I’m afraid to miss the best parts of baseball. At its core, that is why I watch the Cardinals, every inning I can, no matter how bad it gets. If they turn it around, I want to be there when it starts. I feel like a bad fan if I lose hope and also hope is kind of why sports is fun. Even fans of bad teams watch games because of a hope that they will win. They might not expect them to win, but they certainly hope.
And also because I sort of missed 2011. Well, that’s the way I see it. I started college that year and at the time I actually entered campus, the Cardinals were not a fun team to watch. I had access to the games in my room, I mostly just chose not to watch it. So they racked up the wins and I still didn’t really watch. I remember first feeling disappointed I missed the run they were on when I read about the Carlos Marmol game. Anyway, at some point near the end of the year, I did watch religiously, but I was always kind of bummed I didn’t experience the wins when people still didn’t think the wins would result in the playoffs at all.
I give you this backstory because I feel like whenever I can’t watch a series or a game due to work or being out of town, I’m going to miss something great. I missed the entire 4-game Cubs series in 2019 and not by choice. It was arguably the best part of the (regular) season, and I didn’t watch any of it. I had to catch up after.
So... uhhhh I was pretty convinced when I went on vacation that I would be missing the Cardinals going on a run. And they did go on a run, just a losing one. I watched my last Cards game on Friday night. Then I left for Mexico. They didn’t win a single game while I was in Mexico. They ended their losing streak while I was in the DFW Airport. And I watched my first game yesterday. So.... sorry guys.
But I’m back.
Starting later today, the Cardinals have finally found a team with a worse record to face: the Washington Nationals. They’ve lost 11 of their last 13 games. They are 29th in baseball in homers and steals while being 24th in runs. Not a super exciting offense to watch. They also have a pitching staff that is 28th in walks, 28th in HR/9, and 30th in strikeouts, and you can see that they are not an exciting pitching staff either. Maybe there’s names to be excited about?
Well, not yet mostly. Both CJ Abrams and Luis Garcia, but it would be hard for me because they have so little patience. Garcia has a 5.3 BB%, which would mark a career high. Abrams has a 3.4 BB% which is double his walk rate from his debut season. He has also graded horrible on defense. Keibert Ruiz hasn’t quite had his bat come around. Signed to a long-term deal, he has an 88 wRC+ and career 91 wRC+. Though he does have a .368 xwOBA.
The rest of the lineup is mostly placeholder until they can find better players. You have the inexplicably awful defender Lane Thomas, who yes has a 120 wRC+, but he also has a .362 BABIP and an xwOBA way below that. (But seriously, Thomas is fast but has been a -9 defender in the corners over essentially two full seasons). Dominic Smith has just an 85 wRC+. Corey Dickerson is there and hitting league average. Joey Meneses is batting .300, but thanks to no power and few walks, it’s technically a 99 wRC+. Victor Robles has what would be a career high 107 wRC+ (except for 66 PAs in 2018) but with a .354 BABIP. Jeimer Candelario has come from nowhere to be a 2.2 fWAR player so far.
The Nats have a pretty bad bullpen. Kyle Finnegan has functioned as their closer and hasn’t been great, though the underlying numbers suggest he’s fine. Hunter Harvey appears to be actually good. And then not a lot. Rule 5 pick Thaddeus Ward has pitched like you expect a Rule 5 to pitch. I don’t know why Chad Kuhl is on this roster, he’s thrown 36 innings with a nearly 8.00 ERA. Cory Abbot has a career 5.45 ERA. Carl Edwards Jr. has an extraordinarily misleadingly good ERA, bad K/BB numbers.
Monday - 3:05 PM
Jack Flaherty (4.64 ERA/4.33 FIP/4.58 xFIP) vs. Josiah Gray (3.19 ERA/4.76 FIP/4.88 xFIP)
We have a day game folks. Day game later today. As you can see, Gray’s improved ERA appears to be a fluke. He’s striking out less hitters than last season and walking more and he had a 5.02 ERA last year. His one improvement is he gets more groundballs, leading to a massive improvement in home runs allowed.
Meanwhile, Jack, well every time I want to buy in, he then has a bad start. He got blown up by the Giants. But now that he’s gotten a bad start out of the way, I expect him to get us back in with a dominant start.
Tuesday - 6:05 PM
Jordan Montgomery (3.91 ERA/3.61 FIP/3.89 xFIP) vs. Mackenzie Gore (3.74 ERA/4.14 FIP/3.67 xFIP)
Depending on your belief in Gore, this is a pretty equal pitching matchup. According to his stats, he just has a bit of a home run bug, but has otherwise been great this season. So what it really comes down to is who pitches better. And one pitcher will have to face a harder offense than the other.
Wednesday - 3:05 PM
Miles Mikolas (4.36 ERA/3.99 FIP/4.46 xFIP) vs. Trevor Williams (4.50 ERA/5.44 FIP/4.99 xFIP)
The 31-year-old Williams is a pitcher we’re pretty familiar with. Paul DeJong has a .333 average in 24 PAs and Nolan Arenado has two homers in just 11 at-bats. Dylan Carlson has hit two doubles off him in five plate appearances. He’s the Corey Dickerson of pitchers.
Mikolas is coming off two straight bad starts, so let’s hope he bounces back on this one.
That’s all I got for you, three winnable games, three games I can watch