clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Cardinals will attempt to not make fans mad with more losing when they face the Texas Rangers - A Series Preview

I’m not saying baseball sucks, but I’m not going out of my way to watch the Cardinals

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals broke my spirit and I can attest to this, because I essentially made zero effort to watch the Cardinals over the weekend. I didn’t watch an inning. Now I was super busy actually, so this wasn’t me at home with nothing to do and choosing to watch something else. Most of me not watching it was going to happen even if I tried my best to watch every inning.

But for example, I was at a bar on Friday night for my mom’s birthday party, and it was outdoors and we had a decently big spot reserved. The Cardinal game was on, though only really visible in certain areas of the reserved spot, and I ended up being in an area where it wasn’t really possible to watch the game. I didn’t really care that I wasn’t watching the game.

On Saturday, I had to work and I left work in a bad mood, and when I got home, I saw the Cardinals were losing 4-3 in the 8th and really was not interested in watching the Cards lose. I am 100 percent someone who loves watching games where the Cards could come back because I don’t want to miss it when they do, but my confidence level was zero that they would. Because they are for some reason not allowed to win one-run games. I’m pretty sure they have lost every single game when they’ve been down by one run in the 8th or 9th inning and the one-run games they do win have been 2-run leads that either Gallegos or Helsley gives up a run but still gets the save.

And on Sunday, I did have to go to work for a couple hours and what I had to do had to be done by 2, but I really could have made an effort to watch some of the game and just didn’t. Another situation where I saw the Cardinals were losing and just was not in the mood to watch them lose. When I am optimistic fan, I will watch games the Cards are losing, because the possibility of them winning outweighs seeing a loss. When I am a pessimistic fan or just tired of the Cardinals’ play, watching them lose sounds like voluntarily stubbing my toe and then ripping off a fingernail and I genuinely don’t care if I miss a comeback.

Absolutely none of this has to do with the Rangers, but Rangers’ fans who have decided to read this: this is the mindset of the Cardinals’ fan you’re working with. And unfortunately for you, as soon as a perpetually hopeful fan finally gives up, that’s about the time the team decides to throw you a bone and actually surprise you. Or maybe we have farther yet to fall I don’t know. Oh and we have been basically a mediocre team who has inexplicably lost nearly every 50/50 game. We are 6-13 in one-run games and have a +3 run differential. This a cursed team. We’ve had other teams that were seemingly cursed until they weren’t and until writing this out, I am suddenly realizing it would be cruel to name which. So we’ll just pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, the Rangers, the reason you’re all reading this article. I know some of us don’t pay attention to the American League much, so I may actually be delivering bad news, but the Rangers are 1) in 1st place in the AL West 2) have a +152 run differential and 3) have the second best offense in baseball (and the 121 team wRC+ is better than any team in 2022, it’s just that the Rays exist).

They have 11 players with at least 90 PAs on the season and 10 of them have a 114 wRC+ or higher. Basically their entire team - with maybe the exception of Nate Lowe - is either hitting their 90 percentile projection or playing out of their minds. Marcus Semien has a 142 wRC+, Corey Seager has a 179 wRC+, Adolis Garcia has a 122 wRC+, and Jonah Heim has a 126 wRC+. These would all be career highs for pretty established players, and in some cases by quite a bit. Josh Jung (137 wRC+), Leodys Taveras (126 wRC+), Josh Smith (114 wRC+), and Ezequiel Duran (140 wRC+) are all 25 or younger and could be for real but it would be insane if they all were. They’re even getting a 123 wRC+ out of Travis Jankowski, who had a 45 wRC+ last season and has a career 80 wRC+. Nate Lowe is like the only player who is playing exactly as expected. Oh and Robbie Grossman, who is sadly for him, the only one of the 11 to not have a wRC+ over 100.

Well at least, Texas has bad pitching right? No, they have not had bad pitching. They are 5th in baseball in FIP and 4th in ERA. Some of that is Jacob deGrom, who is not currently healthy, but you don’t get to 4th in baseball with one pitcher. Their bullpen is not great actually though. They have gotten home run luck - they are 8th in baseball in FIP. But that “luck” hasn’t helped their ERA. They are 22nd in ERA and 26th in xFIP. Another interesting fact: the starters, though 3rd in ERA in baseball, are 26th in innings. So the way to beat the Rangers is their bullpen evidently.

Closing games is 33-year-old Will Smith, who is honestly about as mediocre as relievers come at this point in his career. He’s had between a 3.84 and 4.22 xFIP in every season since 2020. Now granted, his xFIP is by far his worst 2023 stat, although given his career 3.58 FIP, 3.58 ERA and 3.52 xFIP, he hasn’t really been an FIP beater at all. Jose Leclerc used to be dominate, but is walking 15.6% of hitters and only striking out 26% with a 24.4 GB%. No idea how he has a 2.95 ERA. Brock Burke struck out 27.4% of hitters last year, but this year it’s just 19.4%.

Josh Sborz is the odd man of the group with a 4.26 ERA, but elite everything else thanks to a 32.9 K%. Grant Anderson might be a problem too. He struck out 43.2% of hitters in AAA and has struck out 8 of the 13 batters he’s faced in the major leagues. This is about as anonymous as bullpens get as far as name recognition is concerned.

Monday - 7:05 PM

Adam Wainwright (6.15 ERA/4.47 FIP/5.51 xFIP) vs. Martin Perez (4.43 ERA/5.01 FIP/4.80 xFIP)

I might be the biggest Adam Wainwright defender there is, but even I am very, very worried about him facing the Rangers. If he has a good start, I will never doubt Wainwright again.

At least the Cards get to face a bad left-handed starter. Granted, he was very good last year, but given the rest of his career, I feel like 2023 is more who he is. This is supported by the rest of season projections. It helps, in theory anyway, that Perez is a left-handed pitcher and depending on how yesterday’s game impacts the stats, they are still top 5 offense against LHP (and four hits, three walks, and a homer probably isn’t going to make it worse despite just one run I wouldn’t think)

Tuesday - 7:05 PM

Matthew Liberatore (4.91 ERA/3.83 FIP/5.13 xFIP) vs. Dane Dunning (2.06 ERA/2.83 FIP/4.38 xFIP)

Interestingly, Dunning is pulling an Andre Pallante. He started the year in the bullpen and got moved to the rotation when deGrom hit the IL, and is now striking out more as a starter than he did in the bullpen. He wasn’t very good in the bullpen at all (unlike Pallante last year) with a 13.9 K% and 5.03 xFIP. In the rotation, his K% is still a below average 18.4%, but with a 2.53 FIP and 3.90 xFIP. Everything about this dude’s stats suggests he’s due to get rocked, so let’s hope it’s the Cards.

The Rangers are also not a great matchup for Liberatore - probably not a great matchup for anyone really - but they have a 133 wRC+ against LHP this season and have a 10.3 BB%, so if he doesn’t have the control, they will let him walk his way out of a good start. If his control is similar to his first three appearances in the majors, he’s going to have issues.

Wednesday - 7:05 PM

Jack Flaherty (4.55 ERA/4.44 FIP/4.56 xFIP) vs. Jon Gray (2.51 ERA/4.43 FIP/4.61 xFIP)

Alrighty. Here’s another pitcher who really seems like he’s due to get rocked. So what I’m getting from this preview is that imagine the 2023 Cardinals, but instead of every small thing going wrong, pretty much everything goes right. I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking: this is definitely because of 2011. We don’t need to understand how. The Rangers finally collected on their bill. Yes, this is logical.

I’ve gone full circle. The Rangers are clearly playing out of their minds and are due for some sort of fall and the Cardinals have removed all hope and are due to give us back that hope, which you would think would mean the Cardinals are definitely winning this series, but the fact that I think that means that I have hope and they haven’t fully crushed the hope so now they’ll lose again and with the hope lost again, they will win the series, but now it’s back and they will lose and