I’m going to start this preview with a bit of a rant. I cannot stand the idea fans seem to have that the Cardinals are singularly unique or especially alone with following blowouts with dud offensive performances. I haven’t done a study, but considering the fact that the Cardinals fanbase seems to levy this complaint against the Cardinals offense every single freaking year - like we’re going back over 10 years here, I’m pretty sure I remember a LaRussa season with the Cardinals having the #1 offense and that being the complaint. Considering that, maybe this is a stupid complaint?
Two things are at work: one, there’s usually a reason the Cards blow out a team and it’s because the pitcher isn’t good. And the people who relieve him are also probably not good. That’s when the back of the bullpen pitches. Great offenses are great offenses because they feast on bad pitching, not because they’re great against good pitching. Yeah it turns out that when you face Bryse Wilson, a bunch of overworked Pirates’ relievers, and a position player, you’re going to score a bunch of runs and when you face Jose Berrios the next day, you may have a little bit more trouble. Crazy concept.
The other is selective memory. Cardinals have in fact followed blowouts with 5 runs or more, but the way the brain works, it just doesn’t register or is ignored. Same thing happens with the “soft-tossing lefties” narrative (which nobody can even pretend exists for the Cardinals because the Cardinals are so insane against lefties). Did you know the Cardinals followed a 10-0 rout of the Royals with a 7-1 win against the Giants? Just to use one example (there is more than one example by the way).
Anyway, I’m supposed to talk about the Padres. The Padres may appear scary, with a Wild Card-leading 30-17 record. And they’re doing it without Fernando Tatis Jr.! But for a W-L perspective, the Padres have been rather fortunate. Despite being four games behind the Padres, the Cardinals actually have a better run differential on the season. By 13 runs. While this may not convince you that the Cardinals are better than the Padres, at worst, they’ve operated on equal ground.
We’re about to enter June and one thing to know about the 2022 Padres is that Manny Machado has absolutely been saving their bacon. He’s been ridiculous. You’ve probably seen him on the leaderboards with Paul Goldschmidt as he has the highest average in the NL. He has a 187 wRC+ and 3.4 fWAR already. It’s absolutely fluky - not him being great, him being this great - his xwOBA is .382 (compared to actual .438) and he has never been a guy who outperformed his xwOBA. And I mean never, aside from less than a 10 point difference.
They’ve received essentially only two other good performances from their offense. Eric Hosmer has a 139 wRC+, though that is literally all of April. He had a 90 wRC+ in May. Hosmer hasn’t changed, he just had a hot month. And Jurickson Profar has a 114 wRC+ with a .231 BABIP (though he has a career .260 BABIP, which is odd). Everyone else hasn’t been good. Luke Voit has a 101 wRC+ with a 33 K%, Jake Cronenworth has a 79 wRC+, Trent Grisham has a 64 wRC+, and Wil Myers has a 73 wRC+. Their pitching, well their starters have the 5th best ERA in baseball. But what’s more important is the starters the Cards get to face and so let’s go to the matchups.
Monday - 1:15
Nick Martinez (3.86 ERA/4.47 FIP/3.74 xFIP) vs. Packy Naughton (2.89 ERA/4.53 FIP/3.10 xFIP)
Nick Martinez is essentially the Padres 6th starter. He made six starts of varying quality, leading him to be the odd man out when Blake Snell came back from injury. But then he threw 4 innings of shutout ball against the Phillies out of the bullpen, and they put him back in the rotation when Mike Clevinger got put on the IL. The Padres starting rotation depth is ridiculous by the way.
And for some reason, the Cardinals are rolling with Packy Naughton again. This might not be bad if Marmol doesn’t push his luck and try extending Naughton past the point where he’s effective. He pitched fine through 3 innings his first time around, but then he kept him for the 4th. If we get lucky and he pitches effectively through 3, pull the plug, take the win, and leave it up to the bullpen.
My pick: Padres
Tuesday 6:45 PM
Blake Snell (6.00 ERA/5.03 FIP/3.85 xFIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (3.12 ERA/4.02 FIP/4.25 xFIP)
Blake Snell, as mentioned above, got activated recently and has only made two starts and thrown 9 innings. They haven’t been especially impressive innings, but clearly you can basically throw out those stats above. On the other hand, he happens to be left-handed and the Cardinals tend to do quite well against that hand. The Cards are kind of a rough matchup for a guy still trying to get into the groove.
Facing him is Adam Wainwright, coming off a rough start against the Brewers. It’s still early in the season, but Wainwright has somewhat of an alarming different from last year in both K% (17.7% to 21%) and BB% (8.8% to 6%) that hopefully is just a rough patch and not a sign of his age finally catching up to him. I do feel good about this matchup though, for some reason.
My pick: Cardinals
Wednesday - 12:15 PM
Yu Darvish (3.76 ERA/3.31 FIP/4.02 xFIP) vs. Dakota Hudson (3.22 ERA/4.86 FIP/4.83 xFIP)
Oh man I hate this matchup. Full disclosure: I’m starting to actively dislike watching Dakota Hudson starts. I just can’t stand them. He is starting to remind me of Todd Wellemeyer. He seems to have regressed. That might be related to the Tommy John. But he used to keep his walks somewhat under control and was capable of striking out hitters. He is still getting grounders, but has a 13.2 K% and 12.2 BB%. It’s insane he has a 3.22 ERA! He’s going to have to pitch better at some point, because no way is this a true talent thing.
Anyway, I’m going to have to do what I didn’t think I’d ever do.
My pick: Padres
Yeah I’m picking a series loss. Baseball is all about matchups and unfortunately, they got two stinkers of matchups. Now I say all this, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Dakota Hudson worked his voodoo magic and the Cards figure out Yu Darvish, but from a prediction standpoint, I’d be dishonest if I thought the Cards would win. The Pirates sweep put me back on track, as I predicted exactly that.
Individual game prediction: 11-10
Series prediction: 4-2