The Giants entered the season in very much the same position as the Cardinals: not the favorite in the division, but still with a solid chance at contention. While there is still considerable season to go, the fortune of the two teams has not played out in parallel paths despite the preseason predictions. The Cubs have trounced everyone and the Cardinals have not kept pace while the favored Dodgers have been closer to .500 while the Giants have taken advantage and seized an early lead. The Cardinals should destroy the Giants.
The Giants team likely looks familiar to most fans and those who believe in the even-year Giants garbage are likely to look at the Giants start as further evidence after the team missed the playoffs last season, but has gotten off to a great start this year. The team's best offensive player to this point has been Hunter Pence, who missed much the season last year. Right there with Pence has been Brandon Belt, who has an elite walk rate and a healthy amount of doubles and triples despite low homer totals that are suppressed by his home park.
Buster Posey remains one of the best, if not the best (sacrilege, I know) catchers in the game. Posey is having another good year at the plate and the Giants still have the 29-year-old locked up through 2021 with a team option for 2022. His numbers might be slightly below his normal standard, but they are still quite good and he should improve as the season goes along.
The Giants have one of the best infields in baseball with the aforementioned Belt as well as second baseman Joe Panik, shortstop Brandon Crawford, and third baseman Matt Duffy. Panik and Crawford have been roughly average with the bat as expected and Crawford is widely regarded as one of the better fielding shortstops in baseball. Matt Duffy, after having a breakout last year, has struggled to being this season. He does not strike out a lot or walk a lot, and he does not hit for a ton of power, which means his offense needs a good BABIP to be productive. It was .336 last year, and it has been about 60 points lower this year. If he can split the difference, he would be roughly average at the plate going forward.
Denard Span has proved to be a solid free agent signing up to this point. The man he replaced in center field, Angel Pagan, had moved to left field, but he is currently (as he often has been the past few years) on the disabled list. Gregor Blanco, who gets semi-regular playing time regardless as a solid fourth outfielder, has picked up the slack for Pagan.
As of this writing, the Giants are likely to miss Madison Bumgarner (insert Office Space joke), but the Giants rotation does still present a few tough matchups. Noted enemy of the Cardinals, Johnny Cueto, is likely to pitch tonight's game and he has been great for the Giants so far this season. It's possible the Giants defense and ballpark are perfectly situated for Cueto as he has limited home runs and kept his walks down. That has brought about a 2.41 FIP and 2.31 ERA on the season. He will likely go against Adam Wainwright, who has looked better, but was victimized by the long ball his last time out.
In the second game of the series, Jeff Samardzija is likely to get the call. Samardzija has proved to be nearly as good a free agent signing as Cueto for the Giants, putting up a 2.84 ERA and 2.94 FIP in 11 starts. In his last start, the Braves got to him for five runs (four earned) as he struck out just four and walked two. Michael Wacha is likely to pitch for the Cardinals.
The final start of the series is likely to be made by Jake Peavy, who has been really bad this season. The 35-year-old was solid last year by keeping his walks down and giving up homers at a better than average rate given his fly ball tendencies. The walks and homers have gone up this season, leading to poor numbers. He will likely not be this bad going forward, but it is fair to wonder how effective he can be at his age. Likely starter for the Cardinals will be Carlos Martinez coming off his best start of the season where he struck out eight and walked just one in eight shutout innings against the Brewers.
Tonight's game is at 7:15 pm CT and is on FOX Sports Midwest and MLB Network for out-of-market viewers.
Saturday's game is at 6:15 pm CT and is on FOX
Sunday's game is at 7:05 pm CT and is on ESPN