The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a 4-game series split at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates to turn around and face the Arizona Diamondbacks for three games starting Monday evening. At the end of this series the Cardinals will have played thirteen games in a row. The off day on Thursday will be well earned. (It will have been good practice for when the club has 19 games in a row to close out May. Yikes.)
In this series the Cardinals are scheduled to line up against Merrill Kelly, Drey Jameson in his first appearance against the Cardinals, and Madison Bumgarner. Let’s start with MadBum since we have seen him the most — the Cardinals have faced him 15 times over the course of his 15 year career. This season Bumgarner looks to have changed his approach a little bit. Starting in 2021 his cutter became his most used pitch, while his fastball usage decreased — probably because it has lost a lot of velocity coming in at only 89.6 mph on average. He has been throwing his changeup more and completely stopped throwing his sinker in favor of a slider — a pitch he hasn’t thrown since 2016 according to Baseball Savant.
As for his results, they haven’t been that great. His ERA is 7.90 and his xERA is even higher at 8.56. His K% is down to 11.4%, which is in the bottom 6% of the league. His Wiff rate is in the bottom 14% and his chase rate is in the bottom 2%.
The Cardinals face Merrill Kelly on Monday. He has a very interesting pitching profile so far in 2023. His most used pitch is a changeup that he throws about 27% of the time. It gets a ton of swing and misses with a 48.5 Wiff rate for the pitch. He the follows that up with three pitches, each of which he throws about 20% of the time. He also occasionally mixes in a sinker. His results have been pretty good with a 2.94 ERA, but his peripheral stats tell a different story. He has one of the highest walk percentages in baseball at 18.8%. His fastballs have been clobbered. His 4-seamer has a batting average against of .364 with an expected batting average against that is even higher at .417. He has given up just one home run on the season, which seems to what has kept is ERA down, but the walks always seem to catch up eventually.
The biggest unknown of this trio of starters is Drey Jameson, the Diamondbacks #9 prospect. He is a rookie that made his debut in September of 2022 and has been the top starter for Arizona this year. He has a 4-seamer that sits at 97 mph, but he goes to his sinker the most often at 36.4%. He follows that up with a slider that has Wiff % of 73.1% in 62 pitches thrown and just over 12 innings — so still barely a sample size to look at. So far he has a 1.46 ERA, 4.74 xERA per Baseball Reference, and a 4.70 FIP per Fangraphs. I mean... even if it is a small sample size we have to see some video of this slider, right?
He hangs a few now and then, but it has pretty good break.
On offense the team has a 85 wRC+ with a 4.9% walk rate. The D-Backs have 11 players with over 30 plate appearances and 3 of those players haven’t walked at all. Leftfielder Corbin Carroll is batting .288/.300/.542 with 4 homers, a 25% K rate, and zero walks for a 119 wRC+. The best hitter on the team so far has been shortstop Geraldo Perdomo with a wRC+ of 210 in 33 plate appearances. He has walked 15.2% of his plate appearances and his a .400/.516./.640 slash line. His BABIP is very high though at .563, so his true talent hitting might be closer to league average than his results have suggested thus far.
On defense the Diamondbacks are strong at catcher with Gabriel Moreno behind the plate. The D-Backs acquired Moreno this past offseason from Toronto. While at the plate he has struggled, behind the plate he has been the one of the top catchers in the game with the highest Defensive WAR per Fangraphs and 3 defensive runs saved.
Arizona is currently first place in the National League West, but seem to be out-performing their peripherals in several facets. The Cardinals are in the opposite boat and underperforming their peripherals. Which will prevail when these opposing forces of fate and probability clash? We will find out soon!
Monday, April 17 at 6:45 pm CT: Merrill Kelly vs. Jack Flaherty
Tuesday, April 18 at 6:45 pm CT: Drey Jameson vs. Jordan Montgomery
Wednesday, April 19 at 12:15 pm CT: Madison Bumgarner vs. Jake Woodford