The road ahead: analysis of the Cardinals 2021 schedule

As the Cards collapsed on the field and in the standings during June, many of us focused on the Card’s run through bottom tier teams. What better safety net for a team in freefall? And the continued poor play against opponents the Cards surely thought they were better than (the Braves excepted) has only deepened my concern (and others) that 2021 will be a lost season. But were we right to put so much onus on a pretty small group of games against poor teams?

I don’t know why, but I tend to look at the season in 10 game chunks, looking ahead to see who the Cardinals will be playing over the upcoming 10 games. It probably has something to do with looking at the standings in the Post-Dispatch as a kid, looking at how the team performed over the last 10 days. With this in mind, I wanted to look at the Cardinals schedule through this upcoming 10-day lens.

Let’s start by looking at the win percentage through June 30 of the Cards opponents past and future.

Graph 1

Case closed. Using this standard, the Card’s upcoming slate of teams will never be as easy as it was on the morning of June 23. This June slate provided the Cardinals with an opportunity unapparelled this season to beat up on bad teams, especially given how tough early July will be.

Or maybe not. Looking at the July slate back in March did not looked nearly so imposing as it looks right now. Let’s use this same 10-day lens, looking at both the FanGraphs preseason team win percentage projections and those same in percentage projections as of 6/30.

Graph 2

Case still closed? Those FanGraphs projections are just about the same, showing how slow projections are to change during the season. And as you might expect, those projections smooth out the highs and lows. Early July doesn’t look nearly as imposing, late June not nearly as opportune.

But where does that leave us? I take some hope away from this look. In any scenario, September will be very tough, the toughest stretch the Cards will play all season. And August offers the Cards another chance to beat up on some bad teams. These are both very good things as the Cards start July. June sucked. All appears (appeared?) lost. But opportunity remains if the club can make it through July (no easy feat given both bad offense and bad pitching). It gives the team time to (hopefully) get Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas healthy, or catch lighting in a bottle with Liberatore, or add a starter through trade, or get lucky (i.e. Carlos Martinez becomes good again or Jake Woodford is the second coming of Jeff Suppan). Is any of this likely? No. But the schedule that remains offers a little space for hope.