It’s been fun to read some of the paranoia within the BFIB in recent weeks. A percentage of Cardinals fans are convinced that an expanded postseason would be detrimental for baseball in St. Louis. Why? Because team management would be even less motivated to build a stronger club.

The theory: If MLB does away with the current 10-team setup to put 12 or 14 teams into the annual tournament, making the playoffs would be easier than ever in a full season, and chairman Bill DeWitt and president of baseball ops John Mozeliak will lower their goals.

Hey, if the last two Cardinal teams could make the playoffs under the 10-team system by winning 91 games in 2019 and 90 games in 2021 – then what will DeWitt and Mozeliak aim for if MLB and the Players Association agree to a larger postseason field? Will the Cardinals be content to take their chances with 87, 88 wins? Perhaps even less?

I find this fascinating for a number of reasons.

For all of this stewing over regular-season win totals in correlation with ultimate postseason success — well, sorry, but it just doesn’t matter as much as many believe. Not even close.

1) The last two STL teams to seize the World Series trophy did so after posting 83 victories in 2006, and 90 wins in 2011. Granted, in both instances the format wasn’t the same as it is now, but the point remains the same: just get into the tournament, and take your chances from there. Still …

— 2004 Cardinals, 105 wins. Lost in World Series.

— 2005 Cardinals, 100 wins, lost in NLCS.

— 2006 Cardinals,  83 wins. Won World Series.

Know thy history.

2) Winning a huge total of regular-season games assures nothing. And that’s highly likely to hold true even if the postseason field expands by two, or four. Why? Because history tells us so. In the original wild-card setup, which contained eight teams (four in each league) the World Series champion on average was the fourth-best team in the majors (4.3 average) during the regular season. In the current 10-team tournament, which began in 2012, the World Series was closer to being the fifth-best team (4.7) on average. This excludes the shortened 2020 season. Hat tip to David Schoenfield of ESPN.com

When MLB just had the league champions face each other in the World Series – the only two teams that made the postseason – the team with the best regular-season record prevailed 60 percent of the time. When MLB went to a four-team postseason – an LCS series in each league, then on to the World Series – the team with the best regular-season prevailed 29% of the time.

And if we combine the two different wild-card formats that have been in place since 1995 – eight teams for 17 years, then 10 teams since 2012 – the club with the top regular-season record prevailed only 19.8 percent of the time.

3) Under the umbrella of the current format (2012-2021), 15 teams have won at least 100 regular-season games. Of the 15, only three won the World Series and two others lost the World Series. But over the same period of time (excluding 2020) teams that have won 94 games or fewer have taken the World Series five times. In chasing the World Series prize, 100-win teams haven’t done as well as playoff teams that won 94 or fewer games during the regular season. In fact, seven of the 15 teams that won 100+ games failed to survive the division-series round.

4) Of the 18 teams that have won their league pennant since 2012, five won 90 games or fewer during the regular season. And seven of the 18 won no more than 93 games. So … we’re gonna blast the Cardinals or any MLB team for making the playoffs with 90 wins? Got it.

5) The last two NL teams to win the World Series in a full-schedule year– the Braves and Nationals – averaged just over 90 wins during regular-season play. And the last five NL teams to win the World Series in a full season averaged 93.3 wins. In 2021, the Dodgers and Giants averaged 106.5 wins … and the 88-win Braves took the NL pennant World Series. Of course they did.

The point is obvious. If in fact DeWitt and Mozeliak were setting their goal in the range of 90 to 92 wins per season – based on an estimate of what it would take to qualify for the playoffs – they haven’t been wrong. The last seven Cardinal teams to make the postseason averaged 92 wins, and got there five times with 91 teams or fewer.

The folks seething over an expanded postseason because of distrust of STL ownership and management aren’t exactly up to date on regular-season success and what it means for October. And unfortunately they’re being encouraged by media peoples who don’t take the time to do a little homework.

If the tournament is adjusted to include more participants, so be it. It’s not as if DeWitt and Mozeliak are setting up the rules here. All teams play within the same format. It’s really silly to suggest that making the playoffs won’t mean as much if more teams are given an entry pass. What, are we supposed to put an asterisk on it to question legitimacy. Good grief, if that’s the case, then every postseason has been fraudulent since MLB first adopted a league championship series in the NL and AL back in 1969. But anything to downgrade DeWitt and Mozeliak, right? If the Cardinals make the playoffs with 86 victories one of these years, I suppose some of you will demand that they refuse to go.

Reminder: you can’t compete for a pennant or World Series title unless you make the playoffs, and that applies to any postseason format.

Except for piling up enough wins to earn the luxury of winning the division – I support this! – I don’t give a dang about regular-season win counts compiled by the Cardinals as long as it gives them a ticket for October baseball. It helps to have 2006 and 2011 in the memory bank.

Again, I think we should try to remember these two things: (A) the larger the playoff field, the less likely it is for the best team to win the World Series; and (B) over the past nine full seasons, teams that have won 93 games or fewer have claimed as many World Series titles, three, as teams that won 100+ games. And teams with 94 or fewer wins have claimed five World Series rings.

Yes, the Cardinal Calibration gets on my nerves. Management must get past the idea of setting a projected win total that will put the team in good shape for making the playoffs.

Having said that, the Cardinals have made the postseason 15 times since the start of the 2000. That leads the National League, with the Dodgers and Braves tied for second over that time with 13 postseasons. And of the NL’s three most frequent postseason participants over the past 22 years, the Cardinals have two World Series championships compared to one apiece for the Dodgers and Braves.

So pardon me for being a tad confused. I thought making the playoffs was a positive thing, and the Cardinals have done it more than any team in their league since the turn of the century. They compete in the playoffs so often, it’s become a ho-hum event for an increasing number of the team’s fans. And if you visit some of these online chats you’ll see the oddest thing: these Cards’ postseason appearances should now be viewed with suspicion, or even disdain. How dare they make the playoffs!!!

From a chatter on STLtoday: “An expanded playoff season would give Bill DeWitt Jr. even more reason to build mediocre teams. Get to the dance, strike lightning, and be the only one standing at the end. This already failed strategy has kept the Cards from claiming a 12th title in the past 10 years. Maybe this playoff approach excites Pirates fans, pardon me if I go back to my winter snooze.”

How interesting.

Over the past 10 seasons the Cardinals have the third-best record in the majors and their seven postseason appearances rank second in the NL to the Dodgers.

Mediocrity?

(Pause for laughter.)

Now let’s get serious and talk about the problem: the Cardinals have lost 15 of their last 20 postseason games. Much of postseason success or failure is random, of course – another reality that many refuse to recognize … let alone accept.

My gripe with the Cardinals comes down to this, and it’s something I’ve been airing for quite some time now: tweak and handle the roster with the postseason in mind.

There’s no reason to go nuts here, and I don’t have some litmus test for payroll spending by demanding that DeWitt do stupid things. I just want more aggressiveness from the front office and I want it for a reason … build a team that’s more capable of winning in the postseason … a team that has more horsepower to go deep in the postseason … a team that’s more well-rounded. And it doesn’t take much. Just one more bat. More rotation depth. Reinforcing the bullpen. Whatever it may be. And take action sooner than later. The 2021 Braves are a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

And the Cardinals should have figured this out just by remembering what they did last summer. Just by adding two starting pitchers and two relievers at modest cost, the 2021 Cardinals went 46-26 (.639) after the All-Star break for the NL’s third-best record. It wasn’t enough to win the division title; the roster holes, though eventually repaired, had remained unfilled for too long.

If the playoffs open up to more teams and the Cardinals make it in, you’ll have to pardon me for thinking that competing in the postseason is better than missing out. Making the playoffs is a net positive and represents a successful step. I’ll pass on raising a cudgel and pounding them for having a consistent presence on the October stage. But one successful step must lead to others. That initial step is just the first in the process.

But if the Cardinals continue to flop in the postseason – which is a separate and significantly different from the test in regular-season baseball – then it’s fair to rip away if management doesn’t assess the flaws, learn from those flaws, and make their roster more viable for October.

And that isn’t always about making the big move. It’s about making smart moves to pinpoint specific areas of vulnerability. Oh, and your best players have to come through at money time. Despite the ongoing obsession and conspiracy theories about the bosses and their motives, It’s not always about ownership or the front office. It’s OK to hold others accountable.

We live in strange times.

Thanks for reading …

– Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

All stats used in this column were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, and Stathead.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.