Oh, hey there! Been a while, eh? Yeah, I still write for ReviewStl. You’re stuck with me for a while longer, I suppose. Don’t worry, I’ll be trying to write a little bit more than the zero I’ve done recently.
But you don’t want to listen to my ramblings, eh? Me neither. You want to discuss the Cardinals, and rightfully so.
What’s Gone Right with the Cardinals so far
I don’t think there’s any doubt remaining that Marp’s taken the reins as the best position player on the team this year. In this still-nascent season, Carpenter’s leading the team in average (.366 before tonight’s game), slugging (.634 thanks to a league-leading 10 doubles), home runs (3), and RBI (11).
Is it sustainable? Unlikely. Carpenter’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is 50 percentage points higher (.390) than his career average, and that’s likely to regress a bit. It doesn’t mean he won’t be more successful than he was last season. He’s taken a bit more of an aggressive approach at the plate (4.03 pitches per plate appearance this season, compared to 4.37 last year). He’s cut down on his walks, but he’s also cut down on his strikeout rate, and his isolated slugging (slugging percentage minus batting average) is so far a career-high .268. It’s still very early in the season, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t get a third consecutive All-Star nod.
Let me first start off by saying, “I’m only writing this article so I don’t get fined.”
With the culmination of the 2014 National Football League season just days away, the typical frenzy that happens in the days prior to the Super Bowl has been tempered somewhat in St. Louis. Given that the teams playing in Super Bowl XLIX make up 2/3 of a Rams fan’s evil triumvirate (with San Francisco being the missing member), it has been hard to find too much excitement from locals I have talked to. It also seems that most of the media hasn’t been as focused on the game, but instead on the controversy attached to the game. A quick Google search reveals over 17 million hits for “Deflategate”; even St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, Brett Hull and Kelly Chase have teamed up with McBride and Sons to make a Defategate commercial (which is scheduled to air during the Super Bowl). The only brief reprieve from Deflategate was the Media Day appearance by Marshawn Lynch, who responded to every question asked (a total of 29 times): “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” (Is it too late to trademark that and start selling t-shirts?) Ironically enough, Lynch, will still likely get fined for his appearance because he was wearing attire that was not approved by the NFL.
With all the distractions prior to the Super Bowl, many fans have not had a chance to consider how the teams stack up against one another. So here is some analysis that will hopefully give you some things to watch for on Sunday evening – in between all those much anticipated commercials, of course.
Super Bowl XLIX pits two well matched teams against each other as the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks take on perennial Super Bowl contender New England Patriots. This is the 11th time since 1975 where the top seeds from each conference will play for the Lombardi Trophy (the NFC is 8-2 in the previous 10 match-ups, including last year’s Super Bowl, with Seattle defeating the Denver Broncos). Seattle is making their second straight Super Bowl appearance, and third overall (losing to Pittsburgh 21-10 in Super Bowl XL) while New England is appearing in their 8th, six of which have occurred since 2002 when the Patriots shocked the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Seattle comes into the game as the NFL’s best defense, ranking 1st in yards against per game, pass yards against, and points allowed, while sitting at 3rd in rushing yards against. They also have the top rushing attack in football, leading the league in total yards (2762), yards per attempt (5.3), and rushing touchdowns (20). But New England is no slouch either, with an offense that generated the 4th most points in the NFL this year (468) and the league’s 9th best passing attack. The New England defense ranks 8th in points allowed and is 9th against the run. New England’s turnover ratio (+12) is also 2nd best in the league. Both teams routinely get after the opposing quarterback, with Seattle creating QB pressure on 37.2% of passing plays, and New England right behind them, with 35.2%. (Note: QB pressure is defined as sacks, hits, or hurries on a quarterback according to Pro Football Focus).
The St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up their second straight National League Central title Sunday afternoon while finishing off warm-ups. After failing to close the door Saturday night, the division championship came down to the last day of the season, and for perhaps the first time ever, had St. Louis fans rooting for Johnny Cueto and the Reds against the Pittsburg Pirates. Separated by three time zones, and with Cueto picking up his twentieth win of the season, the Cards were able to secure the division without having to win Sunday’s game (a game they won anyway). This marks the ninth division title for the Cardinals since the inception of the NL Central during the 1994 realignment.
The season began with lofty expectations from both local and national pundits. Many considered the Cardinals to have a 100 win potential and easily capture the division crown. Nothing in baseball, however, seems to go as planned. The club battled an underachieving offense, inconsistent play most of the season, and injuries to key players, but finished the season strong. Taking over the Central division lead at the start of September, the Cardinals at a .654 clip (17-9) the final month to end the season 18 games over .500, with a record of 90-72.
Now, with the 162-game MLB season in the rearview mirror, the team can focus on baseball’s “second season,” which starts Friday night in Los Angeles in a rematch of last season’s NLCS. The teams may be the same, but there are several differences between this year’s and last year’s series. The Cardinals come in as the clear underdog. The Dodgers, as the higher seed, own home-field advantage and the Cardinals have not been good on the road, playing three games under .500 as the visitor. The Dodgers won three out of four games from the Cardinals in Los Angeles earlier this season, outscoring the Cards 17-4 in that series, shutting them out in two games. The Cardinals offense was at times anemic this season, finishing last in the NL in home runs (105), second to last in stolen bases (57), and tenth in runs scored (619). The 619 runs the Cardinals scored are the lowest of any playoff team and 99 less than the Dodgers scored. If the Cardinals want to advance past the NLDS, they are going to have to find a way to generate some offense against a pitching staff that features Cy Young award winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
One of my favorite things about sports in general is the history of the games. The undeniable legends who stood taller than everyone else, the greatest plays in history, the indelible moments that come to define legacies.
Like any institution, often these sports attempt to embrace their past, encouraging people and the participants of their sports to learn the history of the game. The name Jackie Robinson may not exactly be a household name, but you would likely be able to find a large portion of the population who is at least familiar with the name. MLB embraces Robinson’s contributions and has an annual Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, during which all MLB players wear the number 42, the number Jackie wore when he broke the color barrier. Some fans like it, some find it annoying. Whether or not you enjoy it, it’s hard to deny that MLB has gotten their point across.
On this episode, I am joined by Jeremy and Jake. We break down this Sunday’s SummerSlam card and give our predictions. We also talk about some of our favorite SummerSlam moments from the past.
Feel free to leave your thoughts or predictions on this Sunday’s show or talk about some of your favorite SummerSlam matches.