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The Cardinals might suck against the Detroit Tigers - A Series Preview

Here’s hoping this series preview title sticks

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a point in every season where a fan gives up on the idea of making the playoffs. Ideally, the fan never does give up, or at the worst, gives up on the day their team is eliminated from the playoffs. But plenty of bad teams give up on the idea well before they are officially eliminated. It’s much too early to give up in May, especially in baseball, but they really got to win this series.

Yesterday, I tweeted “The Cardinals have entered into so bad it’s funny territory. I don’t care if you don’t agree, this is hilarious at this point.” It helped that I wasn’t watching the game due to working. Deep down though, I know I remain optimistic about this team. I know people hate to hear this, but I do honestly think the Cards have had an absurdly difficult schedule to begin the year. They have faced two “easy” teams on paper. One of them is the Pirates and one of the is the Rockies. The Rockies aren’t easy at Coors and the Pirates are improbably leading the NL Central. They are also 4-3 against those teams.

But, I will admit this is sort of a line in the sand series for me. They have to win this series. I’d say sweep but that is simply asking for too much from this team at this point. But they have to win this series. I know the Tigers just swept the Mets, because of course they did, and I know baseball is one of those sports were bad teams beat good teams all the time, but come on. They have to win a series against a bad team like the Detroit Tigers. (I know I know we have a worse record.)

The Tigers’ lineup speaks to the risks of rebuilding. They have a few interesting young guys that aren’t working out as well as hoped, at least so far. #1 overall prospect (by Fangraphs) Riley Greene has an 87 wRC+ this season with a .355 BABIP, although he is just 22. Former #4 overall prospect Spencer Torkelson has a 58 wRC+ this season and a career 72 wRC+ through his first 524 MLB PAs. He’s still just 23. Both have, for what it’s worth, above average projections even now. After a promising debut season, Akil Baddoo had a 65 wRC+ last season and has a 72 wRC+ this year.

Former #12 overall prospect Matt Manning made two starts this season before getting injured and is on the 60 day IL now. Since debuting in 2021, he’s thrown 160 innings of 4.78 ball. Former #30 overall prospect Casey Mize is also on the 60 day IL, hasn’t been that great when he has pitched, and is 26 already. One of their pitchers who did break out, Tarik Skubal, needed Tommy John surgery after 21 starts last year.

Their starting 2B is utility man Zack McKinstry, formerly of the Dodgers, and traded to the Tigers by the Cubs in March of this year. He has a 115 wRC+ with a .374 xwOBA. Against RHP, he’s their leadoff man. Also former Cub Javier Baez has an 83 wRC+ so far this season. Nick Maton, who couldn’t get PAs with the Phillies, has gotten off to a slow start with a 60 wRC+. In that same trade was St. Louis born Matt Vierling, who has a 105 wRC+ so far. They have had a pretty good catcher situation. Jake Rogers has a 99 wRC+ and Eric Haase has a 107 wRC+. Rogers mostly catches and Haase has played DH or OF when he’s not catching, so good chance both will be in the lineup for a couple games.

In the bullpen, Alex Lange is a pretty good closer and if Jason Foley comes in, you’ll see a lot of groundballs. Will Vest has only thrown 5 innings but has struck out 40% of the batters he’s faced. The rest of the bullpen isn’t very good, which includes onetime Cardinal Chasen Shreve, somehow still getting an MLB paycheck. Onto the pitching matchups.

Friday - 7:15 PM

Matthew Boyd (5.47 ERA/5.03 FIP/5.26 xFIP) vs. Jordan Montgomery (3.34 ERA/2.68 ERA/3.82 xFIP_

This is about the most lopsided a pitching matchup the Cards will ever see. They better win. Detroit isn’t actually bad against LHP, at least not so far, but Jordan Montgomery should be able to handle the 18th best offense against LHP according to wRC+. The Cardinals should crush Matthew Boyd. (Although his projection is considerably better than his stats this year, but still)

My pick: Cardinals

Saturday - 1:15 PM

Spencer Turnbull (6.84 ERA/5.41 FIP/5.64 xFIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (N/A)

Because this is the kind of luck the Tigers get, Turnbull had a very good nine starts in 2021 before he got injured. And he’s had a 2.8 fWAR season in the past. So there’s a good pitcher hidden under their somewhere, but he hasn’t figured it out yet this season and the Cardinals better not let him figure it out.

Even those worried about Wainwright probably aren’t that worried he’s going to suck against bad offenses, I hope? Detroit has been the 28th best offense by wRC+ against RHP this year. Please be good Waino.

My pick: Cardinals

Sunday - 1:15 PM

Undecided vs. Steven Matz (6.39 ERA/5.33 FIP/4.11 xFIP)

Well, I don’t know how much I can comment on this game if I don’t know who’s pitching from the Tigers side. But I imagine it’s either a bullpen game, or a starter not good enough to crack the Tigers’ starting 5. So either way, the offense should be able to hit this game. I emphasize should for a reason.

I know a lot of people wanted Matz out of the rotation, but it makes sense to give him a last gasp at a team like the Tigers. He’s getting hit hard by a .360 BABIP and 24 HR/FB% and while he wouldn’t necessarily be good if those things were at his career level, there’d be no talk of taking him out of the rotation. To my mind, he seems victim of the “Big Inning” and he just has to figure out a way for that inning to not make his entire start a bad inning. I’m picking the Tigers just because I’d be insane to pick a sweep right now. Friday’s is lopsided and I’m not betting against Waino.

My pick: Tigers