What a season, huh?
These first few weeks of this season have not gone exactly how we expected or would have liked, am I right? While an 8-11 record is not a disaster for the St. Louis Cardinals, fans and really the team itself would likely prefer they start stringing some wins together now before they are in too big of a hole.
The Seattle Mariners and the Cardinals actually stack up against each other pretty well. The Cardinals lineup is a little bit stronger while the Mariners starting pitching has been better so far and on defense both lineups are very good (especially at third base with Nolan Arenado for the Cardinals and Eugenio Saurez for the Mariners). On paper both teams are playoff contenders.
On the schedule to start for the Mariners is George Kirby, Luis Castillo, and Chris Flexen. The top starter for the Mariners is Castillo, whom Devin covered in his breakdown from Friday. He has a 0.73 ERA, 1.72 FIP, and has yet to give up a home run in just over 24 innings. The guy is good.
On Friday the Cardinals face off against Kirby. In his second season in the majors, Kirby has had a solid season in the 16 innings he has pitched so far with a 3.78 ERA and 3.04 FIP. He doesn’t strike out many — his K% is just 17.1% — but he issues very few walks as well. His walk rate is just 1.4% which amounts to just one walk so far this season. He has a fastball-heavy arsenal which aligns with these results. He throws primarily a 4-seamer and a sinker after that. He follows that up with a slider he throws around 16% of the time, followed by a curveball, and an occasional changeup. His 4-seamer has been a good pitch for him — it was -18 in run value in 2022 per Baseball Savant and is already been -4 runs this season. He also has some of the most consistent placement of it that I can remember seeing in one of these graphics:
The Cardinals face Chris Flexen on Sunday whose season has been the weakest of the trio of starters the Cardinals will face. He has only struck out 13.8% of batters while walking 10% and has given up 1.56 HR/9. He throws primarily fastballs as well, throwing a 4-seam fastball the most along with a cutter second. He also throws a changeup and a slider. Though he and Kirby both throw mostly fastballs, their results have been very different — Flexen has a 7.79 ERA and 5.70 FIP — and I think a big reason for that can be seen in Flexen’s 4-seam placement.
Leading the Mariners offense has been outfielder Jarred Kelenic. Kelenic has now played in three seasons for the Mariners, but has only appeared in 164 total games. The 23-year-old is slashing .310/.385/.603 for a 181 wRC+ in 65 plate appearances. First baseman Ty France has also gotten off to a hot start with a .316/.398/.474 slash line for 154 wRC+. In 88 plate appearances he is walking a career high 9.1% while striking out a career low 11.4%.
On defense the left side of the infield is strong with Saurez at third and J.P. Crawford at shortstop. Eugenio Saurez is tied for second among third baseman in outs above average with 3 and Crawford is fourth in baseball among shortstops in defensive runs saved with 3 in just 163 innings.
Much like Cardinals, the Mariners have a solid lineup, but have underperformed to start the season. Both teams at 8-11 will be looking to get back on track this series. With a sweep each team could end the weekend finally above .500. Should be fun!
Friday, April 21 at 9:10pm CT: Steven Matz vs. George Kirby
Saturday, April 22 at 8:40pm CT: Miles Mikolas vs. Luis Castillo
Sunday, April 23 at 3:10pm CT: Jack Flaherty vs. Chris Flexen