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The St. Louis Cardinals should respectfully defeat the Detroit Tigers

A wholesome preview

Detroit Tigers v St Louis Cardinals - Game One Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Starting Tuesday, June 22 at 6:10 pm CT through Wednesday, June 23 at 12:10 pm CT the St. Louis Cardinals will head to Detroit to take on the last place Tigers for two games. The Cardinals are coming off dropping three of four against the Atlanta Braves at sit at an even 36-36 on the season for third in the National League Central. The Cardinals have been struggling as of late, but have done just enough to stay in the Central race. The Tigers sit 13 games back in the American League Central at 30-42 and seem to be in the middle of a re-building year. The Cardinals hope to capitalize and move up closer to the top of the standings. Should be fun!

The Good

Lars Nootbaar

Lars Nootbaar makes it to “The Good” portion on his name alone, but apart from that he has been tearing the cover off the ball in AAA Memphis. The 23 year old is batting .329/.430/.557 in 98 plate appearances with five homers, thirteen walks, and seventeen strikeouts. Also there is this:

Akil Baddoo and Jonathan Schoop

The Tigers position player fWAR is the lowest in baseball at 1.4. Akil Baddoo accounts for 1.2 of it. The 22 year old rookie outfielder has played in 54 games this season batting .266/.363/.490 for a 131 wRC+. He walks about 13.7% of time, but also strikes out around 31%. His ISO is fairly high at .224, but it has only added up to 5 home runs on the season.

Jonathan Schoop on the other hand has hit home runs — 13 so far — but his ISO is lower than Baddoo’s at .197. He is batting .274/.330/.471 for 118 wRC+. He walks less than Baddoo at 70%, but also strikes out less at 21.1%. The first baseman is second on the Tigers in fWAR at 1.0 and tied for fourth with Baddoo at 1.2 rWAR.

The Not-So Good

The Cardinals offense

And just like that Paul Goldschmidt has eked his way up the fWAR rankings. This might be less a sign of a dramatic turnaround for Goldy, though, and more a sign of just how poorly the Cardinals offense has been hitting lately. Goldschmidt is third on the team among position players in fWAR with 1.1 — above him are Nolan Arenado at 2.0 and Tyler O’Neill at 1.9 (in about a 100 less plate appearances).

Yadier Molina and Tommy Edman are fourth and fifth, respectively and they have both cooled significantly. Molina was off to a scorching hot start with a 170 wRC + as of April 26. He went on the Injured List after that game and returned May 5 where he has batted .228/.276/.333 for a 70 wRC+ since his return. The Cardinals have had a tough June and that also seems to correlate with how their leadoff hitter has been hitting. Since June 1 Tommy Edman is hitting .225/.225/.324 for a 50 wRC+. His wRC+ prior to June 1 was a fairly cromulent 106.

The Tigers rotation injuries

The Tigers top three players per Baseball Reference are actually three pitchers from their rotation, but the Cardinals will not face any of those pitchers. The top two, Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull, are on the 10-day Injured List. The third best pitcher is Casey Mize and he last pitched on June 20 and will be unavailable.

The Cardinals will face Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. Skubal has thrown seven different pitches in 2021, per Baseball Savant: a 4-seam fastball that catches a lot of the middle of the plate, a slider that catches a lot of the middle of the plate, a changeup that catches a lot of the middle of the plate, a curveball, a sinker, a split finger, and rarely, a cutter. To my eye, the curveball and sinker appear to be the best located, but he has thrown them only 88 and 62 times, respectively. This is just the 24-year-old’s second season in the big leagues, and really his first full season.

Matt Manning is the Tigers’ number three prospect and he will be making his second MLB start against the Cardinals on Wednesday. In his lone start he threw a 4-seamer, a slider, a changeup, a curveball, and one sinker. The 4-seamer was his most useful pitch in his last outing and his slider has the best Run Value per 100 pitches at -3.6, per Baseball Savant.

The Matchups

These are two games the Cardinals should win if they want the best chance to move up in the NL Central as on paper they have advantages in every category. The Tigers pitchers are young and there is not much of a book on them, though, and the Cardinals have their two least experienced starters going against them in Johan Oviedo and John Gant. If I had to guess, I think they split, winning Tuesday night and losing Wednesday afternoon, but I lean towards thinking they should win both. The matchup I will be watching is Arenado and O’Neill against Skubal. Skubal seems to catch a lot of the plate with his top three pitches. I think at least one of those two righties will take one deep.

Game 1 — Tuesday, June 22 at 6:10 pm — Johan Oviedo vs. Tarik Skubal

Game 2 — Wednesday, June 23 at 12:10 pm — John Gant vs. Matt Manning