The St. Louis Cardinals at 10-7 are coming off their first series loss of the season. Their next series is a four-game set against the 8-11 Arizona Diamondbacks, who are coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Storms are lurking in the St. Louis area all weekend — we will have to wait and see how many games these two teams get to play.
Per wRC+ the Diamondbacks are just above the Reds at 29th in the league. As a team they have a slash line of .178/.273/.307. The low average is likely in part due to a team BABIP of .217. The offensive struggles are especially interesting because as a team the Diamondbacks are walking 10.5% of the time — the fifth highest in baseball. They are striking out 25.5% of the time, however, which is the fourth highest K rate in the league. The left-handed DH Seth Beer has been the best hitter by far. In 58 plate appearances he has a 147 wRC+ with a .306/.414/.429 slash line. His good line might be the result of some fortuitous results on balls in play though — he has a .400 BABIP with just a .122 ISO.
This series the Cardinals will face three righties and one lefty. The pitching staff as a whole has been in the middle of league, but looking deeper into the starters and the bullpen tells a different story. The relievers are near the bottom the league in FIP at 4.44 and ERA at 4.00. The starters have been pretty good. They rank 13th in the league in FIP at 3.64 and third in ERA at 2.55. That is even a little deceptive because Caleb Smith — currently on the Injured List — started one game and gave up four earned runs in only one inning. The five pitchers that have started more than one game have given up 20 runs in almost 82 innings. If I have done the math correctly that is about a 2.21 ERA as a group.
Leading the starters in ERA is Zac Gallen, who the Cardinals should miss. After him has been Madison Bumgarner, who the Cardinals are scheduled to face on Friday. Bumgarner has outperformed his peripherals by quite a bit — his shiny 1.00 ERA is substantially lower than his 4.02 FIP. He has the highest walk rate among the starters at 13.3% and a modest K rate of 17.3%. He has been able to avoid runs by having a low BABIP of .216 and high strand rate of 82.5%. In the past Bumgarner has relied primarily on his 4-seam fastball and his curveball, but so far this year has had made some changes. He is throwing the 4-seamer and curve less and the cutter a lot more. In 2022 he has thrown his cutter 52% of the time as opposed to around 35% of the time since he started throwing the pitch. His results so far have been good, but it is unclear if that can be attributed to this change. His does not appear to be getting more swings and misses with this strategy, but rather better results on balls in play, which is not fully in the pitcher’s control.
On Thursday the Cardinals will face Humbert Castellanos. In 9 innings pitched Castellanos has 2.00 ERA with a 3.08 FIP. He is the youngest pitcher the Cardinals will face this series at 24 years old. He likes to throw his curveball a lot — it is his most thrown pitch in 2022 at almost 27%. He also throws a slider, splits time between a 4-seam fastball and a sinker, and then throws an occasional changeup.
The best starter for the D-backs according to FIP is Merrill Kelly. The Cardinals are scheduled against him on Saturday. With a .333 BABIP against him he has a 1.69 ERA and 2.00 FIP. He is doing this with a 24.7% K rate. Most of these are with his changeup. He locates it perfectly down in the zone or on the inside corner. So far in 2022 the pitch has a .148 batting average against it and 36.4% Wiff rate. He sets it up with 92 mph 4-seamer and has a cutter he throws for the outside strike. He will also throw a curveball and a sinker.
Of the four starters the Cardinals are scheduled to face, Zach Davies has had the weakest season so far. The Cardinals have faced him a lot over the years from his time with the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs and have hit him pretty well. In 323 plate appearances against him the Cardinals have hit 11 homers with a .289/.339/.459 slash line. He has a 4.54 ERA against the Cardinals, which is actually better than his season ERA so far of 5.40. He mostly throws a sinker and a changeup with the occasional cutter and rare curveball.
You might recall how on April 22 I noted Paul Goldschmidt had a wRC+ of 50, but I thought he would heat up soon. In the week since I wrote that he has a slash line of .462/.481/.538 with 204 wRC+, bringing his season wRC+ up to 107. He is still looking for his first homer of the season, but I think he will get it against his former team. His best chance will be on a warm Sunday afternoon against Davies.
Something less fun:
Speaking of homers, the Cardinals have barely hit any. They have just 13 as a team which is 23rd in baseball and a meager .123 team ISO.
April 28 at 6:45 pm CDT: Humberto Castellanos vs. Dakota Hudson
April 29 at 7:15 pm CDT: Madison Bumgarner vs. Adam Wainwright
April 30 at 1:15 pm CDT: Merrill Kelly vs. Miles Mikolas
May 1 at 1:15 pm CDT: Zach Davies vs. Jordan Hicks