Holliday replaced the then irreplaceable hitting third in the Cardinal lineup. But he also carried the tag of being the “highest paid player in Cardinal history”, which became more curse than reward in the court of public opinion. This was fueled by his pay grade was not deemed as necessary stroke of foresight, but rather being a prime reason why Pujols couldn’t stay, for financial reasons.

Holliday’s career thus far has been better than it has been bad. In St. Louis, his career numbers during the regular season have been the most consistent of any player on the team during his four-year tenure, averaging .306/23/90 split as a Cardinal. Despite the notion of not being “clutch”, he turned in a .390 average with runners in scoring position this season, which increased to .426 in same scenario, but with two outs.

Those numbers are a pretty fair regular read out of his “clutch” tendencies, as well as a showing of regular value.

However, the postseason struggles have happened and cannot be denied. A team needs its power conduit to be churning at the highest points of the year, and Holliday has let the club down in those scenarios over the past two years. In most situations, a season is not made by the moment, but the postseason is an exceptional time, and the same rules do not apply. While consistency is still not his ally this October, he has made amends in many regards by showing up when most needed. And that is not a presence that should be glazed over lightly, even if that has been the trend for many of his greatest contributions thus far.

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Legend of the Fall: Beltran Continues His Quest

The heroics of Carlos Beltran in the month of October are nothing new. He ranks in the top 10 nearly every major postseason category that an individual can find himself in. However, in last night’s game one of the National League Championship Series, he had his signature effort as a Cardinal during the season’s final month. In the process he single-handedly carried the team to series-opening victory, as well as continued to make an increasingly convincing case for how his legacy will be rewarded.

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Beltran took the world on his shoulders, as his two-run third inning double started the offense, and remained the entire output until his RBI single ten innings later earned a grueling win to a grueling start to the NLCS. In a matchup that saw just three lead changes scattered across 13 pitchers for both sides, it was the two defining hits by Beltran that made the complete difference in the Cardinals 3-2 victory.

Yet, the moment of the game came in the top of the tenth inning, when Beltran showcased why the team leans on him so heavily at this point. After Jon Jay misplayed a Mark Ellis line drive into the right center field gap, which resulted in a one out triple, the club found itself in about as big of a bind as possible. After intentionally walking Hanley Ramirez to reach Michael Young with a double play situation in play, Trevor Rosenthal found himself in a do or die scenario.

Young did exactly what he has supposed to do, which was put the ball in the air to the outfield. The ball he hit would have been Jay’s to take in any other scenario, but this was far from that; it was the game on the line. With this crossroads clear and evident, Beltran moved over from right to overrule his outfield mate, and uncorked the type of throw which helped make him a Gold Glove center fielder three times over, cutting down Ellis at home plate and giving the Cardinals another life.

Helping to make good on a dominant, seven scoreless inning collaboration from the Cardinal bullpen, poetically, the game came back around to Beltran came back to the plate again in the thirteenth inning and capped his legend securing evening. With two on and one out in the 13th, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly finally unleashed his closer Kenly Jansen, owner of one of the most dominant fastballs in the game. But Beltran worked the count in his favor so he could face that pitch on his terms, which resulted in him lining a base hit in right field, which brought in Daniel Descalso (who had a clutch flare hit to start the inning) and closed out a hard-fought win to start the series.

For Beltran, his reputation simply grows at the highest peak of the season again. It has been nine years since his record-setting eight home run October debut with the Houston Astros. In the time since, he has grown his career, seemingly lost his peak to injury and then rebuilt it in a new role. All along, he’s become a new player in the season’s final month, the type of postseason legend that is rightfully mentioned along the lines of Jeter, Jackson and Ruth.

There are a few things each name in that group has in common, and it is that their efforts evenly resulted in a World Series victory. Despite reaching the NLCS four times and reaching the seventh game of each appearance, he has yet to be able to breakthrough to game’s final level. The debate continues on whether Beltran is a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but one thing that is a consensus is that the conversation starts, and finishes, with the efforts he turns in during this point in the season. And when it comes time for that discussion to ultimately be decided on, the game he began this season’s NLCS with will be remembered as a strong indicator of just how exceptional he truly has been. But where the season ends, and how much further he can fuel this particular Cardinal team, could ultimately be the decider.

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Wainwright Joins Pinnacle of Cardinal Pitchers

It was no secret that the key to winning game five of the National League Division Series would require a strong performance from Adam Wainwright. However, what he ultimately delivered was far more than just that. It was an effort that removed any doubt about whether he belonged among the most exclusive class of Cardinal hurlers all-time, Waino delivered. And it is now clear that the Trinity of Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean and Chris Carpenter now needs be pulled to include #50 as well.

It is now a “Mt. Rushmore” of Cardinal pitching greats.

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Throughout his whirlwind year, Wainwright has steadily affirmed himself as being among the best pitchers the team has ever had. It was a year where he reaffirmed his intent to be a part of the team throughout the remainder of his career, climbed the up the team’s leaderboards to a few rare levels and once again led his league in wins. It would be deemed yet another in a steady line of affirmations of him becoming one of the better pitchers of his era.

But there is always the sense that such achievements are only along a regular day’s work for him. Being a great Cardinal requires being great at the highest levels; and those only come in October. For Wainwright, the situation that found him the Division Series, being an anchor on both ends of it, fed exactly what he desires most. And that’s controlling the series in a way that only the head of a staff can; being the unavoidable punishment for opponents, and a pillar of confidence for his club.

With one half of that equation affirmed via his dominant Game One outing last week, he turned for a chance at rarified Cardinal immortality by picking up victory in a win or go home game. It was the one thing that eluded his resume to be a part of the aforementioned Cardinal greats of the bump, and it was also a chance to avenge the biggest let down of his career to date, which came in the same situation a year ago in Washington. But it was clear that the past would stay where it was early on, as Wainwright set the tone with an especially devastating curve. He pitched through the tough spots, while relishing in an inspired defense, as well as overcoming some blunders from that same unit. He made the runs stand up, and he authored a masterful complete game to close down the year for the Cardinals’ most persistent foe, and push his club to a third consecutive National League Championship Series

It echoed of the same fashion that he made his first bones in Cardinal lore, via his game-closing strikeout (via a buckling hopeless curveball) to a hitter that had destroyed the team all year, this time being Pedro Alvarez. Yet while Wainwright would always be remember for his relief heroics in seven years ago, last night was the stamp on his resume as a starter of legend with the club. It was his equivalent of Dean’s complete game, six-hit shutout of the Tigers to win the 1934 World Series, or Gibson’s record-setting 17 strikeout opener to the 1968 Series. More contemporarily, it was his match to his mentor’s masterful three-hit clinching performance over Philadelphia to close out 2011’s NLDS.

Wainwright’s postseason big game confidence was already in place, but last night, the pedigree was set. As well as affirmation that a living legend, one of the vein that tosses the first pitch out years down the road, is now set in the midst of the Cardinal faithful, for how thoroughly he delivered the last one of yesterday evening.

 

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What’s The Move For Mujica?

One of the most debated elements to the late season, and now postseason, is the status of Edward Mujica. After an amazingly efficient start to the season, one that saw him rise from setup man to All-Star closer, he lost his way late in the second half. And now, the arm that was tasked with the majority of the most clutch moments of the year, is struggling to find relevance among the pitching staff.

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The downturn in Mujica’s productivity has been a debated subject with no clear reason offered yet. With ideas that have ranged from workload fatigue, to compensating for an injury that he does not want to be public knowledge with free agency pending, the reasoning is not quite clear.

What is however is that the club has moved in a different direction regarding the ninth inning, where as it has been officially stated by Mike Matheny that the ninth inning will be handled by “committee”, it has been a committee of one thus far, consisting only of Trevor Rosenthal thus far. The move to Rosenthal, who has spent the majority of the season as setup man for Mujica looks to be permanent, as Matheny has struggled to find time to safely deploy his former closer. After seven days off the mound to rest, he returned to the hill for the final weekend of the regular season, in what was clearly a “dipping a toe in the pool” type of test to see what was there. But the results were far from encouraging, where in a third of an inning on Saturday, where he faced four batters; he surrendered three hits, including a home run and a long double to centerfield, before giving way to Randy Choate and ultimately Seth Maness, who closed out the victory.

This leaves the decision on what to do with Mujica in a precarious position. It is clear he is not the arm he was a few months ago, and the decline looks to have already fell over the cliff. His fastball has slowed some, and thus is not making his out pitch in his changeup nearly as effective. Also there is a loss off location, which is causing for the extreme rise in contact on him, with batters getting hits in 18 of 35 at-bats, good for a .541 average against during September. As a result, this saw him surrender as many runs in September as he did April-August, combined.

This loss in effectiveness certainly moves him away from the zero margin of error that is needed in an October bullpen. But the better question is what to do with him in regards to a role in the bullpen, overall. It is the personal relations portion that makes it difficult, as it has to do with keeping with the usual path of least resistance of Matheny. A norm in his approach has been a faith in his personnel despite downtrodden stretches, and dumping Mujica works against what has been established there. Mujica is not only a vital personally within the team’s dynamic, but has rightfully earned the right to continue to accompany the team. It would send a questionable message to the chemistry of the team to exclude him after what he has accomplished, regardless of recent struggles, with no clear injury declared.

With the expanded bullpen that one less starter brings, there will be quality arms to throw any bonus innings that may approach, thus also limiting the impact his continued struggles could have. But at the same time, there is no wasted role in October, and one spot being called on could be the difference between living and flaming out. If that player can’t be Mujica, and he bumps a Carlos Martinez or Sam Freeman, it could bite badly in the end.

Perhaps the answer that is easiest is to reset his role with the team, via lessening the leverage of the situations he is deployed in for the time being. He arrived in St. Louis with a similarly questionable role, and then excelled in the sixth and seventh innings as a bridge to the end of the games. Perhaps a return to an earlier role such as this is the best option for putting him to use as needed. While the presence of Maness, Kevin Siegrist and John Axford now lessens the load he would be tasked with, perhaps the return to what was first familiar is the first key to finding the spark that Chief so often lifted the team at in its most essential moments, at the most critical part of the year.

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Best record important, but St. Louis Cardinals should have Adam Wainwright ready to start playoffs

The St. Louis Cardinals will be the National League Central Division champions as they enter the playoffs, but where they begin the postseason is still an important mystery.

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The Cardinals took a one-half-game lead over the Atlanta Braves for the best record in the National League into play Thursday when the Braves face the Philadelphia Phillies while the Cardinals wait to begin their final three-game series of the season at Busch Stadium against the Chicago Cubs.

As was the case in the Cardinals’ World Series championship season of 2011, they will face the worst team in the NL Central while the Braves play the Phillies. However, the Cardinals played the Houston Astros to close that season, and the Cardinals and Braves were fighting just to make the playoffs in 2011.

Now they are competing for the best record in the National League, which would guarantee them home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series.

The Cardinals don’t have Chris Carpenter to send to the mound in the final game of the season as they did two years ago, but they still have one of the best pitchers in the league ready to go in the final series, if necessary.

But here’s the thing. It is not necessary.

The Cardinals could pitch Adam Wainwright on Saturday, which would be his regularly scheduled day to start, or they could hold him back until Sunday if they need a win on the final day of the season to clinch the best record in the league.

However, if he pitches Sunday, that would put him on short rest to start Game 1 of the National League Division Series, and the Cardinals would almost certainly push him back to Game 2.

A third option would be to shut Wainwright down until the playoffs regardless, but that opens up a problem of too much rest if he goes from Monday until next Thursday between starts.

He will instead probably pitch Saturday or Sunday, and at this point Saturday would be the much better option.

Sure, the Cardinals might lost home-field advantage in the NLCS if they don’t win enough games against the Cubs this weekend, but with a playoff spot already in hand, the Cardinals would be more prudent to maximize their strategic advantages for the first round of the playoffs because there is no guarantee they will even make it the next round and be able to use what would be their home-field advantage.

At this point, Wainwright in Game 1 of the division series is more important than Wainwright on Sunday against the Cubs.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny can still use Wainwright on Saturday and then use a pitcher such as rookie Michael Wacha on Sunday. That setup would still give the Cardinals a legitimate chance to win and gain home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs, but it would more importantly position Wainwright to pitch the first game of the playoffs.

Plus, a winning performance from Wainwright against the Cubs is far from certain. Wainwright has struggled against the Cubs more than any team throughout his career outside of the Atlanta Braves, which would arouse another whole set of questions for later in the playoffs.

Anyway, Wainwright as a career 4.44 earned-run average and a 7-6 record through the seven full seasons he has pitched in Major League Baseball.

So a win from Wainwright on Saturday and Sunday is not nearly as likely as one might first assume, even though the Cardinals are 28 games better than the Cubs heading into play Friday.

The Cardinals would be smart to let Wainwright pitch Saturday on normal rest and be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs instead of having him pitch Sunday and risk losing that game while also losing him until Game 2 of the division series.

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Edward Mujica eerily similar to Ryan Franklin for St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals entered the 2009 playoffs with a closer who barely reached 90 mph with his fastball after years of a closer who threw in the mid-to-upper 90s yet had a nearly perfect season before the Cardinals faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

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Ryan Franklin had replaced Jason Isringhausen when Izzy got hurt, or got too ineffective, late in the 2008 season and saved 38 games in 43 opportunities.

The situation at the back end of the Cardinals’ bullpen four years later is nearly exactly the same. The Cardinals lost their flame-throwing closer, Jason Motte, to elbow surgery during spring training and eventually gave the ninth-inning job to Edward Mujica late in April.

Mujica’s fastball tops out around 91 mph, but as was the case with Franklin, he has masterfully induced dozens upon dozens of groundballs on the way to 37 saves in 41 chances with nine games left in the regular season.

And the Cardinals are set up to again play the Dodgers in the National League Division Series if they hold on to win the NL Central over the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.

The last time the Cardinals and Dodgers met in the division series is when Franklin’s almost magical run came to an end and never returned.

Dodgers first baseman James Loney hit a line drive to left field in Game 2 that Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday dropped. Franklin then walked two hitters and gave up two singles, the final one to pinch hitter Mark Loretta to give the Dodgers a 3-2 win and a 2-0 lead in the series that ended in a sweep two days later.

That playoff series was the beginning of the end for Franklin, who had been an All-Star in 2009. He saved 27 games in 2010 but he blew four of his first five save opportunities in 2011 and did not make it to the end of June before the Cardinals released him.

Obviously, the Cardinals hope the matchup against the Dodgers ends a little differently this time around, but the lesson from 2009 is clear. Mujica has been terrific for the Cardinals so far this season, but he is not an overpowering pitcher and not a long-term answer for the team at the closer position.

Thankfully, the Cardinals have a more solid backup option this time than they did two season ago, even though it is the same person.

The Cardinals tried seven different pitchers in the ninth inning in 2011 before manager Tony La Russa settled on Motte in September. Motte saved nine games in the regular season, closed out the National League Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers and the World Series against the Texas Rangers, but he had a total of three career saves before that season.

Motte now has a world championship ring and 54 career saves to his name, and manager Mike Matheny will likely give him every possible chance to take back the job when he returns healthy to spring training in 2014.

Until then, Mujica has a lot of work to do, and he has shown some weaknesses lately. After he converted 21 consecutive save chances to start the season and was a perfect 9-for-9 from July 19 through Aug. 26, Mujica has blown two of his four save chances in September and has given up 12 hits in his last 6.1 innings.

Mujica is one of the biggest reasons the Cardinals are in a solid position to make the playoffs, but the team will need more of his first-half performances than his September outings if it is going to beat the Dodgers this time around.

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Shelby Miller To Test Arm

The first week of spring training games always brings a mix of excitement and trepidation as pitchers take to the mound for the first time in a game atmosphere against real opponents. So far the St. Louis Cardinals have been able to experience the excitement, but more trepidation awaits Saturday.

Shelby Miller is showing up in shape to compete for the opening in the rotation.

The Cardinals got to see their pitchers who came to spring training with the most health concerns, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia, throw in game situations, and neither had any problems.

Wainwright threw 2.2 innings Monday against the Houston Astros, who got four hits off of the Cardinals’ right-handed ace, but he did not give up a run and struck out four.

Sure, Wainwright didn’t come into spring training with any major health concerns, but he is still just two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, and it is always crucial to get that first start out of the way without any problems.

Garcia pitched two innings in a start Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox. He gave up three hits but no runs and had two strikeouts.

His outing was a bigger concern because it was the first time he had pitched in a game since facing the Washington Nationals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series last year when he had to come out after two innings because of shoulder discomfort, and that was after he missed much of the second half of the regular season with the same problem.

But Garcia looked sharp Tuesday and reported no lingering issues with his shoulder.

That would be a huge relief for the Cardinals because Garcia is a key piece of the starting rotation, especially now that Chris Carpenter won’t be around. Carpenter’s injury effectively moves Garcia or Jake Westbrook up to the No. 2 spot in the rotation.

So, with Wainwright and Garcia off to good starts, the Cardinals move on to their next question mark on the pitching staff: Shelby Miller.

Miller is scheduled to start Saturday against the Nationals after he missed several days with soreness in his right shoulder. That could certainly be a major concern if something truly is messed up in the rookie’s shoulder, but most signs point to his soreness as just a normal part of working back into game shape after the offseason.

The Cardinals will find out for sure in just a few days when Miller takes the mound. So far the team has had all of its injury questions answered the way they would prefer. Wainwright looked sharp, Garcia pitched well and the rest of the pitching staff hasn’t reported any injury problems, which is more important at this time of the year than how they perform on the mound.

This will also be the first in a series of important outings for Miller, regardless of his health. He is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation with Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, in what figures to be one of the most hotly contested battles of the spring.

Kelly has yet to enter a game, but Rosenthal started the Cardinals spring opener Saturday against the Miami Marlins, and things didn’t go so well. He gave up four runs on five hits and two walks without recording a strikeout.

Granted, the results in the first start of the spring aren’t very important, and he didn’t have any abnormal discomfort after the game. Rosenthal will get his shot to make the rotation. And if he doesn’t, the Cardinals will have his 100 mph fastball as an effective weapon out of the bullpen.

So the Cardinals can relax a bit now that the pitchers recovering for old injuries have surpassed the first hurdle of spring, but Miller will have to get through Saturday’s game without any issues before they can fully exhale.

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The Economics Of The Playoffs

National League Division Series To Generate
Nearly $5.2 Million Per Game To St. Louis Region

ST. LOUIS — With the Cardinals in the first round of the National League playoffs, St. Louisans can eagerly anticipate both the national attention and the measurable economic benefits that post-season play will bring to the St. Louis region.

The St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association’s (RCGA) Chief Economist Ruth Sergenian noted that the total economic impact of the Cardinals playoffs depends upon the number of games played here in St. Louis. If all possible games are played through the World Series, the impact would approach the impact of the All Star’s week in 2009 at over $56 million. Any added economic benefits to the region from the playoffs are above and beyond the $313.6 million impact of the 2011 Cardinals regular season.

Sergenian calculates that the economic impact of the Cardinals appearing in the Divisional Playoffs would approach $5.2 million per game. This estimate is based on the assumption that the games would draw 46,200 attendees per game. Historically, out of town visitors constitute some 40% of Cardinals attendance. The playoff’s will bring increasing attendance from the out of town visitors, as well as the media, and the MLB. Direct visitor spending is expected to reach $1.5 million per game for the division series.


In addition to direct spending by visitors, operations at Busch Stadium will boost total new direct expenditures to $2.6 million pergame. There are approximately 3,000 day-of-game employees at Busch Stadium. The total direct expenditures will ripple through the local economy to generate nearly another $2.6 million in indirect and induced expenditures, to reach the total impact of almost $5.2 million. The RCGA uses an economic model called IMPLAN to develop these estimates.

“RCGA economist Ruth Sergenian’s projected economic impact of $5.2 million per National League Division Playoff game at Busch underscores the fact that not only do the Cardinals mean great baseball, but they also mean great economics for the City and region.”

The RCGA is the chamber of commerce and economic development organization for the 16-county, bi-state region. With nearly 4,000 member companies, RCGA members constitute 40% of the regional work force. The mission of the RCGA is to unite the region’s business community, and to engage dynamic business and civic leadership to develop and sustain a world-class economy and community.

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Blueprint For Beating The Phillies

Not many expected the St. Louis Cardinals to make the 2011 postseason when it was learned that Adam Wainwright was out for the year. This team looked rough early on; in the first game of the year they experienced defensive lapses and a blown save, two bad traits that would follow the team all season. Albert Pujols had a down year. Colby Rasmus got traded. Some players spent extended time on the disabled list; others were gone for shorter but more numerous stretches. The Cards set a record for hitting into double plays. Based on perception alone, this is not a playoff team.

And yet, there they sit in Philadelphia awaiting their chance to take the field for Game 1 of the National League Division Series Saturday afternoon. Now what?

The NL Central’s playoff representation has been nothing short of abysmal since Wainwright struck out Brandon Inge to end the 2006 World Series. Every Central Division winner since has been swept in the first round. The only team to win one game was the 2008 Wild Card Milwaukee Brewers. But that’s all they won—one game.

This year the Comedy Central once again sends two representatives to the postseason. And the Cardinals have a tough task ahead of them. The Philadelphia Phillies do not screw around in the playoffs; just ask the Cincinnati Reds. The number of people outside of a 100-mile radius of St. Louis picking the Cards to win this series is infinitely low. But if an 83-win division winning team that almost missed the playoffs can be labeled the underdog in every series they play and come out World Champions, then a team 10 ½ games out that goes on a 23-9 run to end the year and win the Wild Card can certainly beat a “better” team in a best of five series. And here’s how:

1. Swing Easy at the Plate. Yes, Roy Halladay no-hit the Reds in Game 1 last year. Who cares? That was last year, and that was not this team. Don’t try to hit a 10-run homer with every swing of the bat. Relax. He is hittable, and so are Lee and Hamels. And the Cardinals just happen to be the best hitting team in the league.

2. Cardinal Pitchers: Keep the Ball Down. The Phillies have some mashers on their team: Howard. Utley. Victorino. Pence. Ibanez. Mayberry. Ruiz. The list goes on and on. And their stadium doesn’t help; Citizens Bank Park is a bandbox. Ground balls, ground balls, ground balls. Luckily that is already the Cardinal pitching philosophy; if they can stick to it they will have a better chance at winning, especially in Philly.

3. Catch the ball. Misplays in the field can no longer be tolerated, and they were a big problem for the 2011 Cardinals. Remember the circus sideshow that was the 2006 Detroit Tigers in the World Series? Their biggest problem was throwing the ball. And it cost them the championship.

4. Hold Late Leads. This one kind of ties the previous two points together, because a lot of the Cardinals’ 2011 losses came as a result of late game shenanigans. Kyle McClellan has been left off the roster for this series, so one experienced presence is already missing. Eduardo Sanchez, Fernando Salas, and especially Jason Motte: It’s your time to shine.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes. Part of what got the Cardinals to this point was their resilience. Lose your ace? No problem. Lose your closer? Someone stepped up. Manager has shingles? Kept pushing. Injuries and slumps? Picked themselves up and played through it. Bad loss at the worst possible time? Came back with a win when they needed it. This team has thrived on adversity all year, so why even try to play perfect baseball now? Does such a thing even exist? Ride the momentum and have fun with it. They’re not supposed to be there, and now that they are they’re not supposed to win. So go show them.

It all seems oversimplified but the postseason really is a different kind of monster. Weird stuff happens. Can the Cardinals knock off the Phillies? Sure they can. Will they? Who knows? But the first team to get three wins advances, games still have nine innings, and each inning has three outs per side. Each day it is once again time to go win a baseball game.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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