It's hard to imagine any team with Albert Pujols as Cinderella.
In another article, I talked about how the wild card has a relatively easy road to the league championship series.
The wild card has a 50 percent success rate in the league championship series following a victory in the divisional series. If the St. Louis Cardinals were to somehow advance, that rate of success would be also 50 percent in the World Series.
Funny how that works.
The end result is a watering down of the regular season and the quality of teams that are able to make it through. Below is a makeshift chart of the number of victories for the World Series winner and the most victories by a team that season. Then, I will compare that to the same numbers from 1969-1994 when there was a league championship series, but no wild card.
1995. . . . . . .90/100
1996. . . . . . .92/96
1997. . . . . . .92/101
1998. . . . . . .114/114
1999. . . . . . .98/103
2000. . . . . . .87/95
2001. . . . . . .92/116
2002. . . . . . .99/103
2003. . . . . . .91/101
2004. . . . . . .98/105
2005. . . . . . .99/99
2006. . . . . . .83/97
2007. . . . . . .96/96
2008. . . . . . .92/100
2009. . . . . . .103/103
2010. . . . . . .92/97
I know that's a lot to digest, so let me break it down. Essentially, the team with the best record in baseball has a 25 percent chance of winning the World Series during the wild card era.
The average World Series winner won 95 games while the best regular season teams averaged 102 wins. Now, I will do this again with the league championship era, but I won't make you scroll down to get the results.
Eight teams with 100 or more wins in the regular season ended up winning the World Series. Above, we see it only happened twice, or 12.5 percent of the time. During the pre-wild card era, that percentage would end up being 32 percent of the time.
That's a significant difference.
Will the Cardinals win the World Series?
When we exclude the 1981 strike-shortened season, we see that World Series winners averaged 97 victories during that time frame. That's a mere two games better than the wild card era.
The best team in baseball averaged the same 102 wins that they did during the wild card era. So, competitive balance hasn't really changed.
The percentage breakdowns for the number of winners that also had the best record in baseball remained constant with the 100 game winners. So, teams with lesser records have a better percentage chance of winning the World Series than they did before the advent of the wild card.
Implication for the Cardinals
Three teams have won World Series titles with 90 or fewer victories since the wild card was formed (the Cardinals were the last to do it in 2006).
It happened only three times in full seasons dating back to the first World Series in 1903. That is a bit of a change and a sign that the Cardinals could be the fourth team of the wild card era to do it.
None of the teams left have historically good records. All of them came in around the 95 win mark.
You still have to favor the field when it comes to looking at the Cardinals, but the rule change definitely opened up things for Cinderella. You have to like three out of 16 a whole lot more than three out of 90.