The St. Louis Cardinals and San Deigo Padres face off for three games this weekend in what will be a pivotal series for both teams. The Cardinals are 0.5 games ahead of the Padres in the race for the second Wild Card going into this series. In their last meeting the Cardinals were swept. If the Cardinals want to have the best chance to make the playoffs history certainly cannot repeat itself.
When the Cardinals and Padres squared off earlier this season the Padres were dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that had Fernando Tatis Jr., Jorge Mateo, Jurickson Profar, Wil Myers, and Eric Hosmer on the Injured List. That is not the case this time around and the Padres seem relatively healthy. As a team their 97 wRC+ has them tied for 14th in baseball. When the get on base, they look to steal. The Padres are second in the league in stolen bases with 105 on the season.
Fernando Tatis Jr. leads the Padres in most offensive categories. His 163 wRC+ is the best on the team along with his 5.9 fWAR. He has 39 homeruns and a .344 ISO. He can stretch a base hit into a double and leads the Padres in steals with 25.
Jake Cronenworth and Manny Machado are low strikeout hitters with some pop with 20 and 24 homers between them. Will Myers and Tommy Pham are in the next class of hitters in the order, each about average at the plate. Trent Grishom has significantly cooled since the Cardinals last saw him.
The Padres have been about an average fielding team overall with a few standouts. Manny Machado is obviously a premier defensive third baseman. He is near the top in of the league in most defensive categories; he has 9 defensive runs saved and 54 out of zone plays.
Jake Cronenworth has been steady at second base. By the numbers he has been comparable to Kolten Wong in the field, to give Cardinals fans a comparison.
The pitching staff for the Padres has also been about league-average. It is led by Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, and Mark Melancon in the bullpen. The Cardinals will face Darvish on Saturday. Mark Melancon has been solid for the Padres in the ‘pen. He has pitched nearly 60 innings this season and has a 2.26 ERA with a 3.49 FIP. He strikes out 22% of batters, walks nearly 10%, but has only given up 0.6 HR/9.
On Friday the Cardinals will face Vince Velasquez. Velasquez will be making his Padres debut it looks like (as I cannot find any info on with the Padres). He had been playing with the Phillies previously. Velasquez throws five pitches: a 4-seamer, curveball, changeup, slider, and sinker. His 4-seamer does not seem to be located well this season — he has given up 11 homers on the pitch and the heat map is right down the middle for it. His best pitch in 2021 so far per Baseball Savant’s run value has been his curveball. He has a .196 batting average against his curve. Overall on the season he has a 5.95 ERA and 5.59 FIP.
The Cardinals face Yu Darvish on Saturday. Darvish is a pretty familiar foe after his years in the National League Central with the Cubs. His is still striking a lot of batters out with a 28.8% K% and only walks about 6% of batters. He has had some trouble giving up the long ball with a 1.62 HR/9 which is probably why his ERA is 4.32 and FIP is 4.03. He has thrown six pitches this season (seven if you count the one changeup Baseball Savant shows he has thrown): Cutter, slider, 4-seamer, curveball, sinker, split finger. The cutter usually is far and away his most valuable pitch, but this season it is the slider.
Jake Arietta takes the mound on Sunday. Arrieta is another familiar foe from the Cubs, but he is not the pitcher from those days. In just over 98 innings pitched his ERA is over 7.00 and his FIP is 6.15. In his best seasons in 2014-2016 his sinker was dominating, but lately it seems to drop more and more each year and become more and more hittable. This season it has been one of the worst sinkers in the baseball with a 21 run value. Arrieta’s sinker has a .378 batting average against it and a .651 slugging. He has allowed 13 homeruns off the pitch. After the sinker he throws a slider, curveball, and changeup. He used to throw a 4-seam fastball, but pretty much ditched the pitch in 2017, which also seems to correspond to him tearing cartilage in his left knee.
The series is setting up nicely for the Cardinals. Should be a fun matchup on Saturday!
Friday, September 17 at 7:15pm CT: Vince Velasquez vs. Miles Mikolas
Saturday, September 18 at 6:15pm CT: Yu Darvish vs. Adam Wainwright
Sunday, September 19 at 1:15pm CT: Jake Arrieta vs. TBD