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It is a new month and the Cardinals are playing the Los Angeles Angels

An increasingly off the rails series preview

Gatorade All-Star Workout Day Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

It is May!

The good news is the St. Louis Cardinals have yet to lose a game so far this month. The bad news is April still happened.

Its okay though! It is a fresh start, but even if it goes similarly to how it has been going, it will still be okay because baseball fun. To be perfectly honest, I have almost reached the point of pure scientific and mathematical interest when it comes to these games. There is a weird beauty in the absurdity.

ANYWAY the next series for the Cardinals will be against the 15-14 Los Angeles Angels. The trio of starters scheduled to face them are lefty Patrick Sandoval, Shohei Ohtani, and Griffin Canning. Let’s dig in to what we can expect from these three.

Patrick Sandoval has a 3.16 ERA that is outperforming his 4.36 FIP. The main reason his ERA seems to be over a run lower than his FIP and expected ERA of 4.24 primarily looks to be due to a .244 batting average on balls in play. Part of that might be due to luck, but a look at Baseball Savant shows Sandoval has the lowest Hard Hit % of his career this season. His 21.4% Hard Hit rate is in the top 4% in all of baseball. Looking at his pitching profile, this sort of makes sense. He throws a slider over 30% of the time, and a changeup and 4-seamer just over 27% of the time, peppering in a rare sinker and curveball. His pitch usage varies from year to year, but every year he seems to throw the sinker less, which has yielded these positive results.

It is tough to know where to begin in regards to Shohei Otani, but let’s focus on the pitching for now. He is in the middle of a strong season so far with a 1.85 ERA in 34 innings. His FIP is a bit higher however at 3.48 and it appears Otani has also been fortunate with his batting average on balls in play. In his career it is typical for that number to be a bit low, but even for his standards a .150 BABIP seems a little unsustainable. He also has a 86.5% LOB%. Again, this statistic is usually high for him, but this season it still a little above his usual rate. He is suppressing homers at an incredible rate with just 2 home runs allowed so far this season for 0.53 HR/9. Factoring into this is a 35.1% K rate, the highest of his career and the fourth highest in baseball among starters. He is in the 90th percentile in Hard Hit %, the 95th percentile in exit velocity, and the 93rd percentile in Wiff rate. He throws a lot of pitches, but primarily he relies on two: the sweeper 48% of the time and a 4-seamer 25% of the time. He has also thrown some cutters, split fingers, sinkers, curves, and one slider. His sweeper is one of the most valuable pitches in baseball according the Baseball Savant’s run value metric. It was tied for second in baseball last season after Dylan Cease’s slider and is in second again so far this season after Gerrit Cole’s 4-seamer. He is just extremely good, and that isn’t even mentioning the hitting yet.

On Sunday the Cardinals are scheduled to face Griffin Canning. Canning has a 4.11 ERA and a 4.30 FIP. Most his starts are pretty middling, but he has also only pitched 15 innings so far this season. There is one stat that really stands out though — his strikeout percentage is a little about average a 24.2%, but his Wiff rate is in the 93rd percentile at 34.7%. All his pitches have a wiff rate over 30%, with the highest being his slider at 40%. He throws his slider the most, then a 4-seamer, changeup, and occasionally a curveball.

On offense the team has a 108 wRC+, which is just above the Cardinals at 107. They are led by Mike Trout who is slashing .308/.395/.589 with a 170 wRC+. After him is, you guessed it, Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani has a wRC+ of 144 in 124 plate appearances. He is slashing .294/.355/.541 and has 5 stolen bases. Both have clubbed a team high 7 home runs.

The bullpen for the Angels has been really good so far with four pitchers with a FIP under 3: Carlos Estevez, Tucker Davidson, Andrew Wants, and Matt Moore. None of these pitchers have given up a home run yet. Closer Carlos Estevez has the lowest FIP of the group at 2.37 an ERA of 1.32. He has struck out 28.6% of batters while allowing a .180 batting average against him. Wantz has the lowest ERA at just .79 and strikes out nearly 28% of batters with a batting average against of .105.

The Cardinals have their work cut out for them this series. The Angels are a solid team with good pitching and superstar talent in Trout and Ohtani along with other solid players like Hunter Renfroe. Hopefully the Cardinals can sort out some of their troubles and start May off well with a solid series.


Tuesday, May 2 at 6:45 pm CT: Patrick Sandoval vs. Steven Matz
Wednesday, May 3 at 6:45 pm CT: Shohei Otani vs. Miles Mikolas
Thursday, May 4 at 12:15 pm CT: Griffin Canning vs. Jack Flaherty