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The St. Louis Cardinals should catch fire against the Atlanta Braves

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a hot series preview

Javier Lopez

The St. Louis Cardinals will take on the Atlanta Braves for three games starting Tuesday evening at 7:15 pm CT. For this preview I asked the audience to tell me some things about the Braves:

Esteemed commenter ebo: Their stadium caught on fire one time... Before a cardinals game even

Fire rips through luxury suites and part of the pr Photo credit should read JOHN DICKERSON/AFP via Getty Images

The incomparable DanUp chimed in with this masterpiece:

Listen my children before I retire:
Of the miserable start of Stottlemyre,
The 14th of October, in ninety-and-six;
Hardly a fan has kept his wits
Who remembers that inning so dour and dire.

He said to his friend, “If Atlanta swings
at strikes or balls at the plate to-night,
hang a curveball aloft big and bright as the arch
of the Gateway museum for Chipper to strike—
One if by land, and two if by sea, and three if by land again, and four if by sea again, then five if by land, six if by sea, and also seven by sea,
And I on the mound crying softly will be,
Causing all Busch to discover alarmed,
And every KMOX village and farm,
That a 3-1 lead can be blown by bad arms.

J.P came in clutch with this tidbit:

As for the current Braves, they are less interesting, which is less a dig about the current Braves roster and more due to how interesting the fires and that 1996 NLCS was. The best player on the Braves — and one of the top players in MLB — is Ronald Acuña Jr., but he underwent season-ending ACL surgery on July 21. Luckily for the Braves they have Freddy Freeman and Ozzie Albies playing well. Austin Riley, in his first full season, is also playing well. Dansby Swanson is hitting with a 100 wRC+ and providing good defense.

Unluckily for the Braves that is it — the hitting just totally falls off after those five players, one of which is on the 60-day Injured List (the afore-mentioned Acuña). They currently only have four players with over 100 games played this season, either due to injury or domestic violence charges (Marcell Ozuna is technically on the Injured List, but... we know). The Braves made some trade deadline moves to acquire Jonathan Lucroy and Joc Pederson, but even they don’t raise the team’s floor by that much, if at all. This gap is how a team with five players with over 2.0 fWAR has a record of 52-54. The next highest position player fWAR after Swanson’s 2.0 is Max Fried at 0.6, who is a pitcher.

Then there is the pitching. As of now there is only one qualified pitcher on the Braves — Charlie Morton — and the Cardinals are not scheduled to face him. Max Fried is probably the third best starter on the Braves after Morton and Ian Anderson (who has been injured since July 31). He has been very third-starter-y. Drew Smyly makes the start on Wednesday and has been an innings eater-type of pitcher. He has a FIP over 5.00, an average strikeout rate, gives up a lot of homers, but has also logged 92 innings in 18 starts, which is just over 5 innings/game. Touki Toussaint, the pitcher for Sunday, has logged only 112 Major League innings and only 17 of those this season. For his career he has a 24.8% K rate, a 13.1% walk rate, a 1.29 HR/9 for a career FIP of 5.00. He throws a sinker about 58% of the time, then a curveball 25% of the time, splitting the rest of his pitches between a split finger and a 4-seamer. His sinker comes in around 93 mph.

As for the Cardinals, Jon Lester will be making his Cardinals debut. It is weird, I agree. The 37-year-old Lester is currently in one of the worst seasons of his career. His strikeout percentage is all the way down to 14.9%, a big falloff from 2019 when it was at 21.6%. His walk rate has always been on the higher side, but this season it has climbed to 8.5% and his HR/9, which has pretty steadily increased every year since 2017, is up to 1.67.

J.A. Happ is also making his Cardinals debut. He will pitch some baseballs.

Harrison Bader is still the best player on the Cardinals. In 179 plate appearance he has amassed 1.7 fWAR. At that pace in 427 plate appearance — the number of plate appearances Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals most valuable player at 3.0 fWAR — Bader would have 4.1 fWAR to lead the team.

Goldy Watch: 115 wRC+ currently, down from a week ago’s 117 wRC+

The Matchups:

Tuesday, August 3 at 7:15 pm CT: Max Fried vs. Jon Lester
Wednesday, August 4 at 7:15 pm CT: Drew Smyly vs. J.A. Happ
Thursday, August 5 at 7:15 pm CT: Touki Toussaint vs. Wade LeBLanc