How much does experience matter? Depends who you ask

ST. LOUIS - This much seems clear after yesterday - those who have playoff experience seem to believe it’ll be a benefit during their current postseason run.

Those who don’t, well, as you might expect, they don’t feel it’ll hurt them much.

The contrast between the Nationals and Cardinals when it comes to postseason experience is pretty dramatic.

Of the 25 guys on the Cardinals’ roster for the National League Division Series, a whopping 22 have played in a playoff game, and 18 of those had seen playoff action prior to Friday’s wild card game. Of the 25 guys on the Nationals’ NLDS roster, only four - Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Edwin Jackson and Michael Gonzalez - have appeared in a postseason game.

Add up all the postseason experience on the Nationals’ roster and you’ll get 67 total games, 44 of which come from Werth. Add up the Cardinals’ total postseason games, you’ll get 290.

How, if at all, does that play a factor on the field? That’s up for debate.

“I think most of you guys know that I think experience is pretty overrated,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “We weren’t experienced coming into the year winning the division, and we did OK with that. I think you go out there and play, and if you play the game the right way like we have all year, we’re going to have a good chance to win. If we make mistakes, against a team like them or anyone that’s in the playoffs, you’re not going to have a good chance to win.

“I think we know what we need to do to win just like everyone else does. Now we just have to go out there and execute this.”

There’s obviously no tangible way to measure how experience relates to postseason success. Even in an age where there’s seemingly a stat for everything, you won’t find any numbers out there which will bolster one side of the discussion on this topic.

But this much is undeniable: the Cardinals have been through the ringer a ton over the last year. They were a part of three win-or-go-home postseason games last year, and had another one two days ago. That’s something which gives the guys in the Cardinals’ clubhouse a sense of confidence entering this series.

“I think it depends on the man, to be honest with you,” said Adam Wainwright, today’s Cardinals starter, a guy who has started 10 postseason games. “I think some people have it inside of them to step up and play great ball no matter what it is, and some people can get tight. (But) I also think playing in big moments year after year gives you an edge.

“I feel like you’ll be more comfortable in those situations when you’re faced with it over and over again. And last year’s experience, playing the last month of the season like every day was your last and going through that postseason where you’re the underdog every time ... it gives you an edge. It gives you a sense of being comfortable in tight spots, I really do think that.”

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a guy who, ironically, had no postseason experience as a manager prior to Friday, agrees with Wainwright, but he’s also quick to point out that he isn’t necessarily saying that his team’s time in the playoffs gives them an edge over the Nationals.

“I think it’s an advantage for our guys individually,” Matheny said. “So every day they have post season experience, every day they have of going down the wire in September helps them in their development as players individually. And I think that in itself helps us as a team collectively.”

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