Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals (35-33) @ Chicago Cubs (47-20)

In Series Previews by dmick893 Comments

The Cardinals have lost 5 games in a row and now get to take on the best team in baseball. The best part about this series is that the Cardinals are so far out of first place that they’re barely even in the picture. The Cubs have pretty much moved on from them and are focusing on home field advantage, which by the way, people should start voting for the best players at each position and not just voting for Cubs players.

3rd Order Winning Percentage has the Cardinals at .626 and 7.6 games worse than their actual record. They’ve been the most unlucky team in baseball according to this. The Dodgers are next at 6.4 worse than expected. They’re probably a lot better than they’ve played, but I think we can all agree they were due for some bad luck.

Team Leaders

Cardinals (150 PA)

Matt Carpenter is far and away this team’s best player. Aledmys Diaz has come back to earth now.


Carpenter leads the Cardinals with 2.9 fWAR. There are four Cubs who have 2.9 fWAR or more: Ben Zobrist, Jake Arrieta, Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant.

Pitching Matchups

K/9, BB/9, ERA, FIP, Projected ERA listed for each pitcher

Monday: Jaime Garcia, LHP (7.49, 2.97, 3.93, 3.56, 3.44) vs John Lackey, RHP (9.31, 2.15, 2.66, 2.98, 3.36), 7:05 PM CT

Garcia seems like he should be about 35 years old. He made his MLB debut the last time the Cubs were the best team in baseball, which seems like it’s an eternity ago. He’ll turn 30 years old on July 8th and has been in MLB since 2008. He’s had injury problems throughout his career, but has been healthy this season. He’s been effective, but the luck from last year has worn off. The luck that all the Cardinals starters received last year has worn off. It’s almost as though it was transferred to Chicago the moment the Cubs beat them in the NLDS last year. I’ll take it.

Garcia keeps the ball on the ground (58.1%), but his HR/FB rate has nearly doubled from last year (12.5%). He doesn’t strikeout that many and it’s weird to say this, but Kyle Hendricks is a strikeout machine compared to these Cardinals. His walk rate hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t been terrible either. He’s stranded just less than 70% of the runners so his ERA is a bit inflated.

He faced the Cubs once this season. He threw a complete game shutout in his second start of the season and then followed that up on April 19th against the Cubs by allowing 2 runs in 5 innings. He gave up 4 hits, walked 4 and struckout 7.

John Lackey is aging in reverse. His strikeout rate is easily his career best this season. His walk rate is typically well above average and despite stranding fewer runners than last year, his ERA is even better and his FIP is more than half a run better.

Lackey has faced the Cardinals twice this season. He faced them on April 18th and shut them out over 7 innings. He struckout 11 and walked 1 while allowing only a hit. He wasn’t as good on May 23rd when the Cardinals scored 3 runs on 4 hits in 7 innings. He struckout 9 and walked 1.

Tuesday: Adam Wainwright, RHP (6.48, 2.34, 4.78, 3.84, 3.49) vs Jason Hammel, RHP (7.61, 2.85, 2.26, 3.54, 3.81), 7:05 PM CT

During Wainwright’s peak years (2009-2014), he struckout just over 8 per 9 in the first four of those seasons and his walk rate was 2.55 or below (below 2 twice). He didn’t give up many home runs and kept the ball on the ground half the time.

This year his walk rate is about the same, but his strikeout rate has plummeted. His groundball rate has fallen and his HR/FB rate has crept back to about league average. He’s also had a problem stranding runners so much of his ERA is bad luck, but his FIP isn’t all that good either. His xFIP is even worse.

The Cubs scored 3 on 7 hits against Wainwright in his only start against them this year. He walked 3 and struckout 4.

Jason Hammel’s strikeout rate is down quite a bit from last year and the year before while his walk rate is higher. Thanks to an 84.7% strand rate, his ERA is an impressive 2.26, but his FIP is 3.54. His xFIP is over 4.00.

Hammel has faced St. Louis twice this year and combined for 13.1 innings while allowing 9 hits and 2 runs. He walked 3 and struckout 10.

Wednesday: Michael Wacha, RHP (7.78, 3.33, 4.56, 3.51, 3.67) vs Jake Arrieta, RHP (9.77, 3.00, 1.74, 2.47, 2.72), 1:20 PM CT

Wacha is the best of the group that the Cubs face over the next few days as they luck out by missing the Cardinals best starter. Wacha has been another victim to stranding runners. He’s stranded only 62.9% compared to 76.2% a year ago. He’s been hit pretty hard this season. His line drive rate is 25.7%. It was 22.2% last year and 22.1% in 2014. He’s also given up almost no infield flies, which are nearly as friendly to a pitcher as a strikeout.

In his only start against the Cubs on May 24th, he gave up 8 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks in 4 innings.

Arrieta’s strikeout rate is even better this year, but he’s walking more than a batter per 9 than he did last season. It hasn’t had an impact on his ERA, which is 1.74 (1.77 last year). He’s also given up fewer home runs this year and has maintained the .240ish BABIP. His strand rate is 83% compared to 80% last year. His groundball rate is a bit higher and it all results in his FIP being about the same as a year ago, but his xFIP being about half a run higher. He’s still awesome and easily among the top 3 or 4 starters in baseball. He even has me looking at pitcher wins. He’s going for his 12th win in this one. I haven’t looked at a pitcher’s wins in a very long time.

Prediction: The Cubs take 2 of 3.

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