The Giants have been a very weird team to start their season. Of the four starters the Cardinals will face, three of them have been good. Alex Wood was recently put on the injured list and has also been good. Then I looked at their lineup. It took me until their 7th spot in the lineup until I found someone playing poorly. Lamonte Wade Jr. has a 136 wRC+, Michael Conforto a 120 wRC+, J.D. Davis a 128 wRC+, Mike Yaz a 111 wRC+, Thairo Estrada has a 151 wRC+, Wilmer Flores a 119 wRC+, I mean how exactly is this team bad?
Sure, their catchers aren’t the strongest part of their lineup but the tandem of Joey Bart (106 wRC+) and Blake Sabol (80 wRC+) is still on the better side when it comes to catchers. They’ve received nothing from centerfielder Brett Wisely, although he just got here, or Brandon Crawford, but I don’t feel like two weak points in a lineup and four out of five pretty good starters means a 8-13 record.
But well, bullpens exist. And they’ve been bad. Taylor Rogers, who we previously saw with the Brewers, has six walks to four strikeouts and seven earned runs in 6.1 IP. Old friend John Brebbia has been good by the advanced stats, but has a 5.63 ERA so far. And actually, that’s kind of it. Well they have a few long reliever types in Sean Hjelle (7.63 ERA), Tristan Beck (6.75 ERA) and Jakob Junis (4.26 ERA) who are kind of mucking up their numbers, but weirdly all of them have good advanced stats. In fact, the bullpen seems to suffer from Cardinals’ starters disease, a little known disease that seems to cause pitchers to allow just about any baserunner that gets on base to score. Their LOB% (left on base) is 60.8%, which is 29th in baseball. League average is about 72 or 73%.
Not necessarily loving the idea of facing a team who has good starting pitching, what has been a good lineup (which I phrase that way because some of the performances above I am skeptical about), and what looks to be the makings of a good bullpen who has simply suffered from what happens over 20 games sometimes. Oh yeah and I forgot Joc Pederson, with a 138 wRC+, who has only played in 9 games, but is now activated off the IL.
Monday - 8:45 PM
Jordan Montgomery (4.84 ERA/2.91 FIP/3.95 xFIP) vs. Alex Cobb (2.79 ERA/2.89 FIP/2.60 xFIP)
One possible reason for the Giants’ struggles can be explained, oddly enough, by Alex Cobb. Cobb’s numbers are good. He is 0-1 on the season, and in fact it would have been impossible for him to get a win in two of his four starts. He has not lasted deep into games whatsoever. He has thrown 3.2 IP (76 pitches), 7 IP (97 pitches), 3.2 IP (77 pitches) and 5 innings (92 pitches). He had a quick hook for two of those games, but I mentioned his pitch count because he wasn’t going to go deeper than 5 under the best situation anyway.
Cobb faced the Cardinals once last year. He went.... 5 innings. He struck out eight batters to one walk and allowed two runs in a 3-2 Giants loss. Kind of funny when this happened to line up perfectly with the narrative I suggested. The Giants’ offense has some members with good numbers, but against lefties, they’ve been atrocious. Montgomery should have a good game. The Giants have a 67 wRC+ on the year against LHP.
My pick: Cardinals
Tuesday - 8:45 PM
Jake Woodford (6.05 ERA/7.39 FIP/4.98 xFIP) vs. Sean Manaea (6.60 ERA/6.69 FIP/5.32 xFIP)
I’m trusting Roster Resource on this one, who list Manaea as the starting pitcher, but ESPN has this game as undecided. Onto the matchup itself, a movable force meets a stoppable object. Historically speaking and projection-wise, Manaea is the clear favorite of the two however. But there’s a small problem: he’s left-handed. The Cardinals are amazing against left-handed pitchers.
How amazing are they? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Manaea doesn’t actually start, and if he does, it may end up being a glorified bullpen game anyway. Tristan Beck is another option, he threw 81 pitches in relief and whom ZiPs thinks is basically average. He is right-handed so he may actually start, although Manaea will have to pitch at some point this series, maybe not as a starter but you can’t hide him in a four-game series. Based purely on the Giants’ side, I have to go with
My pick: Cardinals
Wednesday - 8:45 PM
Steven Matz (6.55 ERA/4.90 FIP/3.68 xFIP) vs. Anthony Desclafani (2.63 ERA/2.94 FIP/2.84 xFIP)
This series seems pretty well-structured for the Cardinals actually. The Giants have been very bad against lefties, which evens out the fact that the have had the better pitcher in two of the three games. And in the other game, they either throw a lefty or a bullpen game. Desclafani we saw a lot when he was Cincinnati. It is worth pointing out that he has a 4.11 xERA on the year, so maybe he’s due for some regression on the ERA front.
I don’t make it a habit to look at batter versus pitcher matchups, but Paul Goldschmidt owns the shit out of Desclafani. He has come to the plate 30 times against him. He has gotten on base 17 times. He is batting .517/.594/.926 against Desclafani with two homers and five doubles. Tyler O’Neill has also hit two homers off him in 11 plate appearances, though he also have five strikeouts, so that’s a weird mix.
My pick: Cardinals
Thursday - 2:45 PM
Miles Mikolas (7.46 ERA/5.57 FIP/4.41 xFIP) vs. Logan Webb (4.40 ERA/4.04 FIP/2.58 xFIP)
I mentioned above that three of the starters the Cardinals will face have good numbers and that’s sort of true. Webb’s stat line is a very strange one. He has 36 strikeouts to 4 walks in 30.2 IP. He also has a 60 GB%. But his BABIP against is .333, his HR/FB% is 28.6%, and his LOB% is 65.2%. This despite career marks of .310, 12%, and 70.2% (and if you wanted to start when he broke out as a pitcher in 2021, all of those numbers are better than that).
Unlike Desclafani, who I feel is due for a bad start, I fear Webb is due for a good start. I’m not pessimistic about how Mikolas will do, I just am not sure it’ll matter how he does if Webb is on his A game.
My pick: Giants
I fully intended to pick 2 games to 2 games in this series, but the matchup. s are about as favorable as you could hope for. The Cardinals will probably end up losing one of the first three matchups, but individually it was too tough to pick against the Cards. Of course, baseball being baseball, they are going to lose 2 of the next 3 and then win the game against Webb. I can only pick games by what is “supposed” to happen.
My picks: 3-4 (The Pirate series was a tough one!)