Starting Thursday, June 3 at 7:15 pm CT through Sunday, June 6 at 1:15 pm CT the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Cincinnati Reds for four games. The Cardinals have been a little up and down as of late coming off a 4-3 West Coast trip and a 5-5 road trip overall. The Reds have had worse fortune going 4-6 in their last 10 games. The Cardinals are looking to get back on track and try to regain their lead in the National League Central from the Cubs, but the Reds, despite some of their weaknesses, have a talented roster that is not going to make easy. Should be fun!
The Cardinals and Reds have faced each other in 6 games in 2021. After winning the first game of the season the Cardinals dropped the next two games to drop the season’s opening series in Cincy. It was a different story when the Reds came to St. Louis; the Cardinals swept that series to bring the season record to 4-2. The Cardinals have been outscored by the Reds 33-30 in the season series and have hit 6 Reds batters while getting hit only twice. In their previous matchup Kwang Hyun Kim, John Gant, and Jack Flaherty each earned wins, in total pitching over 18 innings, allowing 2 runs, striking out 19, and walking 2.
Oh yeah and there was that fight.
The Cardinals at home
If you are looking for something encouraging after a less-than ideal road trip, the Cardinals are over .500 on the season while playing most of their games on the road so far. They have played 31 games on the road in the first few months of the season going 16-15 so far. At home they have faired much better. In 25 games the Cardinals have gone 15-10, good for a .600 winning percentage at home. For contrast the Cubs, the team the Cardinals are chasing, have played 31 games at home and have gone 21-10 at Wrigley while going 11-13 in 24 games on the road.
The Cardinals hitting and pitching are both better at Busch Stadium, but the pitching is where the improvement is more apparent. In 223 home innings the Cardinals pitchers have a 3.71 ERA to 4.55 in 267 innings away and have an OPS against of 86 at home versus 101 away. The Cardinals have also given up more doubles on the road versus at home, allowing 59 doubles away from Busch and 33 at home. They have also hit over double the number of batters, plunking 28 on the road and 12 at home and walked 154 away while walking 101 at home.
Nick Castellanos made a bit of a cameo in our abbreviated preview of the Cardinals series against the Dodgers when I mentioned he was the second most valuable player in the league after Vladimir Guerrero Jr., according to Fangraphs. That remains true as of this writing with Castellanos amassing 2.9 fWAR and 2.7 rWAR. He is also second in the league in wRC+ (also behind Guerrero) with 185 which is due to his combination of hitting for power and average. He leads all of baseball in batting average with .361 and is eighth in ISO with .283. After seven seasons in the league Castellanos has put together the best season of his career so far. He is walking more than he ever has, striking out less, and hitting a career high .410 on balls in play.
Where has this success come from? Looking at Baseball Savant’s Statcast data, it appears Castellanos is hitting the ball harder than ever before — his HardHit% is a career high 51.7%, 13th in all of baseball (just above Paul Goldschmidt at 14th). He has also lowered his launch angle to a career low 11.5. I couldn’t tell you how exactly that helps, but it seems like there is a launch angle sweet spot where more balls fall in for hits. Another thing: he has also been very successful against the changeup. He is batting .440 and slugging .720 in the 105 changeups he has seen in 2021.
I am a little nervous to talk about anyone from the Cardinals because I always seems to jinx them, but I cannot avoid discussing Giovanny Gallegos anymore. Per Fangraphs, Gallegos has been the second-most valuable pitcher on the Cardinals at 0.9 fWAR in 33 inings pitched. He is part of the three-headed monster that also consists of Alex Reyes and Genesis Cabrera, but unlike his teammates, he has a modest walk rate of 6.5%, giving him the highest strikeout-to-walk rate on the team at 25%. He has also pitched the most innings of any reliever in baseball.
Gallegos relies on two pitches primarily, the 4-seamer and the slider, but will occasionally throw a changeup. Both the 4-seamer and slider have been very effective for him. There is about a 50%-50% chance he will throw either pitch on any given count, though he leans towards throwing the fastball more to start the plate appearance and against lefties.
Jack Flaherty’s oblique
The Cardinals suffered a pretty big blow on the road trip, losing Jack Flaherty to the Injured List with a side injury, which is typically not a quick recovery. Flaherty was one of the Cardinals most reliable pitchers and was in the middle of pitching a beauty when he had to be removed due to injury. His spot in the rotation would be Saturday, June 5 and there has yet to be anything definitive about who will slide into the rotation in his place.
Both teams have seen their fair share of bullpen struggles. The Reds’ best reliever so far has been Tejay Antone. In 28 innings he has a 1.61 ERA with a 2.80 FIP, has struck out 36.3%, and only given up two home runs. After him though, players like Sean Doolittle and Amir Garrett have under-performed/really, really struggled. Antone, Doolittle, and Lucas Sims are the only relievers with over 19 innings and a FIP under 4.00.
Things haven’t been great for the Cardinals ‘pen either. After Gallegos, Reyes, and Cabrera have had good outcomes, but have issued a concerning number of walks. All three have pitched many innings, coming in first, fifth, and nineteenth in the league in innings pitched. After them, only Ryan Helsley has a FIP under 4.00 and over 10 innings pitched.
The Cardinals have a slight edge as team over the Reds, but have had a few key injuries. The Reds have some talented players leading the team, but have even less depth than the Cardinals and will be without Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas. The Cardinals should be able to get a few much-needed wins. The matchup I am interested in is Adam Wainwright against Nick Castellanos. Wainwright has struggled with giving up the long ball this year and Castellanos could put a fastball in the seats. Will Waino be able to use his curveball to neutralize the Reds’ best hitter?
Game 1 - June 3, 7:15 PM CT - Vladimir Gutiérrez vs. Adam Wainwright
Game 2 - June 4, 7:15 PM CT - Luis Castillo vs. Kwan Hyun Kim
Game 3 - June 5, 1:15 PM CT - Tyler Mahle vs. TBA
Game 4 - June 6, 1:15 PM CT - Wade Miley vs. John Gant