SB Nation did a 15 minute rewind of David Freese's walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, explaining, exactly, how the Cardinals even arrived at that point. It's worth watching and you can do that here. One tidbit that gets overlooked from time to time is that it wasn't enough for the Cardinals to be the best team in the National League down the stretch, which they were, in order to even make the playoffs, they also needed the Braves to be the worst team, and they were. Without the Braves' help, the Cardinals' season would have ended with some positive vibes (until Albert Pujols leaves two months later, of course) but no parade. And we certainly wouldn't still be talking about it.
Well, the Cardinals just endured their worst month that I can remember. Nine wins against 18 losses for the month of May. That's bad. And yet, they still have a 40 percent chance of making the postseason according to FanGraphs. Conceivably, we could all wake up Monday morning with the Cardinals in first place. That's partly because we haven't even reached the midpoint of the season. You can go 9-18 in May and still have time to salvage it all, unlike the Braves in 2011. But it's also because even though the Cardinals did a good job of acting like the 2011 Braves all throughout May, no one really took the role of the Cardinals. The Cubs have been three games over .500 since May 1. The Brewers have been five games over. The Pirates and Reds each played one-game-under-.500 ball. The Cardinals lost significant ground, but it wasn't the catastrophe it could have been. And that's the only good thing to say about the month of May other than the fact that it's over.
The draft and the way forward
The 2019 MLB Draft was this week and the Cardinals selected left-handed pitcher Zack Thompson from the University of Kentucky with the 19th pick in the 1st Round. I don't know anything about this guy so if you're looking for insight, hit up our prospects guy, Kyle Reis. In fact, in my lifetime, outside of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, I admittedly haven't known much of anything about any MLB draft picks before their names were actually called. This stems from not watching college baseball (unless Illinois is doing well) or reading the main prospect publications.
I do know that starting with the 2014 San Francisco Giants, every World Series winner has in some way been shaped by top-10 draft picks. In most cases, top-5 draft picks, the exception being last year's Red Sox who picked Andrew Benintendi with the 7th pick in the 2015 draft, their highest home-grown pick on the roster. The Cardinals, meanwhile, haven't had access to this sort of talent. They haven't picked higher than 13th since they took JD Drew with the fifth pick in the 1998 draft. That's the consequence of toggling back and forth between good and very good.
Now, it's not impossible to win this way in today's even-playing field climate when every team more or less has a smart front office. The Yankees haven't had a pick inside the top-10 since taking Derek Jeter with the sixth pick in 1992 and they seem to be doing fine. But I do wonder about the Cardinals' way forward if they're never in position to draft high and also aren't going to outbid teams for players like Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, both of whom could have fit a current need in one way or another. Both of whom are also no longer on the board after signing for a pretty reasonable sum, one with a division rival and the other with those same Braves who the Cardinals could find themselves competing with for a Wild Card spot.
The organization has been lauded for it's player development, and that's warranted. Joe Sheehan noted in a recent newsletter that Dakota Hudson is one of just five draftees from the 2016 class who has accumulated positive bWAR thus far in his early career (no one from the 2017 or 2018 draft has accumulated positive bWAR). Hudson is one example of many, and that's great. But as more players are signing team-friendly extensions, it might be harder to trade for a player like Paul Goldschmidt in the coming years, and especially a player of that caliber on the right side of 30. This probably sounds like whining, certainly it would to a Seattle Mariners fan, and maybe it is. I'm just not positive the Cardinals' way of doing things is enough to consistently make the postseason like it once was.
The great RBI race(??)
Now that Paul DeJong has endured a major slump and fallen well outside the ranks of batting leaders in the NL, I'm going to start following a new stat that most of us no longer care about: The NL RBI Race. I'm not even sure that's the proper term, or if such a race in 2019 even warrants a term, but you can thank C70 for this turn of events nonetheless. So while DeJong has fallen from mention from the batting title, Marcell Ozuna is right in the thick of things in RBIs, tied for fourth in the NL with 51, which is very much in shouting distance of the leaders. Here's how things looked at 10:40 pm est on Thursday evening:
1. Josh Bell - 56
2t. Cody Bellinger - 54
2t. Nolan Arenado - 54
4t. Marcell Ozuna -51
4t. Christian Yelich - 51
Let's go Marcell, you can do this. Especially if DeJong breaks out of his slump and starts getting in base.
Recent words written about baseball that are worth reading
Baseball: The game brought us together by Allen Medlock of Cards Conclave. This is probably the best thing I read this week. It's sweet and probably resonates with almost all of us in some way, and it won't take you long to read.
The tragic spectacle of Eddie Gaedel, baseball’s only 3-foot-7 pinch-hitter by Jayson Jenks of the Athletic ($). The Eddie Gaedel tale is not a fun story. It's pretty tragic, in fact, and this is a pretty important piece.
That will do it. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and go Cards.