I think a four-game series split on the road still constitutes the use of this increasingly stupid headline, right? After a disastrous start the St. Louis Cardinals have managed to win or split five series in a row and have crawled their way up to a 23-29 record. It is still a losing record, but it is a lot better than the 10-24 record they had after losing eight straight. Things are looking up and hopefully that continues when the Cardinals head to Cleveland to take on the Guardians.
Similarly to the Cardinals, the Guardians have a season record of 21-28. Unlike the Cardinals, who have been underperforming their Pythagorean record of 27-25, the Guardians are about where they should be according to their Pythag of 20-29. As an offense they are dead-last in wRC+ with a 76. There are actually some strong defenders, but as whole the team is near the bottom of the league, primarily because by the numbers what looks to be really poor defense from shortstop Amed Rosario. Defensive statistics take a lot of innings to stabilize, but in 362 innings this season he has -8 defensive runs saved and by UZR looks to be a statue between second and third base. It is actually pretty perplexing to me because in the articles I am reading he is said to be a “defense-first shortstop”, but in nearly 6,000 MLB innings at shortstop, that just does not look to be the case, unless that is just a polite way of saying a player doesn’t hit much. In over 12,000 innings Jhonny Peralta had -20 defensive runs saved. Rosario has -31 in just under 6,000 with a career 93 wRC+.
Anyway, moving on from that mini-tangent [rips off photos and red yarn from my corkboard as I giving up solving that mystery], a brighter spot for the Guardians has been the pitching. The starters have a combined FIP of 4.06. This staff hasn’t struck out many, but it also hasn’t walked very many and seems to be able to avoid giving up the long ball, which is going a long way for them. Leading the staff is the pitcher the Cardinals will face on Friday, Shane Bieber. Bieber has a 3.08 ERA and and 3.98 FIP. His K% is only 17.8%, but he has only walked 5.7%. He doesn’t throw the ball hard — his 4-seamer velocity is just over 91 mph — and he tends to get hit pretty hard — the average exit velocity against him is 93 mph, which is the bottom 2% of the league per Baseball Savant. His fastball has good movement though and when mixed in with his slider and cutter he able to keep hitters from barreling it somehow.
On Saturday the Cardinals face the Guardians #5 prospect in Tanner Bibee. In just over 28 innings he has a 3.18 ERA and 3.03 FIP. He strikes out a few more batters than Bieber with a K-rate of 21.7% and walks slightly more with a 7% walk rate. Unlike Bieber, who seems to rely only on movement to keep hitters off-balance, Bibee has movement and velocity. His 4-seamer clocks in about 95 mph and he has a slider as a secondary pitch with a lot of break. To me it almost breaks more like a curveball, which is a pitch, along with a changeup, that he throws occasionally as well.
On Sunday the Cardinals face Hunter Gaddis, Cleveland’s #27 prospect. Gaddis has only pitched 23 innings so far this season and has a 5.70 ERA with a 3.74 FIP. His strikeout and walk rates are similar to Bieber’s, but he has only given up one home run all season. In the minors his strikeout rates were much more impressive, so perhaps with more innings more strikeouts will come. Like the other two pitchers in this series he throws a 4-seamer, a slider, and a changeup, with the rare curveball and cutter.
The Cardinals offense matches up well against these pitchers. Lets hope they can continue their winning ways and squeak a little closer to .500 this weekend!
Friday, May 26 at 6:10 pm: Matthew Liberatore vs. Shane Bieber
Saturday, May 27 at 6:15 pm CT: TBD vs. Tanner Bibee
Sunday, May 28 at 12:40 pm CT: TBD vs. Hunter Gaddis