clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

St. Louis Cardinals series preview: Provel in polyester

New, 26 comments
MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals
What should have been...
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals travel east—at least theoretically on I-70—to face the odious St. Louis Cardinals on the Redbirds’ home turf. A one-way rivalry if ever there were one, many Royals fans care deeply about beating the nearly always better Cardinals—a franchise whose success owes itself to some unknowable alchemy of dark arts, bad barbecue, worse pizza, scrap-heap Lazarus action, and soul-selling to the Devil.

The Cardinals fans care not about the Royals. They’re too busy looking terrible on Twitter.

Game times and pitching matchups are as follows:

  • Monday, May 21 — 7:15 PM CDT — Ian Kennedy versus Miles Mikolas
  • Tuesday, May 22 — 7:15 PM CDT — Jason Hammel versus Luke Weaver
  • Wednesday, May 23 — 12:15 PM CDT — Jakob Junis versus Michael Wacha

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference

Royals at Cardinals series preview

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Game 1
Ian Kennedy 9 47.0 45 21.3 16 7.6 4.98 4.46 4.31 4.28 0.5 0.1
Miles Mikolas 8 51.1 37 18.0 5 2.4 2.63 3.57 3.25 3.57 0.9 1.3
Game 2
Jason Hammel 9 53.0 27 11.4 16 6.8 6.28 4.80 5.28 5.33 0.2 -0.4
Luke Weaver 9 47.1 42 21.0 17 8.5 4.37 3.33 4.28 4.29 1.1 0.3
Game 3
Jake Junis 9 56.1 48 20.8 12 5.2 3.51 4.77 4.33 4.03 0.3 1.5
Michael Wacha 9 49.2 44 21.0 21 10.0 3.08 3.48 3.97 4.42 0.9 0.8

Miles Mikolas has done nothing but impress since coming back over from Japan after three rock-solid seasons in the NPB. His 2.4 BB% is the second-lowest of qualified pitchers (only the inimitable Bartolo Colón sports a better mark at 2.1%). This has allowed him to post the third-best K/BB ratio in baseball, 7.40—behind Zack Greinke (8.29) and the aforementioned Colón (8.00). He also has the 13th-highest groundball rates at 51.3%, so the contact he is allowing isn’t likely to do him much damage. He’s outperformed his peripherals a bit, but he’s been quite the signing for the Cardinals. He throws a four-seamer that clocks in at 95.3 MPH on average, and mixes in (in descending order of usage) a curve, slider, sinker, and change. Per Pitch Info’s values, the slider and curve are his best two offerings this year, though only his changeup registers as a negative pitch.

Luke Weaver’s strikeout rates have taken a bit of a dip from the salacious highs they reached in his first two major-league stints. Down from striking out more than a batter an inning in both 2016 and 2017, Weaver’s K% has dropped 7.6% from last year. He has, however, enjoyed a spike in his IFFB%, tied with Jake Odorizzi for the seventh-best mark of qualified pitchers at 17.3%. At this point, he is pretty much a three-pitch righty, leaning on his 94.4-MPH four-seamer over half the time before going to his cambio and Uncle Charlie. Maybe a couple times a game, he’ll toss a cutter or sinker in, but they’re just for a different look. Despite his low FIP, all three metrics of ERA, xFIP, and SIERA suggest that he’s probably being bailed out on his FIP by his 5.8 HR/FB% that is screaming for some regression to the mean.

After suffering through two straight seasons in which his ERA was markedly higher than his FIP, Michael Wacha is back from the desert and enjoying the opposite luck—an ERA 0.40 points lower than his FIP. He is currently posting his highest BB% of any season. Always a major-leaguer with a walk rate in the 7% range, his has spiked to 10.0% this season. His K% is right in line with his career average (also 21.0%), but his K-BB% is actually worse than it was during his dismal 2016 season in which he suffered a 5.09 ERA. Even more weirdly, his LD% has spiked 9.3% from his career mark, which would suggest that he’s actually getting quite lucky in the batted-ball department. In short, Wacha probably isn’t as good as his ERA suggests.

St. Louis Cardinals position players

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Tommy Pham CF 167 8 35 19 8 .312 .419 .532 .409 163 2.0 1.6
Jedd Gyorko IF 82 4 10 13 1 .290 .390 .493 .382 145 0.8 1.0
José Martínez 1B 183 5 17 30 0 .313 .383 .481 .373 139 0.7 0.2
Harrison Bader OF 78 3 14 5 4 .254 .359 .418 .340 116 0.7 1.2
Tyler O'Neill LF/RF 18 2 4 3 0 .333 .389 .733 .453 193 0.3 0.3
Greg Garcia (L) SS 63 2 9 9 0 .236 .290 .400 .296 87 0.2 0.3
Kolten Wong (L) 2B 132 3 11 9 1 .179 .279 .304 .265 65 0.2 0.5
Matt Carpenter (L) 3B 162 3 15 16 0 .194 .321 .351 .299 89 0.2 0.5
Francisco Peña C 42 1 5 1 0 .282 .333 .385 .308 95 0.2 0.0
Steven Baron C 5 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .176 5 0.0 0.0
Marcell Ozuna LF 182 3 15 21 2 .234 .275 .316 .261 63 -0.3 -0.2
Yairo Muñoz Util 21 0 1 1 0 .105 .190 .158 .167 -1 -0.3 -0.3
Dexter Fowler (S) RF 171 5 22 18 3 .160 .281 .292 .263 64 -0.6 -1.1

Once perpetually blocked despite shredding the minors, Tommy Pham has gotten his chance and is making everything of it. At present, the Cardinals’ most valuable position player (Paul DeJong leads him by 0.1 rWAR but just broke a metacarpal in his left hand last week) has done nothing but rake. The same can be said for José Martínez. Yes, that José Martínez. The one the Royals let go for nothing to make room on the 40-man for Whit Merrifield back in May of 2016, while still rostering entirely fungible entities like Chien-Ming Wang, Brett Eibner (sorry, ladies and discerning gents), Brooks Pounders, and Reymond Fuentes. Mini-rant over.

The Cardinals position players are the 12th-most-valuable unit in baseball, worth 6.0 fWAR, buoyed mostly by their defense. Sporting a .237/.319/.391 triple-slash, .311 wOBA, and 96 wRC+, their offense has been somewhat mediocre, but judging by the defensive component of their fWAR (fifth-best in baseball), they’ve got great glove, and no glove, no [fWAR] love. Per DRS, they only have been worth 7 runs saved, ranking 12th, but their 4.3 UZR is the eighth-best mark in the game.

Poll

How will the Royals fare in St. Louis?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Royals sweep
    (8 votes)
  • 5%
    Royals take two of three
    (9 votes)
  • 45%
    Cardinals take two of three
    (80 votes)
  • 44%
    Cardinals sweep
    (77 votes)
174 votes total Vote Now