Series Preview: Cardinals vs Mets June 16-18

and nobody believed him when he told them what he saw - Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals host the Mets for a trio of games at Busch. Both teams are probably a little better than you think. So is Carlos Martinez.


The Schedule

Regarding the Cardinals

The Cardinals have won six of their last seven, mostly because their pitchers have stopped allowing runs. They used to allow them, for some reason, but now they don't. And now Matt Adams is hitting dingers again. At 37-32, the Cards are just 3.5 back of the Brewers in the division and currently lead the NL for the wild-card. Apparently, all is not lost.

CARLOS MARTINEZ IS STARTING TONIGHT. Yes, Carlos Martinez has struggled a bit in 2014, but I blame Mike Matheny and John Mabry, who are clearly at fault for everything wrong in the world. But Carlos will grit through that coaching adversity. He's just going to throw sinker after sinker and get grounder after grounder unless he needs a K and then he'll get that, and all with glorious swagger. That's my prediction, and I'm sticking to it.

If you want to try to be more clear-eyed about things, that's your call, but life is short and there are few Carlos Martinezez to dream on. I'll be interested to see how his arsenal is unleashed differently as a starter tonight. So far in 2014, he's thrown his four-seamer 45% of the time and his two-seamer 20%. I'd like to see those numbers reversed, or at least meet in the middle. His changeup has been re-emerging over the last couple of weeks after being nearly abandoned early in the year. It would be heartening to see the coaches trusting him to throw it as a starter.  Rick Hummel reported that Martinez will be allowed to throw 50-60 pitches. I don't expect all of them to be good, but I do expect all of them to be beautiful.

Nick Greenwood will be in St Louis for the game tonight. He's a lefty who hasn't struck out a ton of batters, but he's given up very few walks or dingers in the PCL, so that's good! I suspect he won't be with the major league squad for long, but it's always fun seeing new guys get their first looks at Busch. Good on you, Nick Greenwood.

Regarding the Mets

The Mets aren't that bad! Really! OK, 31-38 and fourth in their division is nothing too grand, but through 69 games, they've been outscored by their opponents by just six runs. They're 8-17 in one-run games, which is an excellent way to make a genuinely mediocre team look bad. They're certainly not a good team, but they're not that bad, either.

The specific ways in which they've been not that bad are a little surprising.

  • Daniel Murphy added the "take a walk every once in a while" skill to his pretty good bat and has a 120 wRC+ to show for it.
  • At .288, Juan Lagares' BA is higher than his OBP last year, which is great news for baseball fans everywhere because there's nothing worse than when a poor batting line means an elite center-fielder sits for a guy who is decent with the bat but bad in the field do you hear me mike matheny? Anyway, Lagares is an elite CF and when healthy has been playing there regularly. He's a joy to watch in the field. Unfortunately, he's out with a strained intercostal muscle and we won't be seeing him this series.
  • Curtis Granderson, a joy to watch do anything, has heated up after a terrible start to the season. He and Lucas Duda have eerily similar lines, both cromulent.
Eerily Similar, Both Cromulent
G PA HR R RBI BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Lucas Duda 63 226 8 24 32 11.5 21.7 .184 .271 .235 .332 .418 .330 112
Curtis Granderson 65 267 8 30 30 13.9 25.5 .161 .278 .223 .337 .384 .324 108

  • 40-year-old Bobby Abreu has a 136 wRC+ in 87 PA's.
  • 41-year-old Bartolo Colon, and a couple of guys he could have fathered, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, have all been pretty good, with FIP's between 3.32 (Wheeler) and 3.55 (Colon). None of them are making Mets fans forget Matt Harvey, but that would be a criminal thing to do. Niese's continued solidity and Wheeler showing flashes of dominance should be enough to make the Nats and Braves leave at least enough for milk in the Mets' pockets after stealing most of their lunch money. "Hey, man. Look, we were bullies, but we were never cruel about it, y'know? Here, here, take our money, but tell Harvey to lay-off the wedgies."
However, there's one very surprising way in which the Mets have been bad. David Wright has a .303 wOBA, good for a 94 wRC+. Wright has been good for a long time, and 309 PA's of mediocrity are no death knell, but this is concerning anyhow. At 31, David Wright is approaching the age of knowing how to get things done™, which makes 309 bad PA's a little extra terrifying. Last year, Wright's average fly-ball landed 291 feet away, 56th best in MLB and right behind Buster Posey, Edwin Encarnacion, and Robinson Cano. This year, Wright's average fly-ball traveled 268 feet, 198th in baseball, just behind Nate Schierholtz, Michael Bourn, and Jon Jay. (By the way, do you spend much time poking around the BaseballHeatMaps distance tracker? You should! It's here.)

Also, Travis d'Arnaud has been just terrible! Read this BTBS piece about it. It's called "Travis d'Arnaud is off to the worst stat I have ever seen." He was recently sent down to the minors to work on everything. Somebody named Anthony Recker is handling catching duties for now. He's 30-years-old, batting .207, and striking out 34% of the time, but "at least he's not Travis d'Arnaud" they say.

I thought Chris Young was a sneaky good signing. He's been awful. But at least he's not Travis d'Arnaud.



Who the hell is that?

That's Jacob deGrom! Like Carlos Martinez, he's a converted shortstop. Hoping for his first major league win tonight, deGrom has been fair through six starts with a 3.44 ERA, a 4.42 FIP, and xFIP of 4.03. Jacob turns 26 on Thursday, and he could make a bid to stick in the rotation if he can sharpen his command. Here's a primer on him from amazinavenue. We'll find out if his hair stays so pretty mid-way through a start.


Notes

  • Jenrry Mejia, who looked good in a start against the Cards earlier this year, was moved to closer in mid-May. He has had lower back stiffness, and it's unknown if he'll pitch this series.
  • Eric Young, Jr. is expected to be activated from the DL today. He was out with a bad hamstring, so it's worth watching if he feels good enough to test Yadi's arm.
  • The Mets actually saw Martinez twice in Spring Training, so he won't be taking them by surprise. He might just take them, however.
  • Carlos Martinez.

Keys to the series

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