The St. Louis Cardinals have what it takes to win a championship this year.
The team currently sits ahead of the pack in the NL Central with an 89-54 record, though it is still a tight race. The Pittsburgh Pirates sit just 2.5 games back while the Cubs aren’t far behind at 6.5 games behind.
However, neither team will catch the Cardinals—a team that has been a powerhouse all season long. Thanks in part to the key offseason acquisitions of outfielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden, the Cardinals have been flying high.
On that note, let’s take a look at the formula for the Cardinals winning the 2015 World Series.
5. Clutch Defense.
The Cardinals don’t have the best defense in baseball, but what they excel at is their left-on-base percentage. They give up hits, but once the runners are on base the pitchers are absolutely un-hittable.
They are playing at a historical rate in this area with the help of the starting pitchers who play a huge role. The Cardinals are also the best team when it comes to runners in scoring position and RISP with two outs. It is safe to say they are primed with their defense for October baseball.
4. Stellar Bullpen
While St. Louis arguably has the best starting rotation in the majors, a well-rounded pitching staff always features a great bullpen. When the starter starts tiring or the skipper wants to save his arm he sends in the relief. And the Cards have a stellar bullpen.
The last team to have an outstanding bullpen ERA-wise (2.56 ERA) to match this year’s Cardinal team was the 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates. This unit is in the top-three in baseball in save percentages and slugging percentage allowed. Trevor Rosenthal is only second to the Pirates’ Mark Melancon in saves and is boasting a 1.59 ERA with 43 saves on the year.
Stretching the relief thin could be a concern for Manager Mike Matheny going forward into the playoffs. But fortunately the starters have taken a huge load off them by pitching late into the game.
3. A headstrong lineup
No team can avoid the injury bug. And St. Louis is no exception. Key injuries to OF Matt Holiday and 1B Matt Adams hurt the lineup but the Cardinals continued to push forward.
Incredibly, despite poor power numbers, this team succeeds at putting runs on the board. St. Louis ranks 21st in runs scored and slugging percentage, 25th in home runs and 16th in OPS. But that didn’t break the morale of the offense, and the Cards have seven starters hitting above .265, along with rookie sensation Randal Grichuk.
With Matt Adams expected to be back in the lineup starting on Tuesday and Matt Holiday expected back soon as well, the Cardinals will have their full arsenal back and a bench full of experienced talent ready for the playoff run.
2. A Monster Starting Rotation.
The Cardinals’ starting rotation has been dominating opponents all year long. All five starters have allowed a sub-.300 average, and the team ranks among the top-five in batting average allowed and shutouts. Their total wins from starting pitchers is the best in the league as well.
All this dominance has been accomplished without the team’s ace Adam Wainwright. He’s been out since he tore his Achilles tendon back in April stepping out of the batters box. Wainwright is hopeful to return to his duties in October, which would bolster their rotation going into the playoffs. But if fate would have it that he did not return, then the Cardinals have proven time and time again that they have the arms to compete without him.
1. Team chemistry
It is said that team chemistry plays a huge part in winning. We couldn’t agree more. The chemistry between the players on this roster is why this team is winning.
Between the incredible consistency we’ve seen from the offensive lineup, a pitching staff that is having the best year we have seen in over four decades and a stellar defense that shuts down any runners who manage to get on base, there is no more of a complete team than the Cardinals.
With the return of Matt Adams, Matt Holiday, Jon Jay and the hopeful return of ace Adam Wainwright, this team will be the most dangerous of all the playoff hopefuls.
Skipper Mike Matheny has molded a squad that is to be feared when it comes to October baseball. With an elite pitching staff, a killer defense and a team with an all-around completeness, it’s easy to envision the Cardinals winning the 2015 World Series.