We know that the 2016 Cardinals won 86 games, a drop of 14 victories from 2015. We know that their five-season streak of making the playoffs came to an end. We know that it was awfully weird around the village last fall, depressed and feeling left out as other teams engaged in the clash to own October. We know it was unsettling to see the Chicago Cubs win 103 games, take ownership of the NL Central, and celebrate their first World Series title since 1908.
We probably know what the 2017 Cardinals have to do to get themselves right.
But in a final look at 2016 that links to the new campaign, here’s my list of things the Cardinals can’t have happen if they want to sweep last season’s ashes away:
1. The Cardinals can’t have a losing record (38-43) at Busch Stadium, the eighth-worst home mark in the MLB.
2. They can’t win only five of their final 16 series at Busch Stadium.
3. They can’t be weaklings against the Cubs, winning only one series from their rivals their entire season.
4. They can’t go 10-9 against the Pirates, or 10-9 against the Reds.
5. The Cardinals can’t have a lousy 40-47 record against teams that finished .500 or above.
Not after posting a .638 winning percentage (No. 3 in MLB) against opponents .500 or better from 2012 through 2015.
6. They can’t have a starting pitching ERA of 4.33 for the season, the worst by a STL rotation since 2007.
7. They can’t have a gruesome starting pitching ERA of 5.10 over their final 66 games, not with a playoff spot at stake.
8. They can’t finish 26th among the 30 MLB teams in defensive efficiency.
9. They can’t rank 27th in the majors in the Base Running Runs (BRR) metric.
10. They can’t have 47 runners thrown out while trying to advance an extra base on a batted ball.
11. They can’t get doubled off base nine times, or picked off eight times.
12. If the Cardinals want to steal bases, they can’t have the lousiest success rate (57.4%) in the majors; during the post-expansion era only one Cards team was more futile in the quest to swipe a bag.
13. They can’t allow opponents to successfully steal bases on 78 percent of their attempts.
14. They can’t go 24-23 in one-run games; that .511 win percentage ranked 26th.
15. They can’t have so many injuries. According to the injury-tracking site Man Games Lost, only three teams were hit harder by injuries — in terms of total impact to team Wins Above Replacement — than the 2016 Cardinals.
16. They can’t score 44.93 percent of their total runs on homers; their 2016 HR-dependency rate was the highest by a Cards team since 2000. They can’t be so one-dimensional.
17. They can’t rely on hitting 17 pinch-hit homers to pull games out. That franchise-record total was an outlier.
18. They can’t get outscored by 31 runs in the first inning to frequently get pushed into an early deficit. The Cards were 21-8 last season when they led after one inning. But when they trailed after the first inning their record was 17-26.
19. The Cardinals can’t afford to have Kolten Wong continue to be an enigma offensively.
20. Can’t afford to have Jhonny Peralta lose his power to old age.
21. Can’t have manager Mike Matheny play the wrong guys, or mangle the bullpen.
22. Can’t have Randal Grichuk whiff his way back to the bench.
23. Can’t have Aledmys Diaz regress offensively.
24. Can’t let Yadier Molina and/or Matt Carpenter grind their way into fatigue.
25. Can’t ignore Jedd Gyorko if his bat is live and dangerous.
26. Can’t have closer Seung Hwan Oh lose the magic.
27. Can’t have another 4.62 ERA from Adam Wainwright.
28. Can’t have Dexter Fowler be less than the anticipated version of Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals can’t survive many down years from key individuals.
29. Can’t have Stephen Piscotty fade after the All-Star break.
30. GM John Mozeliak can’t hesitate to summon reinforcements if (A) his big-league roster is treading water and (B) the bright young prospects are tearing up the minors. Can’t stand pat at the trade deadline if the Cards are good, contending and worthy of investment.
Thanks for reading …