The season has not gone as planned for the Cardinals. They now sit at 26-32, a 73-win pace. The last time the Cardinals won 73 games, Magneuris Sierra had yet to turn two years old and Yadier Molina was 15 years old and Tony La Russa was in his second year managing the club. Of course, pace can be misleading. The Cardinals are likely to be a better than 73-win team going forward, but if they play like an 85-win team going forward, they still only win 81 games. In order to win 87 games, which was what was needed last season to make the playoffs, the Cardinals would need to play like a 95-win team. Want to win 90 games? Have to play like a 100-win squad. That is the difficult road ahead. Anyway, the Cardinals should destroy the Phillies.*
*Some of you might remember the title of this post from season previews from last season. They began after the Cardinals were swept by the Pirates to start the season. The Cardinals went 86-73 the rest of the way, an 88-win pace. The Cardinals didn’t make the playoffs, there were complaints that the titles were ridiculous, the trope had perhaps grown tiresome, and trolling opposing fanbases before every series served little purpose, so a more benign title was chosen for this year. However, this season has led me to believe that either a) these series previews were not the cause of the Cardinals failure to make the playoffs, but actually kept the team afloat in what could have been a much worse season, or b) the title of these previews actually has no bearing on the outcome of the game whatsoever. Desperate times are these. If the Cardinals do actually destroy the Phillies with a sweep, we will conitnue onward as we did last season. If they do not, we will return to the blander, gentler title. The content of the posts will remain unchanged.
The Phillies are still firmly in the rebuilding stage as they try to recover from the losses that came following their successes of the last decade. The Phillies are in a major market with a huge tv deal and they are running a $100 million payroll near the bottom of baseball they’ve nearly halved payroll to try and contend in the future. The team has a decent farm system and some good young players, but when they are ready to contend, that payroll is going to go way up.
As for the current squad, outfielder Aaron Altherr has been the team’s best offensive player so far this season with a 137 wRC+, flashing good power and cutting down on his strikeout rate from last season. The team’s best player is probably center fielder Odubel Herrera, but he contributes more with his glove than with the bat. Herrera has been well below average so far this season on offense with a wRC+ of 82, but that should move up closer to average as the season goes on. Michael Saunders is the team’s other primary outfielder and he has been absolutely terrible so far this season.
On the infield, Tommy Joseph has been average with the bat at first base, which isn’t ideal for a first baseman. Cesar Hernandez is average with the bat, which along with a solid glove, is good for second base. At shortstop, Freddy Galvis bring a good glove with a below-average bat as top prospect J.P. Crawford continues to struggle in the minors. Maikel Franco seems to have lost his power at third base, making him a below replacement level player on the season so far. Cameron Rupp is an adequate second-division backstop.
In tonight’s game, Jeremy Hellickson will start for the Phillies in St. Louis. Hellickson put up a good season last year and accepted the qualifying offer, but has completely lost the ability to miss bats this season with a strikeout rate going from 20% last year to 10% this season. His swinging strike rate was 11% last season, which is bit above the league average for a starter (10%), but this year it has dropped to under 7%, one of the worst marks in baseball. He split his 90 mph fastballs last season between a fourseamer and a twoseamer pretty evenly last year, but has gone almost all fourseamer this year. The righty throws a ton of changes and mixes in a slider and curve as well. Michael Wacha throws for the Cardinals.
On Saturday, Nick Pivetta pitches for Philadelphia. Pivetta is a 24-year-old righty who came from the Nationals in the Jonathan Papelbon trade. He pitched well in Double-A and Triple-A last year before earning a promotion after a strong month in the minors this year. In five MLB starts, his strikeouts have been respectable with a mid-90s fastball, a slider, curve, and change. Where he’s had trouble so far has been walks and the long ball, giving up 12 walks and five homers in 24.1 IP. The curve has been a weapon against righties, but he might end up a reliever. Carlos Martinez goes for St. Louis.
Aaron Nola gets the ball on Sunday for the Phillies. Nola pitched well in over 100 innings last year, but had an inflated 4.78 ERA due to some bad luck on sequencing. He’s pitched pretty well this season, but missed some time earlier due a lower back strain. He’s pretty close to average when it comes to walk and strikeout rates, but a heavy dose of groundballs keeps his home run rate low even though he pitches in a hitter’s haven in Philly. He mostly throws a low-90s twoseamer with a curve as his primary breaking pitch. The 24-year-old righty also mixes in a change and fourseamer. Adam Wainwright looks to rebound for the Cardinals.
Tonight, 7:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Saturday, 1:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Sunday, 1:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest