Series Preview: Cardinals at Braves May 5-7

Waiting for Superman - Kevin C. Cox

The Cardinals (16-16) head to Atlanta to face the Braves (17-13) for a series between teams with similar successes and struggles through the season's opening weeks.


Schedule and Starters

All games begin at 6:10 central

Mise-en-Scene

The Cardinals managed to escape Wrigley Field and ESPN's abjectly terrible broadcasting work with a victory last night, avoiding the sweep and bringing their season record back to .500. While the team has only won a pair of games over the last 2 series, the 26 runs scored over the period are heartening.

The NL East leading Braves enter this series on a 6-game losing streak, and have scored just 10 runs during it. Like the Cardinals, the Braves have won this season by pitching well and lost by not hitting. They have allowed the fewest runs scored in the league (the Cardinals are 2nd), while scoring the 2nd fewest (the Cardinals are 3rd).

It's been a surprising month for the Braves in many ways. Pitching was the  concern entering the season, as injuries ravaged their rotation this spring, but late signings Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang have been excellent, and so has rookie fill-in David Hale. On the other hand, the offensive struggles have also been surprising. They've had very good production from stars Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis has been strong as well (though still with terrible on-base skills), but aside from that trio only defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons has been not abjectly terrible with the bat. Here are some charts:

The Braves Offense So Far in 2014
Very Good Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton

Ox-like

Evan Gattis
Not Abjectly Terrible Andrelton Simmons
Abjectly Terrible The Rest of Them

So, what does it all add up to?

Are you ready to cringe for everyone involved?

Cringe-Inducing Numbers
Avg OBP SLG
2014 Braves Team .233 .294 .378
2014 Cardinals Team .246 .312 .366
2013 Daniel Descalso .238 .290 .366

To cleanse your palate before we all try to move on with our lives and the season:

Palate-Cleansing Numbers
K% BB% HR/FB% ERA FIP xFIP
2014 Braves Team 23.7 7.3 7.7 2.67 3.09 3.37
2014 Cardinals Team 23.5 8.0 8.1 3.00 3.37 3.60
2013 Justin Verlander 23.5 8.1 7.8 3.46 3.28 3.67

I'm sure many fans of both teams are troubled about the state of their team, and there are some legitimate concerns, but the usual spring caveat still applies. I was going to embed a tweet about how the 105-win 2004 Cardinals started out 16-16, but I like this one better:

Huh, indeed. It's still really, really early in the year.

Some things to watch for

Andrelton Simmons is a national treasure. 1st graders everywhere should be forced by the government to memorize the biography and best plays of each season's best short-stop, and Andrelton looks to be that guy for the next decade. Perhaps older students could watch him play as an introduction to geometry and art appreciation. Is that in the common curriculum? Simmons is not just the best short-stop today, but stands a chance of being an all-time great, and while he's unlikely to ever become a great hitter, he's showing hints of turning into a decent one, which would place him among baseball's best overall players.

Every year, I think Jason Heyward is going to break-out and be an MVP candidate. Every year, I am wrong. A multitude of non-chronic health issues have plagued him, and his BABIP regularly lags behind his batted ball profile, but he's struggling yet again this young season. He continues to wield one of the best RF gloves in all of baseball, but the bloom is off the 24-year-old's rose offensively, at least for now. Nevertheless, when I hop off his bandwagon, it'll probably be just the driver left on.  Be good, Jason. Just not this series.

If you can figure out what got into Aaron Harang early this year, you might want to track it down and bottle it. After years of mediocrity, he was fantastic to start the year. I think the clearest way to exhibit just how well his season started is this: In his last outing, his 6th of the year, he allowed 9 runs, all earned, and couldn't make it out of the 5th inning. This shelling brought his ERA up to just 2.97 on the year. On the bright side, maybe that shelling means the magic is truly gone. If you find it, please ship it to Shelby Miller.

Who the hell is that?

That's Peter Bourjos. I don't really remember him playing either. My "who the hell is that" subjects have often played key roles in the series at hand, so this spot is being sacrificed in hopes of conjuring the outstanding fielder a start Wednesday against the lefty Mike Minor.

#freegorgeousbourjos

edit: Bourjos is in the lineup tonight.

Key to the Series

  • Avoid abjectly terrible baseballing
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