The St. Louis Cardinals don’t match up to the San Diego Padres in many categories heading into the NL Wild Card series. Still, the experience they possess carries significant weight between two very different teams.
Anybody who has watched or played in a postseason baseball game knows how different the games can feel than during the regular season. The games have different importance to them, making attention to detail and experience invaluable to any playoff team.
The experience factor is exactly what makes the San Diego Padres’ Wild Card series against the St. Louis Cardinals such an intriguing match up. On paper, the Padres were the superior team in the 2020 regular season. The Padres finished 37-23, second-best in the National League, while the Cardinals finished 30-28 in only 58 games played.
The Padres have the edge in offensive categories such as team average, on-base percentage, OPS, total runs. Pitching wise, the Padres outperformed the Cardinals in starters’ ERA, strikeouts per nine innings, and WHIP.
All these statistical advantages for San Diego certainly carry a lot of weight heading into the postseason, but so does the experience and winning mindset that the underdog Cardinals bring with them. To be fair, calling St. Louis, an underdog would probably be selling their potential short.
The Cardinals, who finished the season with an 18-day stretch that included 23 games, are a season removed from making the NLCS before falling to the eventual world champion Washington Nationals.
Veterans like catcher Yadier Molina (98 playoff games), infielder Matt Carpenter (47 playoff games), pitchers Andrew Miller (38 playoff IP), and Adam Wainright (105.2 playoff IP) have been there many times before, mostly with the Cardinals.
The Padres, on the other hand, have a different kind of roster full of players with little to no experience in the postseason. Certainly, no experience that involved the Padres, who are reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
They will, however, rely on guys like newly-acquired Mitch Moreland, who has a wealth of experience with the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox, making it to the World Series with both teams.
For similar reasons, guys like Eric Hosmer, Trevor Rosenthal, and Tommy Pham will be called upon to be voices in the young Padres’ ears during a time where high-intensity situations can swallow inexperienced talent with the slightest loss of focus.
The San Diego Padres are absolutely in a great spot heading into their Wild Card series, even with question marks flying around regarding their two best starting pitchers and their availability. They have a potent offense, capable arms, and a grip on fundamentals that can make or break any team.
The Cardinals, however, have a fountain of experience as a team, as well as a winning attitude that the Padres will need to be ready to match up against.