After losing two of three to the Brewers and opening the Reds series with a loss, the Cardinals were 53-56 yet were somehow just 4.5 games out of first place. They took the final two games from the Reds and gained a game on the Cubs and Brewers and now sit 3.5 games out of first place. They will have another shot at getting back to .500 for the first time since they dropped to 26-26 on June 2 and started a seven-game losing streak. The Cardinals should destroy the Royals.*
*With title, .547 W%. Without title, .448 W%
The Royals have been outscored this season bu six runs, but have a 57-53 record. The Cardinals have outscored their opponents by 34 runs, but have a 55-56 record. Royals non-pitchers have hit well-below average with a wRC+ of 89 while Cardinals hitters have a very average 101 wRC+. Royals starting pitchers have a 4.38 ERA and 4.44 FIP, which are roughly average when factoring in league and park while Cardinals starters have a 3.77 ERA and 4.11 FIP, the former is more than 10% better than league average while the latter is a bit better than average.
On the other hand, the Royals bullpen is about 15% better than league average in both ERA and FIP while the Cardinals bullpen is only 10% better than league average, which is probably a shock to some. The Royals defense is probably a bit better as well. The Cardinals have a 17-22 record in one-run games while the Royals are 13-12. That’s the way things go sometimes.
As for the Royals individually. Eric Hosmer has hit well of late as he heads towards free agency. Mike Moustakas is a solid player having a solid season as he heads toward free agency. Lorenzo Cain is an above-average hitter, an above-average runner, an above-average fielder and his 3.0 WAR is higher than everyone on the Cardinals except for Tommy Pham. Cain is also headed for free agency.
It would appear I was very wrong about Alex Gordon being a solid free agent signing as he’s been absolutely terrible this year. Also terrible is Alcides Escobar. Former Cardinals legend Brandon Moss isn’t having a great season, but he has hit well over the last month. Salvador Perez is currently on the disabled list, which is a significant loss as Drew Butera is the primary backup.
The Royals recently traded for Melky Cabrera, who has had a decent season offensively and hit well in limited time for Kansas City. Jorge Bonifacio has hit at about the same level as Cabrera this season, but Bonifacio has ceded time to the acquisition. Whit Merrifield is having a surprising season as the Royals everyday second baseman with a 114 wRC+ and 14 homers after just two in 332 plate appearances last season. He’s also got 18 steals in 20 chances.
Tonight in Kansas City, Ian Kennedy starts for the Royals. Kennedy has been homer-prone over the last few seasons, including this one. He’s average in strikeouts, below-average in walks and a 4.98 FIP and 4.60 ERA. He throws a low-90s fourseamer 60% of the time along with a cutter, change, and curve the rest of the time. He’s hung a few too many of those curves this year. Carlos Martinez makes the start for the Cardinals.
Tomorrow, Jason Vargas takes the mound for the Royals. Vargas is a fly ball pitcher who takes advantage of the good defense behind him and doesn’t give up homers. His strikeout rate is a low 18% and his FIP is a slightly above-average 4.09 with a very good ERA of 3.10. He gets a ton of first-pitch strikes despite not pitching in the strike zone. He uses a sinker and fourseamer around 50% total and both pitches average in the mid-80s for velocity. He uses his change 30% of the time along with the curve. It is the change that gets him the best results. Michael Wacha will pitch for St. Louis.
On Wednesday, the series shifts to St. Louis, and the recently acquired Trevor Cahill will pitch for the Royals. Cahill pitched in the Cubs bullpen last season, but the Padres put him back in the rotation this season, and he’s been pretty good with the increased strikeout rate from the bullpen carrying over into the rotation. He walks a lot of players and gives up a lot of homers per fly ball, but limits them a bit by inducing so many grounders with a low-90s sinker. Mike Leake starts for the Cardinals.
To finish up the series, another former Cub, Jason Hammel, goes for the Royals. Hammel is Vargas except without the benefit of good results on batted balls. He’s got a 4.22 FIP and a 4.73 ERA, one slightly above average and the other slightly below. He mixes his fourseamer and sinker with his slider, that he throws more than one-third of the time. Lance Lynn goes for St. Louis.
Tonight (in Kansas City), August 7, 7:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Tuesday (in Kansas City), August 8, 7:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest, FS1
Wednesday (in St. Louis), August 9, 7:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Thursday (in St. Louis), August 10, 6:15 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest