A couple of weeks back the Cowboy was talking about how it was a bad product of September call-ups that teams in contention get beat by weak teams because they have never faced a particular pitcher before.
I had that thought in the back of my head during the 1st game of the Cards series when they were pounding Mike Leake. Mike was not throwing poorly, but it sure looked like the Cards knew what was coming. Well, the fact is,... they did. Aftre revieing their stats and record for the last two years, I have concluded, the Cards are one of the best teams in baseball at reviewing the book on each player they face. (In April and May Mike Leake was dominant, but now that there are a plethora of videos and ML stats on him, he has actually become very predictable for those that prepare.) The same is true on hitters... Carp spends hours each day between starts reviewing the hitters he is going to face and intimatly memorizing their strong and weak zones.
So what happens to the Cards when they DON'T have their preparation advantage? Last September, the Cards went 1-7 against teams outside the division. Carp lost his only 2 games outside the division that month. Why? Beacuase of September call-ups. Last year they faced teams like Atlanta, who had nothing to play for and gave their rookies more shots.
The year before the Cards went 6-4 outside the division, but that year they faced teams that were in the running till the very end (7 of the 10 games were against AZ who finished the season only 2 games out). Those teams don't fill the lineup with AAA players, so the Cards preparation advantage still stands.
Ok you say, this year the only games outside the division are ATL, SD and COL (plus one game vs FLA); ATL and SD are in dogfights and will play their starters; only the Rockies and Fish series will be with also rans. True, but it is not the outside the division games that are going to bite them this year.
(One side note, the Cards may be 4-0 vs the Braves, but that was in April when the Braves were still below .500 and at home. The Braves are an amazing 36-11 at home since 30 April. I don't think any amount of preparation is gonna make up for that.)
The difference is that IN the division, other than PIT, the Cards are gonna play teams that are going to be giving lots of newbies their shots. The Astros, Cubs and the Brewers have all traded away starting pitchers and/or key starting position players in the last month. Last year, only the Pirates and Reds made big roster changes in the last months of the season. In September, the Cards were 9-3 against the stable rosters of the Brewers Cards and Astros, but only 3-3 against the Pirates and Reds. Why? Becasue those two rosters were filled with relative strangers. Rolen and Janish and Stubbs were playing for us, among others.
To sum up... the weak schedule the rest of the way will actually be a disadvantage for the Cards. Meanwhile, the Reds, who simply do not prepare for specific opponents very well, will be far more consistent. The will beat the teams they should beat 2/3rds of the time (lots more winning series)
but lose to the elite contenders.
The bad news is that, although this may help us win the Division, our lack of preparation skills make things look tough in the playoffs.
Just my semi-optomistic 2 cents.