Starting Tuesday, May 11 at 6:40 pm CT through Thursday, May 13 at 12:40 pm CT the St. Louis Cardinals will play the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field for a three-game series. The Cardinals have just capped off a successful homestand with a sweep of the Rockies where they went 5-2 overall and propelled past the Brewers for first place in the National League Central. On the other hand the Brewers are returning home after tough road trip where they were swept in four games by the Phillies, salvaging two wins in their last two games against the Marlins to go 2-5. The Brewers hope to turn things around against the Cardinals and with a sweep could find themselves back in first place. Should be fun!
I have been putting off talking about Tommy Edman, but I think now is the time to mention the current National League hits leader (41 hits). The Cardinals have played 35 games and Edman has appeared at the top of the lineup in every one of them for good reason — his .348 OBP is third on the team behind Yadier Molina and Dylan Carlson (of players with over 20 plate appearances) and his 10.3% strikeout rate is lowest on the team and the fifth lowest in the majors. His ability to get on base combined with his smart baserunning — he leads the team in stolen bases with 4 and by far has the most BsR on the team at 1.7 — make him an ideal leadoff hitter, a role he has had a lot of success in so far.
Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff
I am going to lump these two pitchers together for the sake of conciseness. Depending on which resource you consult either one is the most valuable player on the Brewers and the other is the second best. Both have an ERA under 2.00 with Woodruff, whom the Cardinals face on Wednesday, at 1.73 and Burnes at even lower with 1.53. Burnes has been on the COVID Injured List and has not pitched since April 26, but he is expected to rejoin the Brewers this week. No starter is listed for Thursday’s game, but according to Brew Crew Ball this spot in the rotation would belong to Burnes. According to Fangraphs Burnes has been even more impressive than his ERA indicates with his FIP at just 0.51. His strikeout percentage in just over 29 innings is 45.4% and he has yet to walk a batter.
Both pitchers throw a similar arsenal with one main difference that I find interesting. Woodruff throws a more traditional five-pitch array, primarily throwing a 4-seam fastball (around 96 mph), a sinker as a secondary pitch, and then mixing in his change-up, slider, and curveball. His curve has been particularly successful: in 75 throws no batter has gotten a hit against it. Left-handed hitters can expect to see this or the changeup in pitcher’s counts.
The interesting thing about Corbin Burnes is he throws a cutter over 50% of the time, mixing in his sinker, changeup, slider, and curveball each around 10% of the time, and has thrown a 4-seam fastball just six times. This is a bit of a change from his pandemic-shortened 2020 season where he threw the cutter and sinker about the same amount. 2021 is his first real, full season in the rotation so it is hard to say if this is an adjustment as opposed to just how he would prefer to pitch, but I tend to think he intentionally increased his cutter usage. His cutter is not only his best pitch, but it is one of the more valuable pitches in baseball. Per Baseball Savant, the Corbin Burnes cutter has a run value of -6, which puts it in the top 30 of pitches by that measure. For context, ahead of it are pitches like Yu Darvish’s slider or a changeup from John Means. It is one of the most valuable cutters in the game (a large reason being because of how often he throws it — on a rate basis Kenley Jansen would have the most valuable).
The top position player for the Brewers has been catcher Omar Narvárez. He leads the team with 168 wRC+ and is slashing .368/.443/.529 while striking out only 12.7% and playing really good defense behind the plate (4 defensive runs saved so far), and I am going to skip talking about him and move on to Kolten Wong, the second best position player. Wong signed with the Brewers in free agency after eight seasons with the Cardinals and has not missed a beat. He has 109 wRC+, which is on par with his previous season highs and brings his signature defensive prowess and base-running skills. Tommy Edman has been great for the Cardinals in his place, but I do miss seeing Kolten make plays like this:
My dog Cain
Lorenzo Cain(’s Luck)
Lorenzo Cain has had a below average start to the season and there is not a really obvious reason why to me. He has continued his trend from 2020 and is walking more than he ever has before. His sprint speed is in the 89th percentile of hitters. His exit velocity is average at 88.6 mph. For some reason his batting average on balls in play is only .167, though. Is this just bad luck or is there something more to this? I am not sure.
I have already discussed Paul Goldschmidt in a previous preview and since then things seem to be improving. He has a 132 wRC+ over those seven games, going 8-27 with a walk and two home runs. In the 26 games prior he had an 82 wRC+ and three homers. It is hard to say if this improvement is actually something or just small sample size noise, but let’s hope Goldy is turning it around.
On the season Paul DeJong has had a tougher go of it than Goldschmidt. He is currently hitting for a 91 wRC+. Though he has a .203 ISO, leading the Cardinals with 7 home runs, and striking out 23.1% of the time, near his career low, and walking 11.2% of the time, which would be a career high, he has a batting average on balls in play of .188. Digging into this deeper, DeJong appears to be in the 8th percentile in exit velocity at 86 mph, which would be the lowest of his career. For context, Goldschmidt is in the top 7% of the league in exit velocity at 92.9 mph. DeJong’s launch angle is also 14.4, which is the lowest of his career. I am not sure if any of this has to do with anything, but it is just something that stands out, at least to me. You may interpret this however you wish.
Christian Yelich(’s back)
Christ Yelich is not “not-so-good” as much as he has a back injury and has only played in 10 games all season. In those games he has been very good, but he only last played on May 3 and until then hadn’t played since April 11.
When these two teams meet up, anything can happen, especially in a park like Milwaukee’s, especially when first place in the Central is on the line. My matchup to watch is Tommy Edman against Corbin Burnes, if Burnes does start on Thursday like I suspect. Burnes throws 50% cutters, but the switch-hitting Edman has consistently hit the cutter well (he actually hits most pitches well, but most consistently hammers the cutter). The Cardinals leadoff man might be able to create some havoc on the bases in front of the big hitters.
Game 1 - May 11, 6:40 PM CT - Kwang Hyun Kim vs. Freddy Peralta
Game 2 - May 12, 6:40 PM CT - John Gant vs. Brandon Woodruff
Game 3 - May 13, 12:40 PM CT - Jack Flaherty vs. TBD