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St. Louis Cardinals Series Preview - From East to West, this series is...mediocre

The Cardinals haven’t been playing their best. The Royals may not have a best. But it’s always fun when the series gets to be in both cities or something.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

When the second game of the series between the Royals and Cardinals a few weeks ago was rained out, it was moved to the first part of May, so the first of three games in this series will be played in St. Louis with the last two back in Kansas City. While the Cardinals haven’t had the offensive issues the Royals have, they’ve been carried pretty well by just a handful of hitters who have had great starts to the season. I think there’s more hope for this offense than the one we watch every day with some of their struggling players showing better track records than their KC counterparts. But still, there have been struggles. They’ve generally gotten solid to very good starting pitching, which has allowed them to stay over .500 at the start of the year and, outside of some struggles from their closer, the bullpen has been quite good as well. And we all know they can pick it as well as just about anyone, so once their offense gets going, they should be a pretty darn good team, but the Royals might be catching them at a decent time.

Royals vs. Cardinals Matchup Stats

Category Royals Cardinals
Category Royals Cardinals
Winning % .350 .571
H2H Wins 0 1
Team wRC+ 79 101
Team xFIP 4.20 3.59
Run Differential -34 19
Highest fWAR Andrew Benintendi, 0.6 Nolan Arenado, 1.9

Cardinals Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Tommy Edman 2B 85 .306 .405 .486 11.8% 10.6% 166 1.4
Paul Goldschmidt 1B 88 .282 .356 .372 10.2% 18.2% 121 0.1
Tyler O'Neill LF 86 .178 .256 .260 10.5% 25.6% 56 -0.2
Nolan Arenado 3B 85 .368 .435 .697 10.6% 16.5% 226 1.9
Corey Dickerson DH 44 .200 .250 .225 6.8% 9.1% 45 -0.2
Dylan Carlson RF 88 .175 .227 .238 4.5% 17.0% 40 -0.3
Harrison Bader CF 74 .246 .338 .354 9.5% 18.9% 111 0.7
Yadier Molina C 48 .208 .208 .229 0.0% 10.4% 28 -0.1
Paul DeJong SS 62 .145 .242 .255 9.7% 32.3% 55 0.1

Cardinals Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Andrew Knizner C 34 .300 .382 .467 11.8% 29.4% 153 0.4
Albert Pujols 1B 37 .265 .324 .471 5.4% 18.9% 136 0.0
Edmundo Sosa INF 28 .160 .250 .160 0.0% 42.9% 36 -0.1
Brendan Donovan INF/OF 9 .125 .222 .125 0.0% 11.1% 18 -0.1

Cardinals Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Giovanny Gallegos 7 7.0 0 1 16.7% 6.7% 6.53 4.58 0.2
Genesis Cabrera 9 9.2 1 0 22.0% 9.8% 2.79 4.85 -0.4
Ryan Helsley 7 8.1 0 0 61.5% 0.0% 0.00 -0.12 0.4

Royals vs. Cardinals Pitching Matchups

May 2 - Zack Greinke vs. Steven Matz, 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Zack Greinke 4 22.0 0 1 6.9% 3.4% 2.86 4.79 0.3
Steven Matz 4 17.2 2 1 28.4% 6.2% 6.11 1.96 0.6

Note the game time. It’s been moved from 3:15 to 12:15 to account for incoming weather in St. Louis.

Baseball can be pretty funny. Greinke struck out two batters in his first three starts and gave up four total runs. Then he finally started to get some swings and misses but gave up three runs. He actually wasn’t bad and got through six innings for the first time this season and gave the Royals a shot to come back (which they did before the bullpen struggled). He’s backed off his changeup and his fastball a good amount from last season and added additional curves and sliders. He specifically mentioned wanting to use the slider more. Heading into action yesterday, the Cardinals have had fits with sliders from righties, hitting .205 with a .246 SLG and a 31.5 percent whiff rate. I hope he brings it out early to see if he can get it to work.

Career vs. STL: 21 G, 19 GS, 128.1 IP, 13-6, 3.58 ERA


The Cardinals gave Steven Matz a four-year deal for $44 million this winter, coming off nice bounceback year in Toronto. Things haven’t started great, and Matz is a great example of why FIP can be a tricky stat to utilize. His ERA is 6.11, but his FIP is just 2.03. Why is that? It’s because he’s only allowed one home run with a good number of strikeouts and very few walks. But he’s allowed 25 hits in his 17.2 innings and it’s not soft contact. You’d assume that having to string together hits would be hard to maintain, so he’ll likely come back to the mean a little bit, but his xERA of 4.33 seems a little more realistic than his FIP. He’s mostly a three-pitch pitcher using a sinker about half the time, a changeup about a quarter of the time and a curve about 18 percent of the time. He also flashes a slider. He’s been hurt the most on his sinker with a lot of singles. Again, he’ll likely get those numbers better and will probably justify that contract, but he has to find a way to limit those hits.

Career vs. KC: 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 1-0, 1.50 ERA

May 3 - Dakota Hudson vs. Brad Keller, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Dakota Hudson 4 19.2 2 1 18.2% 11.7% 2.75 4.50 0.0
Brad Keller 4 24.2 0 2 18.9% 5.6% 2.19 3.34 0.4

Dakota Hudson made his first start of the year against the Royals and gave up some home runs. Then he struggled in his second start of the year, only going three innings and giving up three runs. But he hasn’t allowed a run in his last two starts. While that’s added up to 12.2 shutout innings, he’s walked seven and struck out eight over those two starts, so you feel like there’s some regression coming, but he’s been good with just three hits allowed in those games. By the way, on the FIP discussion, his FIP for those two starts is 3.68 because of the walks and lack of strikeouts. He’ll feature a sinker, slider, four-seam fastball, curve and the occasional changeup. The Royals had a couple hits, including a homer on his slider, so that’s a pitch they might key on in this game.

Career vs. KC: 4 G, 3 GS, 16.1 IP, 1-0, 3.24 ERA


Brad Keller has been so good this season. His lone hiccup this year is a game that I thought he actually may have had his best stuff, but he bounced back from that with seven one-run innings against the White Sox. The most encouraging thing about Keller this year is the walk rate. You can see it above, but he hasn’t walked more than two in any of his four games this year. While the ball and strike numbers weren’t great for him, I thought his command was excellent. He fell in love a bit with his four-seam fastball in Seattle but went back to his slider a lot against the White Sox and found success. He isn’t getting the swings and misses he did in his first couple starts, but I think it’s nice to know that they’re in there somewhere. And it’s worth noting that opponents are 2 for 27 against his slider and I mentioned the numbers on the slider for the Cardinals in the Greinke entry above.

Career vs. STL: 7 G, 5 GS, 30.2 IP, 1-4, 4.99 ERA

May 4 - Adam Wainwright vs. Kris Bubic, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Adam Wainwright 5 27.0 2 3 22.4% 10.3% 4.00 3.42 0.3
Kris Bubic 4 12.0 0 2 13.6% 15.3% 10.50 5.49 -0.3

We missed a Greinke vs. Adam Wainwright matchup in the first series due to the rainout and won’t get it here, but do get to see the 40-year old make what’s probably his last start against the Royals in his career. He hasn’t been as good this year as he was in 2021. He’s giving up more than a hit per inning for the first time since 2017. He has a walk rate of 10 percent or higher for the first time since 2005 when he threw two innings and he’s giving up the highest percentage of barrels of any point in the Statcast era. It’s only 27 innings, so there is plenty of time for that to change, but when a guy is 40, you wonder sometimes. The curve is still great and it will probably be great if he’s pitching when he’s 80. And his sinker has been very effective for him. But hitters have done a lot of damage on his cutter and his changeup, so the Royals will need to hunt for those pitches.

Career vs. KC: 15 G, 12 GS, 85.1 IP, 6-3, 3.90 ERA


It sure felt like a “here we go again” moment when Kris Bubic started the game on Friday night against the Yankees by allowing three runs to the first four hitters. But he turned it around and the hope is that he has unlocked something to help him get back to what he was doing in the first two years of his big league career. He threw four scoreless innings and retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced. On the surface, the difference was something I talked about all of last season. He was throwing harder. He threw 18 fastballs 92 MPH or harder with just two of them in the first inning. On those 18 fastballs, the Yankees went 1 for 4 with one whiff, a handful of foul balls and a few called strikes. It set everything up much better. Hopefully he can carry that with him into this start against the Cardinals, though I still think it’s weird that he hasn’t thrown a single slider this year after all that talk about it in spring training.

Career vs. STL: 2 GS, 6.0 IP, 0-1, 12.00 ERA

Royals vs. Cardinals Prediction

The Royals are not playing well by any stretch. The Cardinals are also not playing well, but arguably they’re playing better. And this series is always tough for the Royals in Kansas City while they play reasonably well in St. Louis. I’m going to keep holding out hope that the Royals take one in a series and say they’ll do it this time.

Poll

Can the Royals win a game this week against St. Louis?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Yes, all three in fact.
    (5 votes)
  • 16%
    More than one, but less than three...so two.
    (12 votes)
  • 36%
    Yes, but just one.
    (26 votes)
  • 39%
    Ha. No.
    (28 votes)
71 votes total Vote Now