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Cardinals series preview: The state of misery

This season has not gone as expected in St. Louis.

Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

You can mock the self-pronounced “Best Fans in Baseball” all you want (and I do a lot!) but Cardinals fans expect to win. The team has not had a losing season since 2007, and has not lost as many as 90 games since 1990.

But this year has not gone as expected in St. Louis. The team was the favorite to win the division and considered a serious contender to win it all. Instead, the team dug themselves in a hole with a 10-24 start and have been unable to dig their way out. This summer they found themselves in the uncharacteristic role of trade deadline seller, shipping out several players in deals with an eye towards next year. Welcome to our world, Cardinals fans.

St. Louis Cardinals (51-65) vs. Kansas City Royals (37-80) at Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Cardinals: 4.64 runs scored/game (12th in MLB), 4.85 runs allowed/game (23rd)

Royals: 3.88 runs scored/game (29th in MLB), 5.27 runs allowed/game (28th)

The Cardinals have been 17-18 since the start of July and took two out of three against the Rays on the road recently. The offense has not really been the problem this year - they have six hitters in their lineup that have a league-average OPS+ or better (seven when Brendan Donovan was healthy). They have been the victim of bad luck, going 9-23 in one-run games, and their pythag run expectation would put them close to .500.

Only five teams in baseball have hit more home runs than the Cardinals, who can boast eight players in double digits in that category. These aren’t Whitey Herzog’s Cardinals, as they don’t steal many bases and are near the bottom of the league in Baserunning Runs. Defensively they’re okay - Nolan Arenado has fallen off a bit, but it still very good at third. Nolan Gorman has transitioned to second about as well as you’d hope a third baseman would transition, but rookie Jordan Walker has been a defensive liability.

Cardinals lineup and bench

Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
RF Lars Nootbaar (L) 366 12 8 .280 .378 .453 3.1
1B Paul Goldschmidt (R) 504 18 9 .274 .359 .448 2.7
2B Nolan Gorman (L) 396 24 6 .242 .323 .493 2.3
3B Nolan Arenado (R) 468 24 2 .283 .331 .511 3.0
C Willson Contreras (R) 383 12 6 .252 .345 .429 1.8
LF Tyler O'Neill (R) 165 5 2 .242 .315 .396 0.2
DH Jordan Walker (R) 288 10 5 .260 .319 .415 -0.7
CF Dylan Carlson (S) 255 5 3 .219 .318 .333 0.2
SS Tommy Edman (S) 343 8 15 .241 .306 .397 1.5
C Andrew Knizer (R) 150 9 1 .255 .275 .483 0.3
IF José Fermín (R) 16 0 0 .214 .267 .214 0.1
IF Taylor Motter (R) 54 0 0 .180 .241 .220 -0.1
OF Alec Burleson (L) 259 8 0 .249 .298 .422 -0.2

Much of the blame for this disappointing season has been put on the pitching staff, with the loss of All-Star catcher Yadier Molina and the signing of free agent catcher Willson Contreras a contributing factor to the decline of the pitching. But some declines were inevitable, such as the awful season from 41-year-old veteran Adam Wainwright, who starts on Friday. “Uncle Charlie” has given up 33 runs in 22 innings over his last six starts and may nearing the end of his brilliant career. He only throws 86 mph, and his trademark curve has become quite hittable with opponents batting .316 with a .474 slugging percentage against it.

Lefty Steven Matz has bounced back from an injury-plagued season last year to put up the second-best ERA in the rotation. He has won three of his last four starts, allowing just two runs in 23 innings (0.78 ERA) over that time. He induces a high groundball rate of 45 percent, relying heavily on his sinker and change up.

Dylan Coleman is expected to start Friday’s game as the opener with lefty Angel Zerpa likely to get the bulk innings. Zerpa has struggled in three outings since his return from a shoulder injury, giving up four runs in 5 13 innings, but with no walks. The schedule has a rare Sunday scheduled off-day, making this a short two-game series.

Expected pitching matchups

Friday, August 11 - 7:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Friday, August 11 - 7:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Adam Wainwright 7.81 5.68 65.2 5.4 3.6 -0.1
RHP Dylan Coleman 10.05 6.05 14.1 10.7 8.8 -0.2
Saturday, August 12 - 6:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
LHP Steven Matz 3.91 3.76 99.0 8.5 2.9 1.7
LHP Cole Ragans 3.86 3.67 42.0 9.9 3.9 0.6

The Cardinals have the eighth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.45, and they traded away many two of their best arms at the deadline in Jordan Hicks and Chris Stratton. Giovanny Gallegos has the tenth-lowest walk rate among relievers, but home runs have been an issue with seven dingers allowed. Andre Pallante has a unique delivery that has yielded the highest groundball rate in baseball. Many of the arms are journeymen or AAAA pitchers the Cardinals have had to use to fill out a pitching staff.

Cardinals bullpen

Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Giovanny Gallegos 3.45 3.77 47.0 9.0 1.7 0.7
RHP Andre Pallante 4.60 4.35 45.0 7.2 4.0 0.0
LHP JoJo Romero 3.81 2.61 26.0 10.4 3.1 0.6
RHP Drew VerHagen 4.53 4.71 45.2 9.9 4.1 -0.1
LHP John King 4.98 3.40 21.2 4.6 1.7 0.2
LHP Zack Thompson 4.29 2.83 21.0 12.4 5.1 0.4
RHP James Naile 9.90 4.46 10.0 5.4 7.2 0.0
LHP Andrew Suarez 7.27 6.95 8.2 3.1 4.2 -0.1

The Cardinals are having their worst season in 30 years, and yet they are still 14.5 games better than the Royals. The two teams split their two-game series in St. Louis back in May, so the Royals can play with them. And with the Royals picking up some wins lately, they may be able to have a successful series against a Cardinals team that has picked apart the roster with trades.


How will the Royals fare in this series against the Cardinals?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Royals sweep 2-0
    (31 votes)
  • 53%
    Series split 1-1
    (71 votes)
  • 22%
    Cardinals sweep
    (30 votes)
132 votes total Vote Now