The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a series split with Milwaukee Brewers. On Tuesday evening they will begin a new series in Miami against the Marlins. The Marlins at 4-5 are managed by Don Mattingly. They have allowed 37 runs and scored 39, making their Pythagorean win-loss record 5-4. The Cardinals Pythagorean record is 5-3, which is their actual record.
The only pitcher the Cardinals have slated in to start so far is Adam Wainwright. His last outing was a bit rough — he went only 4 1⁄3 innings with 8 hits and 2 walks. The silver lining though is that he struck out 7 batters, so his .538 BABIP is probably not indicative of some greater alarming trend. He also had a 12.5% home run to fly ball rate out in Milwaukee and that should regress. Looking at his pitch chart on Baseball Savant gives a pretty clear indication that Waino did not have his best command. Most of the pitches look outside of the zone or right in the middle.
In his first start against the Pittsburgh Pirates he was not super sharp, but there is a big blank space in the center of the zone, which is likely by design. Waino should look a little sharper Tuesday evening.
The Cardinals face off against three interesting pitchers this series. On Tuesday night lefty Jesús Luzardo toes the rubber. Over his major league career he has pitched 171 total innings with a 4.64 ERA. In his last outing though, he went five innings against the Los Angeles Angels and allowed only 2 hits, 1 walk, and struck out 12. He threw 50% curveballs and buried them in the bottom of strike zone and paired that with a 97 mph fastball up in the zone. If this trend continues it would be a pretty big divergent from his strategy in the past where he threw his sinker more than his 4-seamer. In his last strikeout of the game to Andrew Velazquez he mixes in hard fastballs up high tight and curveballs low before getting the swinging strike on a curve completely out of the zone. This is pretty standard pitching, but there is a reason why. If executed well, it is super effective. The Cardinals powerful righties will be on the lookout for it, but there might be quite a few swings and misses from the more strikeout prone hitters like Tyler O’Neil, Paul DeJong, and Harrison Bader.
The Cardinals face a familiar face on Wednesday in Sandy Alcantara. Alcantara spent a season with the Cardinals back in 2017, which was four full seasons ago already somehow. He is coming off a decent start against the Philadelphia Phillies last Thursday. He went just over 6 innings pitched and gave up 2 runs on 7 hits, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts. He throws a slider, 4-seamer, sinker, and changeup. His sinker is quite good — according to Baseball Savant’s Run Value it was -15 runs in 2021.
Pablo López is the opposing pitcher on Thursday. He has been steady for the Marlins since his debut in 2018. In 2021 he pitched nearly 103 innings with a 3.52 FIP, 3.07 ERA and struck out over 10 per nine innings. His strikeouts were down in his last start — only 2 in just over five innings — but in his first start he looked like he had in 2021 with 6 strikeouts in 5 innings pitched. He likes to throw a changup and 4-seamer around 30% of the time and sprinkles in a cutter, sinker, and curveball the rest of the time. He made the switch to throwing his change more back in 2020 and it seems to have been a good choice. His putaway percentage on the pitch was 25% in 2021 and it had over a 31% wiff rate.
Offensively the Marlins have been pretty darn good so far. As a team they have a 107 wRC+, ninth in baseball right now. Five of their nine regulars have a wRC+ over 100. Jesús Sánchez has been a really interesting player for the Marlins. In 36 plate appearances the 24-year old has batted .343/.361/.657, hit two home runs, walked once, and struck out only 6 times. This is all fun with small samples sizes, of course, but there is something fun about a player that never walks and strikes out very little. In his career in the majors, he has struck out a lot more than this — 30.1% — and is known to have a below average approach according to scouts, so this likely won’t last, but it is still pretty fun.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. is another young Marlins player off to a hot start. In 27 plate appearances he has a 216 wRC+. His ISO is .545, powered by 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homers. Again this is fun with small samples sizes, but as a shortstop, Chisholm’s power and speed is something rare and intriguing. If he can lower his strikeouts he has huge upside for this young Marlins team.
The Albert Pujols Report (APR):
In 17 plate appearances Albert Pujols has batted .333/.412/.733 with a .250 BABIP and 220 wRC+. He has hit 2 home runs, for a career total of 681, leaving him 19 away from 700.
Albert Pujols will homer off a Jesús Lazardo curveball.
Adam Wainwright will strike out Jesús Sánchez on a curveball, but also give up an extra base hit to him on a sinker.
Tyler O’Neill will steal a base on Wednesday.
Tuesday, April 19 at 5:40 pm CDT: Adam Wainwright vs. Jesús Luzardo
Wednesday, April 20 at 5:40 pm CDT: TBD vs. Sandy Alcantara
Thursday, April 21 at 5:40 pm CDT: TBD vs. Pablo Lopez