The 2023 Cardinals ZiPS Projections Are Out, and They Are Making Me Sad

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The 2023 Cardinals ZiPS Projections Are Out, and They Are Making Me Sad

Chicago Cubs

There’s no beating around the bush on this one. Er, well, other than to say projection systems are necessarily imperfect, and you have to play the games, and yada yada yada.

The 2023 ZiPS projections are out at FanGraphs for the St. Louis Cardinals, and they are … uh … strong:

An introductory comment from Dan Szymborski sets the stage:

Yesterday, I compared the Seattle Mariners to the St. Louis Cardinals. Today, it’s time for the real thing. The Cardinals possess that extra thumper I wish the Mariners had in the form of Paul Goldschmidt. Otherwise, the lineups don’t look all that dissimilar: Nolan Arenado plays an older superstar third base version of Julio Rodríguez while the rest of the lineup is low-key, solid, and not particularly exciting, at least at the plate. The Cardinals are rarely a bad team, and it would be tremendously challenging for them to be one in 2023. Want to know one of my favorite freak stats? The last time the Cardinals ranked worse than 20th in baseball in wRC+ was in 1978. From Whiteyball to Jockettynomics to Moneyball to Mozeliakanalia, the Cards almost always manage to score runs.

You can read the article at FanGraphs for the full discussion and all the individual projections, but the short version is that ZiPS expects the Cardinals’ lineup to be outstanding, the defense to be excellent, and the pitching to be solid. I guess hang your hat on the last one, and hope that the run-prevention stuff the Cubs didn’t like about Willson Contreras somehow wrecks the Cardinals’ pitching staff?

It would take guys hitting their 20th percentile projections across the board for this offense to be bad, and again, ZiPS thinks the defense is really good at most spots (which helps the pitching). If things go according to plan, this is like a 95-win team. Again, according to ZiPS.

Things don’t always go to plan, of course, and that’s why it is still worth it to try to build AT LEAST an 85-ish-win roster. Maybe you overperform by five games and the team atop the division underperforms by five games. That kind of thing happens every single season.

All that said, when we talk about on-paper projections come Spring Training, the Cardinals are going to be on top of the NL Central by a lot, and their odds of winning the division on day one are probably going to be in the 70% range. You are likely unsurprised by that today – you shouldn’t be – but it still kinda stings to think about, in contrast to the optimism for a Cubs season where we’re hoping that the Cubs can surprise and win, what, 87-88 games, and ALSO hoping that such a win total is somehow enough to keep them in a playoff race. Seeing a set of ZiPS projections like this for the Cardinals stings.

Oh, and if you were curious on Willson Contreras’s projection, specifically: .238/.335/.432/113 OPS+, 19 HR, 21 2B, 3.1 WAR.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.