Revisiting Pre-Season Cardinals Win Projections

photo: 2013 Cardinals win NL Central (Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Making the playoffs or missing out is the most binary of measures. Whether right or wrong, it can be the single most prominent remembrance of any team’s season.

With seven games and seven days remaining in the 2017 regular season for the St. Louis Cardinals, the club is in a tight spot. Even one loss in the upcoming four-game Chicago Cubs series will officially eliminate them from the National League Central race.

The Cards are currently third in the scrum for the second NL wild card spot. Colorado holds a magic number of five with St. Louis’ odds of overtaking the Rockies and Brewers currently set at just over 10 percent, per Baseball Prospectus.

With a strong September overall, the Cardinals have remained playoff-relevant into the final week. Their record heading into Monday’s action is 81-74. Yet, all that means for sure is that the club will avoid its first losing record since 2007.

Obviously, the final record outcomes for the team range from a best-possible 88-74 to a worst-possible 81-81, with the likely result somewhere in between. A 5-2 mark would enable the Cardinals to match their 86-76 finish in 2016, one which left them just short of a wild card ticket. A carbon copy finish in 2017 is quite possible.

I thought it would be an interesting time to look back at some of the preseason projections for wins to be accumulated by the Cardinals during 2017. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but instead were ones that I made note of at the time.

Looking back, some in our sample were more pessimistic, but to date, only one source, a highly-respected local writer, has already overshot the target for sure.

Though their projections are updated daily, back on February 7, Baseball Prospectus’ model had St. Louis coming in at 76-86. Interestingly, the projected totals for the Brewers and Rockies were identical at the time.

All three wild card combatants currently have at least 81 wins, with the winner likely to exceed that early prediction by 10 victories or more.

Before the season, Keith Law of ESPN assessed the Cardinals to be a third-place team, with 81 wins and a .500 record. For that to become 100 percent reality, St. Louis would have to lose nine straight to close the year.

Fangraphs is another site that refreshes its won-loss projections daily. Pre-spring camp, they pegged the Cardinals as an 84-win club. Any more than three victories this coming week and the Cardinals will over-achieve – compared to this early assessment, anyway.

At the end of February, odds-makers set the over-under on Cardinals wins this season at 84.5. This looks very close. Four wins of the final seven would cover the over, but four losses would enable those who took the under to cash in.

Toward the high end, USA TODAY called on the Cardinals to win 88 this season. To make that a reality, St. Louis would need to sweep both remaining series. With all seven games ahead at home, it is not impossible, though the opponents are tough – the two teams ahead of them in the in the standings – Chicago and Milwaukee.

At 91 wins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Rick Hummel saw more potential from the club than they will be able to deliver. However, the J.G. Taylor Spink Award-winning writer’s pre-season prediction of a wild card for the Cardinals is still alive.

In a week, we will all know for sure whose prediction or projection came closest to the pin.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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