Editor’s note: Gabe is on vacation and pre-wrote this before he left. He had a working title because he didn’t know if the previous one “would stick”. It didn’t stick, which left me to devise a new title. I saw his working title and thought yeah, that’ll do.
It’s amazing how much timing matters when you face an opponent. For example, take the Milwaukee Brewers of the past few seasons. Depending on how the coin flipped, you could enter a series with the Brewers with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta as the opposing starters. Despite a weak offense, you didn’t feel very good about that series. But if you face the Brewers and face just one of those guys and whoever their 4th and 5th starters were, well the Brewers weren’t a particularly good team without an ace pitching.
I bring this up, because the Cardinals run into the Giants at the exact wrong time. Roster Resource only lists three starters in their rotation. They have two other pitchers who are effectively starters listed in their bullpen, I assume because they are either followers or because Gabe Kapler only uses him for a few innings. Would you care to take a guess as to who the Cardinals are lined up to face? The Giants’ three legit starters.
The last time the Cardinals faced the Giants, they sort of hit them at the wrong time. Coming into the series, they had a team wRC+ of 67 against left-handed pitchers. The Cardinals had two lefties in the series so that would seem to be a good thing. Except lefty masher Austin Slater and just normal good hitter Mitch Haniger returned from the injured list and they vastly changed the complexion. As of this writing, they have improved to a 92 wRC+.*
*All figures are through Thursday night. It was not possible to write this later, so some stats will be outdated.
The Cardinals have two left-handed pitchers in this series again. Despite the fact that they aren’t really bad against lefties at this point, they are probably better against right-handed pitchers, so this is not bad news. Part of that is that their best hitters have been left-handed. Lead-off batter and 1B Lamonte Wade has a 149 wRC+. Michael Conforto has a 126 wRC+. The grandson of Yaz, Mike, has a 110 wRC+. Joc Pederson has a 121 wRC+. Catcher, this will be funny to Cardinals’ fans, and occasional left fielder Blake Sabol has a 110 wRC+.
They do have hitters specifically to face left-handed pitchers, but on the whole, their left-handed batters seem to be, or have been, better than their counterparts. With Joey Bart on the IL, 2020 1st rounder Patrick Bailey has gotten off to a blistering start, although he isn’t actually considered that good of a prospect, and he had a 60 wRC+ in AAA before being called up. Granted he had 28 total games above High A before the big leagues, so who’s to say? Another 2020 draft pick is on the bench and he wasn’t even ranked by FG. Casey Schmitt, who plays either 2B, SS, or 3B depending on what’s needed, has a 93 wRC+ through 104 PAs.
To finish with the hitters, they have two hitters playing out of their minds in Thairo Estrada (127 wRC+) and JD Davis (136 wRC+). This somewhat damages my “their best hitters are left-handed” but those guys have played against everyone.
If you reach the 9th, Camilo Doval will probably save it. He has just one blown save, and perhaps more importantly, strikes out 36.6% of hitters. Hard to make contact off him, would tend to be hard to get runs off him. They have the Rogers’ brothers, Taylor and Tyler, neither of whom have actually been that good - at least by advanced stats - but both have ERAs better than their advanced stats. Tyler has a way better ERA in fact. They also have groundball specialist Scott Alexander, who I noted had the greatest GB% in the majors since 2010. And of course John Brebbia is just plain solid.
Monday - 6:45 PM
Logan Webb (3.09 ERA/3.49 FIP/2.98 xFIP) vs. Matthew Liberatore (6.00 ERA/4.69 FIP/5.40 xFIP)
Well, this is not the most ideal matchup. Webb is a legit ace. He strikes out a good portion, barely walks anyone, and gets a lot of groundballs. He is also a workhorse, at least by modern standards. He throws 6.5 innings per start. At his current pace and without injuries, he’ll reach 200 innings easy.
With Liberatore, I suspect we have some growing pains as he figures out his control and command on the fly. It’s not clear he has anything left to learn in AAA, so he’s going to have to learn how to pitch to MLB hitters. I expect struggles with flashes of who he could become.
Tuesday - 6:45 PM
Alex Cobb (2.71 ERA/3.43 FIP/3.26 xFIP) vs. Jack Flaherty (4.15 ERA/4.33 FIP/4.50 xFIP)
Seriously, if we played the Giants over the weekend, we could have faced Sean Manaea and Jakob Junis. Instead we get this group. Cobb is the version of Webb who doesn’t eat innings. But they are pretty close to the same type of pitcher. Groundball pitcher who still strikes hitters out and doesn’t really walk batters. This could be a tough series for runs.
Flaherty hopefully continues to build off his recent success. I still wish that he didn’t have struggles with control, but at least he figures it out in time usually. At least lately he has. This should hopefully be a good pitching matchup.
Wednesday - 12:15 PM
Anthony Desclafani (3.97 ERA/3.77 FIP/4.07 xFIP) vs. Jordan Montgomery (4.23 ERA/3.95 FIP/3.98 xFIP)
Despite his recent struggles, Montgomery has pretty solid stats on the whole. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say again. Inflated ERA notwithstanding, he’s in line to be a true #2 starter. And for those who didn’t read that article, yes he is a #2 starter. You are probably overrating what a #2 starter if you think he isn’t. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Desclafani has the weakest stats of this trio, but as you can see, he’s not slouch himself. Hopefully, the Cardinals’ offense is alive during this series.
Because baseball what looks to be an obvious struggle for runs seems like it will lead to runs somehow. But this is one of those series where you just can’t get that mad at the offense if they struggle against the pitchers. I mean I guess you could. I can’t. Find a way to win two and I’ll be happy.