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Cardinals should destroy the Giants

A series preview

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This season isn’t looking too great right now for the Cardinals. If the playoffs started today, the Cardinals would not be in them. Not fun. However, the season is not yet over, a playoff berth is within reach with 17 games to go. Many fans of many franchises would be happy to have that sort of predicament. The Cardinals should destroy the Giants.

While the Cardinals season has been mired with inconsistent play in differing phases of the game, the Giants have suffered from no such inconsistencies. For one half of the season, the Giants were consistently great, finishing the first half 57-33, two games better than the Chicago Cubs.

In the second half, the Giants have been consistently terrible, going just 20-36 since the All-Star Break. The team hasn’t hit, with a 93 wRC+ and their 44 second half home runs are less than half of what the Cardinals have produced (90). On the pitching side, the team has an ERA of 4.00 a FIP of 4.24 and just 2.6 WAR. The starters have been bad (4.42 ERA, 4.37 FIP) while the relievers have been replacement level, blowing 10 saves with 33 meltdowns (reliever appearances with at least 6% decrease in win expectancy), a figure that is more than all teams (including the Cardinals) except for the Braves, Rockies, Diamondbacks, and White Sox.

Santiago Casilla has been the team’s closer, but has not performed well in that role, and now appears to have been replaced with Hunter Strickland. The new closer throws hard and relies on a high-90s fastball along with a slider and should be at least decent at the end of the game. The team traded for Will Smith at the deadline, whose peripherals are solid, but appears to have had some atrocious luck thus far in San Francisco. Derek Law is a control artist and Sergio Romo is still back there throwing gas which sometimes gets lit up. Ladies and gentleman, a bullpen that has more questions than the Cardinals.

For the most part in this second half, the Giants appear to be a group of talented players currently living down to/lucking into performances not up to that talent level. Brandon Crawford has been hitting below average in the second half while Buster Posey has been reduced to merely average with a strange disappearance of power. Joe Panik is hitting pretty near average as is trade deadline acquisition Eduardo Nunez. Brandon Belt is walking a lot, striking out a ton, and hitting just enough to make him above-average since the break. The Giants still possess a very good defense in the infield.

Angel Pagan is playing roughly as one would expect Angel Pagan to play when healthy, which is to say, decently. Denard Span was a solid free agent signing also hitting at an average clip. Hunter Pence is the one Giant who looks to be doing well in the second half, with a 119 wRC+, and while for the longest time I only associated him strange happenings and the Cardinals losing in the NLCS. Most of those thoughts have now fortunately been replaced with this:

This is a four-game series and Madison Bumgarner pitched yesterday which means that the Cardinals do not have to face him. Johnny Cueto, a tremendous slouch, will go for the Giants tonight. Cueto has been fantastic all season with a 2.90 ERA and 3.11 FIP, but has slowed slightly after a torrid first half. After 237 innings last year, including postseason, Cueto already has another 198 innings this year. Of his last six starts, five have been quality so he still seems to be getting the job done. Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals.

On Friday, Matt Moore takes the mound. Moore, acquired at the trade deadline from the Rays for Matt Duffy, has had a decent year with a 4.33 FIP and 4.08 ERA, providing innings even if the production has been lacking. For the Giants, he has walked a ton of guys (13.2%), but a good strikeout rate (24.4%) and keeping the ball in San Francisco’s spacious park has kept his production at an acceptable level (4.05 ERA, 3.87 FIP).

The left-handed Moore throws a fourseam fastball in the low-90s and has abandoned his twoseam fastball for a cutter since joining the Giants to go along with his curve and change. Rookie Luke Weaver, who had his best start against Milwaukee last time out (8 K, 1 BB, 1 R in 6 IP), in part because he did not give up a homer, goes for St. Louis.

Saturday, the Giants other free agent pitching signing, Jeff Samardzija, will pitch for the Giants. Samardzija has been fine for the Giants, putting up an ERA and FIP both around four. It is seeming more and more as though the righty’s very good 2014 season is the outlier as he has hovered around average or slightly above in every other season. He faces off against fellow average starter and big-money free agent signing in Mike Leake.

Albert Suarez is in line for the start on Sunday, although MLB currently lists the starter as TBD. Suarez has split time between the bullpen and rotation this year. In 52 innings as a starter this year, Suarez has struck out 17% and walked 8%, but has given up eight homers for a 4.79 FIP and 4.15 ERA.

Suarez is a sinkerball pitcher and the right-hander also has a fourseamer, both showing up in the low-90s. He also throws a slider, curve, and change around 10% of the time for each pitch with only the change getting above average results. It is looking more and more like Alex Reyes will start on Sunday in place of the recently ineffective and possibly quite tired Jaime Garcia. Reyes is still walking guys at a really high clip, but he is just incredibly exciting to watch pitch.

Tonight’s game is at 9:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest (If it wasn’t clear already that this series is on the road, the start time should make it abundantly clear. There is so much clarity, it is in abundance.)

Friday’s game is at 9:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.

Saturday’s game is at 8:05 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.

Sunday’s game is at 3:05 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.