A Preview of This Week's Cincinnati Reds @ St. Louis Cardinals Series

Marc Serota

With the focus on the division-leading Pirates, the Reds have flown under the radar and are neck-and-neck with Pittsburgh and the Cardinals in the race for first place.

oinThe Braves were the appetizer in the most important stretch of the St. Louis Cardinals' 2013 season. After a 3-1 series victory over the National League East frontrunners, the Cardinals welcome division rival Cincinnati to Busch for a three-game set. While the Pirates and Cardinals have been in first place in the NL Central for most of the season, the Reds are currently just 2.5 games behind the co-frontrunners entering play today. This is a big series.

The Standings

Place

Club

Wins

Losses

Div. GB

WC GB

Run Diff.

1

PIT

76

54

-

+2.5

+50

1

STL

76

54

-

+2.5

+149

2

CIN

74

57

2.5

-

+89

The Offenses

The Cardinals play their home games in Busch Stadium, a pitcher-friendly ballpark. The Reds call the hitter's paradise that is the Great American Ballpark home. This bit of common knowledge has combined with the clubs' respective profiles to suggest the Reds' success would be based on slugging the ball. However, that is not really the case. Even before adjusting for park with the "plus" stats, the Cardinals' offense has been better.

Club

G

HR

K%

BB%

BA

OBP

SLG

ISO

OPS

OPS+

wOBA

wRC+

CIN

131

125

20.1%

9.2%

.249

.326

.392

.143

.718

101

.315

95

STL

130

104

17.9%

7.7%

.272

.334

.409

.137

.743

108

.325

108

The Reds work deeper into counts--they strike out at a higher rate and walk at a higher rate. The Reds' healthy walk rate is how the club's batting average (BA) is 33 points lower than the Cardinals' but their on-base percentage (OBP is only eight points lower.

The Reds have not hit for all that much more power than the Cardinals even though their home park is far kinder to hitters. The Reds' cumulative Isolated Power (ISO) is only six points higher than the Cardinals'. The Redlegs have clubbed 21 more homers but the Redbirds have whacked 40 more doubles.

When taking into account park adjustments via the "plus" stats, the Cards' offensive production has been about 13% better than the Reds.

The Probable Pitching Match-Ups

GAME 1

TYLER LYONS

Level

G

GS

K%

BB%

K/BB

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

AAA

16

16

21.4%

4.8%

4.42

0.55

.284

68.9%

3.39

3.05

-

MLB

8

7

16.2%

7.5%

2.15

0.89

.286

62.8%

5.09

4.04

4.29

MIKE LEAKE

G

GS

K%

BB%

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

ERA-

FIP

FIP-

xFIP

xFIP-

25

25

14.6%

5.9%

0.96

.277

78.9%

3.12

81

4.05

105

4.01

107

Going by ERA alone, this is a pitching match-up that favors the Reds. Going by resumes alone, this is a pitching match-up that favors the Reds. Going by Lyons's solid performance in the hitter's haven that is the Pacific Coast League this year and his decent peripherals while pitching in the majors, however, this is a more even match-up that one might suspect. Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) focuses on what a pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, and homers. Looking at the fielding-independent metrics, Lyons's 2013 MLB performance hasn't been that much worse than Leake's. We'll see if either pitcher's fortunes change tonight.

GAME 2

JOE KELLY

G

GS

K%

BB%

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

ERA-

FIP

FIP-

xFIP

xFIP-

30

9

16.3%

8.7%

0.86

.296

83.3%

3.01

83

4.11

113

4.12

110

MAT LATOS

G

GS

K%

BB%

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

ERA-

FIP

FIP-

xFIP

xFIP-

26

26

23.4%

6.9%

0.59

.304

75.7%

2.93

76

2.89

75

3.34

89

Joe Kelly has had a stretch of starts similar to Mike Leake's season. As Dan noted last week, Kelly isn't as good as he has been this year, but he is better than Jake Westbrook. Latos has been excellent in every facet of pitching this year. On paper, Game 2 is a clear advantage for the Redlegs.

GAME 3

ADAM WAINWRIGHT

G

GS

K%

BB%

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

ERA-

FIP

FIP-

xFIP

xFIP-

27

27

23.5%

3.2%

0.45

.306

76.0%

2.58

71

2.32

64

2.66

71

HOMER BAILEY

G

GS

K%

BB%

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

ERA-

FIP

FIP-

xFIP

xFIP-

26

26

23.9%

5.6%

0.90

.298

72.8%

3.71

97

3.18

82

3.19

85

If Clayton Kershaw did not exist, Adam Wainwright would be the Cy Young frontrunner. Kershaw's existence does not take away from how great the wagonmaker has been in 2013. The strikeouts are there and the walks pretty much are not; Wainwirght's 3.2% walk rate is virtually nonexistent. For his part, Bailey has had a very nice season, even if his strand rate is a bit low. Game 3 could very well be a good ol' fashioned pitcher's duel. Nonetheless, the Cardinals have the advantage in this match-up. Just as they do every time Wainwright starts and the other team's starter is not named Kershaw.

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