Cardinals’ pitching may have its work cut out for them. This won’t be reflected in the stats. The Boston Red Sox rank 14th in the MLB in team wRC+, so you may be mistaken in not fearing their offense. What the Red Sox have is sort of a stars and scrubs offense. And it’s pretty extreme. Rafael Devers (173 wRC+), JD Martinez (178 wRC+), and Xander Bogaerts (150 wRC+) are a ridiculously fearsome trio. Trevor Story is the rare player who has been average (101 wRC+), although it is worth pointing out that Story got off to a phenomenally slow start and in the last month of play, Story has a 142 wRC+. He’s more star than scrub certainly.
And then.... it’s not great. It is not great. Kiké Hernandez, currently on the injured list, has been their primary CF and has a 71 wRC+. Alex Verdugo has a 74 wRC+. Jackie Bradley Jr. has a 72 wRC+. Franchy Cordero seems to be their primary 1B - which, wait what? - and he has a 87 wRC+, and he’s an improvement over their original plan of Bobby Dalbec, on the bench with a 71 wRC+. Christian Vazquez at catcher is decent with a 93 wRC+, his backup Kevin Plawecki has not been decent with a 31 wRC+. There’s very little in between on this team. Near automatic out or buckle up for a homer.
There is help, at least theoretically. Former top 100 prospect Jarren Dhuran, who had a 49 wRC+ last year in 112 PAs, has recently been called up after wRC+ing 132 in the minor leagues. He’s taking over for Hernandez (who is possibly going to be activated from IL on Saturday when first eligible). But high BABIP not withstanding (90 wRC+ with a .400 BABIP), he kind of looks like the same hitter, striking out 7 times in 19 PAs so far. He struck out 35.7% of the time last year.
On the pitching side, they’ve had some very recent injuries to the rotation. Nathan Eovaldi was put on the IL on the 8th and he’s had some HR problems, but has a 3.12 ERA with a similar xFIP in 12 starts. Garrett Whitlock went on the IL a day earlier and he has 1 WAR through 9 starts (13 overall games pitched). And Chris Sale is less recent, but had his return delayed by a few weeks and has been slower to come back than expected. Plus James Paxton pitched 1.1 IP on the year and then needed Tommy John surgery.
Tanner Houck leads their bullpen, or at least seems to be the closer, having gotten two saves in the past week. He is good, but by no means dominant. They’ve gotten a couple elite performances from the random reliever roulette wheel. John Schreiber has a 0.98 ERA in 18 IP with a 2.48 FIP. Matt Strahm only has a 4.00 ERA, but it comes with a 1.64 FIP - also through 18 IP. Lefty Austin Davis hasn’t actually been great by the advanced metrics, but carries a 1.46 ERA. A couple of the more “known names” - as much as relievers can be known - have not been great: Jake Diekman, Hansel Robles, Ryan Brasier. Not totally clear if this is a good bullpen or not to me?
Friday - 6:10 PM
Michael Wacha (2.33 ERA/3.95 FIP/4.36 xFIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (2.84 ERA/3.51 FIP/4.03 xFIP)
We see old friend Michael Wacha, who has sure jumped around the past few seasons - Mets, Rays, and now Red Sox. Maybe he can parlay this season into a multi-year deal? He’s still only 30 if you can believe it. That said, I’m just not buying the ERA. He seems to be the same old Michael to me. Even with the low ERA, he’s only averaging 5.4 innings per start. He’s only striking out 16.9% of hitters so far. But sometimes he has it and sometimes he doesn’t and there’s really no predicting if he will on Friday or not.
Wainwright meanwhile is on a run of three straight starts with at least 7 innings pitched. If you want to expand it further, he’s had at least 7 innings pitched in 5 of his last 7 starts, with 2 earned runs or less in four of the five starts. Wainwright and Molina will be jumping into sole possession of 2nd place for the most starts as a battery, surpassing Hall of Famer Warren Spahn and Del Crandall with 317 starts.
My pick: Cardinals
Saturday - 6:15
Kutter Crawford (5.74 ERA/4.41 FIP/4.70 xFIP) vs. Dakota Hudson (3.29 ERA/4.20 FIP/4.65 xFIP)
Crawford has only pitched 15.2 IP on the season - and made one start. He is clearly replacing one of Eovaldi or Whitlock. In his lone start - his most recent appearance - he threw 5 innings of scoreless ball with 7 strikeouts and 4 walks. All that said - he doesn’t appear to be any good and the Cardinals should be able to hit him. In addition to the above stats, he also threw 13 innings in the minors - 7.43 ERA and 6.61 FIP. He’s also 26, so he’s not a prospect in any way.
What can I say about Hudson that I haven’t said already? Well, I will say this - even by advanced stats, he is the better pitcher on Saturday. You can’t really have said that for most of his starts. I kind of feel like he needs to defy the odds though in true Hudson fashion. Outpitching Crawford will not do that. That said, I still got to pick the Cards.
My pick: Cardinals
Sunday - 12:35 PM
Nick Pivetta (3.50 ERA/3.69 FIP/4.03 xFIP) vs. Zack Thompson (6.00 ERA/5.92 FIP/4.80 xFIP)
Full disclosure: Thompson is a guess. ESPN lists Andre Pallante as Sunday’s starter, though given he pitched yesterday, that would not be my bet. Thompson, who pitched on Monday, will be on five days rest. Pallante would be on three. Now, Pallante didn’t throw that many innings, but it’d be a weird choice to use him yesterday while planning to start him Sunday?
Regardless, they’re facing Pivetta, who’s just been solid. He’s a pretty good right-handed pitcher so the Cards may have some issues with him. It doesn’t really matter if it’s Thompson, a bullpen start, or Pallante, I think I’d pick the Red Sox anyway.
My pick: Red Sox
I would normally post this the day of the game, but since I’m using a lot of stats that will exclude Thursday’s game, probably best just to post this on the Cardinals off day. Doesn’t really affect any of the starters’ stats, who obviously aren’t pitching on Thursday, but for the relievers and hitters, it might. In the meantime, part of why I had to write it on Wednesday is because I am leaving for vacation tomorrow morning (5 am flight so I’ll be long gone from STL when this actually posts). I won’t be posting next week, so I’ll see you all the week after.
Individual game records: 16-16
Series records: 5-4