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St. Louis Cardinals series preview: I-70 Series 2016 Edition

Two in Kansas City. Two in St. Louis. Four for all the Missouri marbles.

Vanilla sprinkles
Vanilla sprinkles
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals have their work cut out for them in their divisions, as Clevelandand Chicago have jumped out to sizable respective division leads. Which each team needing to make up ground in their division (five games for the Royals, nine for the Cardinals), the team across the diamond stands in their way.

In addition to each squad's 2016 goals, there is the matter of a cross-state rivalry, one with uneven animus and a denial of importance from one side that rings a bit hollow. Both teams own 39-35 records with a four-game home-road split series ahead of them.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Monday, 7:15 PM CDT

Adam Wainwright 15 91.1 65 25 4.73 3.80 4.29 4.49
Danny Duffy (L) 24 58.2 71 16 3.38 3.90 3.59 3.11

Though there is not a huge difference between what he is throwing now and what he has thrown for the past few years, Adam Wainwright is suffering through his worst campaign since he first became the Cy Young Award candidate Adam Wainwright in the 2009 season. Before his star turn, Wainwright was a serviceable starting pitcher with upside. His FIP was in the high 3.00s with an ERA a little lower but still less than spectacular. Then in 2009 he started a stretch in which he maintained a FIP between 2.55 and 3.11 while routinely posting sub-3.00 ERAs. After missing nearly all of 2015 with a ruptured Achilles tendon, his K-rates are back to 2008 levels and his walk-rates are inflated back to the same levels, making his 10.4 K-BB% his worst mark since his first two years as a starter.

Danny Duffy's last two starts have been a little on the shakier side, giving up three earned runs in each start while allowing a total of six walks in 9.2 innings. After a trio of more encouraging starts, these last two have to give one pause in wondering whether the Duffy of yore is back.

Game Two - Tuesday, 6:15 PM CDT

Michael Wacha 15 87.2 75 32 4.41 3.59 4.07 4.33
Yordano Ventura 14 79.1 59 36 4.54 4.76 5.01 4.99

Damned by struggles with runners on base, Michael Wacha's 63.5 LOB% and .309 BABIP seem to be the most cogent explanation as to why his ERA sits on the wrong side of 4.00. More than a run higher than his 2015 3.38 ERA, Wacha's 4.41 mark comes hand-in-hand with a 3.59 FIP that is 0.28 better than his mark last year. Perhaps karma is simply striking a balance after Wacha finished 2015 outperforming his peripherals. Perhaps his increased reliance upon his cutter which has seen a decrease in effectiveness in 2016 is the key to his struggles. Whatever it is, 2016's Michael Wacha is certainly running into some issues. Whether those are self-made or random variance is yet to be determined.

Yordano Ventura's issues with walks seem to have maybe been solved. After leading baseball in walks allowed through his first nine starts, the mercurial Ventura has walked just three batters in his last five starts totaling 30.2 innings. He's moved down the leaderboard to 15th in walks allowed, inarguably a positive development.

Game Three - Wednesday, 7:15 PM CDT

Edinson Volquez 16 92.2 73 36 5.15 4.22 4.39 4.47
Carlos Martinez 14 89.1 70 30 3.02 3.61 3.97 4.08

While Carlos "Porno" Martinez may have an ERA in line with his 2015 mark, his peripherals suggest that he has been significantly worse than he was last year. His 7.05 K/9 is 2.17 worse than last year with only a slightly better walk rate. His 11.1 K-BB% is his worst mark as a major-leaguer. The key to his 2016 ERA success has been his .246 BABIP. With little in the way of changes to implementation of his repertoire, it stands to reason that either he starts striking guys out like he used to regressing to his true-talent level or he will suffer some serious regression to the mean as his BABIP stops keeping him afloat.

Volquez had his second disastrous start of the season last time out and didn't look good the time before that. His 99.00 ERA in his last start isn't a misprint. A .636 BABIP in that start shows that he probably suffered a bunch of bad luck, but it isn't exactly encouraging when the supposed steady starter in the rotation is getting shelled.

Game Four - Thursday, 6:15 PM CDT

Chris Young 13 53.2 55 23 6.54 7.45 5.11 4.51
Mike Leake 15 91.0 59 16 4.25 4.49 4.05 4.17

Mike Leake won't strike a bunch of guys out, but he also won't put anyone on who didn't earn it with a hit. Extremely walk-averse, Leake relies upon his sinker and his cutter to induce ground-ball contact. He is a serviceable #3/#4 with limited upside but limited risk. This match-up will be the least sexy of the series.

The hope for Chris Young to right the ship is getting dimmer and dimmer.

The Batsmen

Matt Carpenter (L) 2B 311 13 52 47 0 .300 .419 .585 .419 167
Aledmys Diaz SS 284 10 49 40 2 .312 .371 .514 .371 135
Matt Holliday DH/LF 276 14 33 44 0 .254 .326 .484 .345 117
Stephen Piscotty RF 302 8 43 39 3 .292 .374 .464 .364 130
Brandon Moss (L) 1B 219 16 37 37 0 .257 .347 .581 .386 145
Jhonny Peralta 3B 68 2 6 8 0 .231 .265 .415 .290 80
Yadier Molina C 277 1 25 25 2 .261 .332 .341 .298 86
Tommy Pham CF 19 2 3 2 0 .235 .278 .588 .362 129
Kolten Wong (L) LF 171 1 18 6 3 .230 .304 .283 .266 63
Eric Fryer C 41 0 7 5 0 .368 .415 .421 .368 133
Greg Garcia (L) IF 52 2 14 7 0 .425 .558 .625 .502 224
Matt Adams (L) 1B 175 9 21 33 0 .298 .349 .528 .370 134
Jedd Gyorko IF 143 7 18 18 0 .229 .294 .420 .308 92

Stats through Sunday, June 26

By virtually any measure, the Cardinals have one of the game's best offensive units. The Cardinals have scored the third-most runs in baseball (397), own the fourth-best wOBA (.337), are tied for the second-best wRC+ (112, a measure that adjusts for park factors), and possess the third-best ISO in baseball (.189). They are a plodding, station-to-station team who wait for the power to drive in the runs. Their -9.3 BsR, FanGraphs' means by which they measure all aspects of base running, is the third-worst mark in baseball.

The Cardinals will be getting catcher and old friend Brayan Pena back this series, likely today. They also have the struggling Randal Grichuk and Jeremy Hazelbaker working on things in the minors, so either could theoretically be reintroduced to the squad during this series. Whether the potent Cardinals' lineup needs any of these three players is another matter entirely.

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