Starting Friday, May 7 at 7:15 PM CT through Sunday May 9, at 1:15 PM CT the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Colorado Rockies for three games. After splitting their series against the Mets the Cardinals are 7-3 in their last 10 games, 18-14 on the season, and currently in first place in the National League Central. The Rockies, on the other hand, have had opposite fortunes of late, going 4-6 in their last 10 games with a season record of 12-19. They are currently in fifth place in the National League West. This will be Nolan Arenando’s first time facing off against his former team as well as Austin Gomber’s return to Busch Stadium. Should be fun!
Nolan Arenado currently leads the Cardinals in fWAR at 1.1 and is second only to Tommy Edman in bWAR, at 1.1. He has been the best Cardinals hitter so far after Yadier Molina with a wRC+ of 126 and the team’s second best fielder after Tyler O’Neill, per Fangraphs. There was a reason the Cardinals made trading for him in the offseason a priority and so far, he is proving them right in doing so.
This will be the first time Arenado plays against his former team. Arenado spent eight seasons with the Rockies before being traded to Cardinals in a move that has understandably caused some hurt feelings. You might recall when I spent over four hours looking through all the video I could find of Arenado hitting home runs to prove he had not gotten a curtain call as Rockie after the controversy surrounding his claim to have experienced his first one ever on the Cardinals Opening Day. Some other statements came to light that day about Arenado’s apparent desire to be traded to the Cardinals, perhaps even before signing a long-term deal with the Rockies. Long-story-short, there is a little bit of beef between Arenado and his former team that might be an even bigger story when the Cardinals travel to Colorado later on this season.
C.J. Cron has spent his whole career until 2021 in the American League, so Cardinals fans might not be very familiar with him which is why I decided to include him here. His overall numbers take a hit with him playing first base, but with the bat he has been the best hitter on the Rockies with a 132 wRC+. So far in 2021 he has walked almost 13% of the time with a .204 ISO.
At 6’4” and 235 lbs this big first baseman has been in the top 5% of the league in maximum exit velocity almost every year of his career, per Baseball Savant. He does chase pitches 34.8% of the time, however, particularly the slider and cutter. Most of his success has come against the sinker — he has a .566 batting average in 53 times he has seen the pitch this season. Look for pitchers like Jack Flaherty and Carlos Martínez that throw primarily 4-seam fastballs and sliders to try to exploit this while a pitcher like Adam Wainwright to possibly struggle if he gets behind in the count.
The Cardinals walks
If you felt like the Cardinals were giving away too many free bases, you were right. The Birdo pitching staff is currently second in baseball in BB% at 11.1%. These walks, along with hitting the second most batters with pitches, extend innings, force the pitcher to throw more pitches, and usually seem to lead to runs scored. They have been able to avoid it becoming a huge problem by having the third lowest HR/9 rate in baseball at 0.71, but if this number regresses and the walks do not, the Cardinals could start giving up a lot of runs. The most notable offenders, per Fangraphs: Jordan Hicks ( 22.7%), Alex Reyes (19.0%), and John Gant (17.9%). Fortunately for this series some of the pitchers that have been giving away the least amount of walks will be making starts; Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright are tied for third on the team at a 6.1% BB% and Jack Flaherty is sixth at 7.2%.
The Rockies relievers
The pitching staff for the Rockies is at a bit of an unfair advantage playing most of their games at Coors Field, but even then the staff as a whole has not gotten off to a great start, particularly the bullpen (the Cardinals catch a break and will miss Jon Gray, the Rockies best starter so far this season). Honestly, I have been looking at the Rockies Fangraph’s reliever page for several minutes now and I don’t really now what to say. Robert Stephenson appears to be the best reliever to me. He has pitched over 14 innings and has a 24.6% K% to a 3.5% BB%, which is quite good, and 2.70 ERA, which is also good, especially for Coors. With the exception of Jhoulys Chacin, the rest of the ‘pen seems to strike out a lot of batters, but walks a few too many, and gives up homers. If any Rockies fans are reading, please feel free to describe this bullpen to me, because I am stumped.
The Cardinals hope to keep rolling while the Rockies want to get back on track in this three-game series. My matchup to watch is the Cardinals starters versus C.J. Cron. Carlos Martínez and Jack Flaherty have the stuff to get him to swing and miss, but if they do not execute, they may be in for a long night. Adam Wainwright’s repertoire does not match up well against Cron, but Waino has a lot of experience getting guys like that out. It should be interesting to see how each pitcher approaches the big power hitter.
Austin Gomber will also make his first return to Busch Stadium since he was traded for Arenado.
Yadier Molina is still on the Injured List.
Jeff Jones has also informed that Matt Adams plays for the Rockies, something I did not know until just now, so I guess that is an Old Friend Alert. This is why I am such a respected journalist, folks.
Game 1 - May 7, 7:15 PM CT - Austin Gomber vs. Jack Flaherty
Game 2 - May 8, 1:15 PM CT - Chi Chi Gonzalez vs. Carlos Martínez
Game 3 - May 9, 1:15 PM CT - German Marquez vs. Adam Wainwright