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St. Louis Cardinals Series Preview: I-70 has never been more divided

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The Royals get to throw on their jean shorts and head to St. Louis for cracker pizza and baseball

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals
May 11, 2019; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (46) hits a single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Puetz
Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals last made the playoffs the last time the Royals did, but haven’t won a World Series since 2011, which Royals fans certainly can’t relate to. This season was one with high hopes after adding Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller to an already solid roster, but things have been a little bit weird this year. They started slow before getting lava hot. A win over the Nationals on May 1 put them at 20-10 and three games up in the division. Since then, though, they’re 4-13 and have been outscored 90-74. The big issue is that it’s just difficult to find consistency with an inconsistent starting rotation as they have had this year. All five starters have had their moments, but all five have also had their share of clunkers, and it’s led to an uneven start for that other team in Missouri.

Meet the Cardinals

Cardinals vs. Royals Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Cardinals
Category Royals Cardinals
Winning % .340 .511
Team wRC+ 94 106
Team xFIP 4.68 4.22
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 2.0 Paul DeJong, 3.2

Cardinals Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Matt Carpenter 3B 201 .205 .318 .510 13.9% 22.4% 86 0.2
Paul Goldschmidt 1B 209 .254 .354 .442 12.9% 27.3% 117 0.9
Paul DeJong SS 206 .320 .408 .562 12.1% 16.5% 161 3.2
Marcell Ozuna LF 193 .233 .316 .512 10.4% 21.8% 118 1.0
Jose Martinez RF 154 .319 .370 .440 7.1% 19.5% 121 0.4
Yadier Molina C 181 .267 .293 .413 3.3% 7.7% 88 0.3
Dexter Fowler CF 147 .273 .401 .405 15.6% 22.4% 127 1.2
Kolten Wong 2B 178 .242 .354 .396 12.4% 12.4% 104 1.1

Cardinals Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Matt Wieters C 22 .300 .318 .450 0.0% 27.3% 103 0.0
Jedd Gyorko INF 42 .179 .238 .179 7.1% 31.0% 18 -0.4
Yairo Munoz INF/OF 36 .371 .389 .429 2.8% 16.7% 125 0.1
Harrison Bader OF 103 .259 .382 .447 12.6% 28.2% 123 1.0

Cardinals Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Jordan Hicks 17 16.0 1 2 33.9% 11.3% 2.81 2.67 0.3
Andrew Miller 21 16.2 1 2 29.3% 12.0% 4.86 4.30 -0.4
Carlos Martinez 2 1.2 0 0 33.3% 16.7% 0.00 5.42 0.0

Probable Pitching Matchups

Wednesday May 22nd - 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 10 58.0 2 5 16.3% 14.3% 4.66 5.14 0.6
Michael Wacha 8 42.0 3 1 20.3% 13.5% 4.93 4.96 -0.1

Michael Wacha is somehow still only 27 years old, but it feels like he’s had a full career to this point. This year has been a slog for him, dealing with too many walks, too many home runs and just too many base runners in general. A lot of this is simply a velocity issue. After averaging 95 on his fastball in 2017, that dropped to 93.6 MPH last year and 92.5 this year. And as a result, he’s allowed a .543 SLG on that pitch with six home runs allowed. He’s not getting swings and misses on it and it’s just generally a mess. Without a fastball that can carry him early in games, he’s been battered early with a .274/.361/.532 line the first time through the order. Most pitchers can utilize their primary pitches early before introducing the secondaries and he just doesn’t have that luxury. Of course, Wacha has been good against the Royals in his career with a 3-1 record and 2.56 ERA over six starts spanning 38.2 innings.

This may seem ridiculous, but Brad Keller might be in line for a refresher course in Omaha if he doesn’t get things together with his command. His last start was another that wasn’t a disaster or anything (that’s the saving grace), but he walked five and struck out three, the fifth start this year where he hasn’t had more strikeouts than walks. Since that ejection for hitting Tim Anderson, Keller is 0-4 with a 6.91 ERA, but more importantly, he’s walked 20 and struck out 16 in 27.1 innings. The difference is that he’s not limiting hits anymore either like early in the year, so he’s not able to hide from the walks nearly as easily. He’s already throwing his slider more than a third of the time, but he might want to consider it more as it’s been his only really usable pitch. Of course, using it more might take away some of its effectiveness. The real issue is his sinker has been uncontrollable, and while he hasn’t been hit hard by it, a 15.4 percent walk rate and 3.1 percent strikeout rate on a pitch is just silly bad. The Cardinals as a team are one of the more patient teams, ranking in the top seven or eight all season in swing percentage outside the strike zone, so I’m not too confident that this is the day he gets it right.

Wednesday May 22nd - 6:45pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Homer Bailey 9 45.1 4 4 21.4% 10.2% 5.36 4.25 0.7
Adam Wainwright 9 47.1 3 4 19.2% 9.4% 4.75 4.42 0.3

Adam Wainwright is still around and doing his thing, but he’s obviously not the guy he once was. Since putting up a 2.38 ERA in 32 starts in 2014, he’s only pitched a full season once and has a 4.57 ERA and 4.04 FIP in those 81 games over five seasons. He doesn’t really strike guys out anymore and he gives up some hits. These days. But he still serves a purpose in a rotation when he’s healthy enough to be on the mound. And that curve he was so famous for back in the day, it’s still there. It may not be as good as it once was, but he has an above average spin rate on it and it’s been known to get him some punchouts. Last year, opponents hit .152 with a .197 SLG against it. He’s not that good this year, but it’s still his best pitch and he throws it more than anything. Lefties have absolutely eaten him for lunch this year, hitting .329/.402/.633 against him, which you have to like for Alex Gordon, Adalberto Mondesi, Ryan O’Hearn and Nicky Lopez. In nine starts, he’s pitched in the fifth inning in just six of them and into the seventh in just three of them, so he’s unlikely to be there for a long time. The Royals just hope he doesn’t have a good time.

Continuing the theme of weird seasons, Homer Bailey will oppose Wacha. It seems that every time this year I’ve written him off, he’s pitched well. And then as soon as I think he might be a decent starter for the team, he throws a stinker. If that pattern holds true, I think he should do well in this one after giving up six runs on eight hits in 4.1 innings against the Rangers in the 16-1 loss on Thursday. On the positive, he tied his season high with 16 swinging strikes, which is good, but he got pounded in the second and third time through the order. He’s faced the Cardinals an awful lot in his career, going 6-15 over 27 starts and 145.2 innings with a 5.56 ERA and 24 home runs allowed. Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter both have at least 47 plate appearances against him and both have .400+ batting averages with .600+ slugging percentages against him.

Prediction

The Royals are bad, the Cardinals are playing bad. It’s two games, so let’s go with the boring answer of a split for this series. What do you think?

Poll

Who takes this series?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Royals Sweep
    (53 votes)
  • 28%
    Cardinals Sweep
    (60 votes)
  • 47%
    Boring Split
    (101 votes)
214 votes total Vote Now