I am not really as sassy of a person that this headline might indicate, but the St. Louis Cardinals have not left me much room with headlines here. Sometimes you get a chance to be cheeky and you just gotta take it. The Cardinals have lost five straight games, eight of their last ten, and 12 of their last 15. The New York Mets are sort in a similar situation. They have also lost eight of their last ten with a majority of those losses part of a stretch of seven losses in a row. So when I say both of these teams are gonna show up and by default someone has to win, it isn’t too far off the truth. Both teams are severely under-performing. Luckily for them they cannot both lose.
[flips through rulebook]
A big part of the Mets’ struggles so far this season has been their starting pitching, particularly two of the three starters the Cardinals are slated to face in this series: Tylor Megill and Carlos Carrasco. Megill is in his third partial season with the Mets and honestly, not a lot has gone right for him. His FIP is 5.18, his ERA is 5.14, he striking out only 16.9% of batters while walking 12.1%, and he is surrendering 1.14 home runs per nine innings. Looking at his pitch arsenal paints a pretty good picture of why. He throws a 4-seam fastball over 50% of the time and it just is not a great pitch for him, or at least he does not seem to have great control over it. It has decent velocity at 94 mph on average, but he is throwing it right in the heart of the plate and hitters aren’t missing it: his batting average against on his 4-seamer is .313. He throws a slider and changeup as secondary pitches and the slider actually looks pretty good. He locates it well and it has 41.5 inches of drop, about 3.4 more than the average slider, but when hitters are going to get a fastball 50% of the time, they don’t have to offer at this pitch very often. He also throws a curveball, but he has not thrown it all that often. It looks like a pitch with a lot of movement and so far it has been the one he has used most effectively. It is the only pitch this season he hasn’t allowed a homer off of yet and it is his pitch with highest wiff rate ate 37.5%. This seems like the type of pitcher the Cardinals should be able to handle, but will inexplicable be lights out against them because of these secondary pitches.
On Sunday the Cardinals will face Carlos Carrasco, who after a couple of really good seasons in Cleveland, seemed to have a lot of trouble staying healthy, unfortunately. This season things seem to have really fallen off for him. His strikeout percentage, which for his career is just under 25%, has been 13.3%. He is also giving up a lot of homers to the tune of a 1.76 HR/9. Overall his FIP is 6.26 and his ERA is 5.71. He throws a 4-seamer, changeup, slider, curveball, and sinker. His changeup is his best pitch by far. It drops 4.6 inches more than the average changeup and has a .120 batting average against it with a 34.3% wiff rate. On the flip side of that, his sinker has been pretty terrible in the small amount he has thrown it. In the 64 times he has thrown a sinker he has given up ten hits — four of them for extra bases — this all maths out to a .588 batting average against and 1.059 slugging percentage per Baseball Savant.
The Mets’ best pitcher this season will toe the rubber on Saturday. Kodai Senga in his first season in the majors is leading the Mets rotation with a 4.10 FIP and 3.34 ERA. He is striking out 28.3% of batters while walking 14.3%. He throws a 4-seam fastball, a forkball, a cutter, and a sweeper. A forkball is similar to a splitfinger — the ball is jammed further between the pointer and middle finger and therefore is a bit slower with more drop than a splitfinger. It sort of looks like a curveball, but with less drop. Here is an example:
I mention all this because I don’t think I have a seen a pitcher consistently throw a pitch a like this. Based on its results, it seems like major league hitters haven’t either. His forkball has a .108 batting average against and a whopping 59.8% wiff rate. He loves to throw it with 2 strikes and has gotten 45 strikeouts on this pitch so far this season. To go along with that he has a fastball that averages almost 96 mph and a cutter than comes in around 90 mph. I have to show you the placement on these two pitches because it is so interesting to me.
The fastball dances perfectly around the middle of the plate while the cut-fastball sits perfectly in the middle. I do not think I have ever seen anything like that. Whether this is intentional or just a coincidence, it seems to be working. His cutter, despite this location, has just a .293 slugging percentage against it. This pitcher is going to be a tough matchup for the Cardinals, but as a fan, I am pretty excited to watch him.
On offense the Mets have been middling. Pete Alonso has been their best hitter with a 139 wRC+ and 22 homers, but he is currently on the 10-day Injured List. He has started fielding grounders and taking batting practice, but it doesn’t look like he will return for this series. Brandon Nimmo has been the next best hitter with a 132 wRC+. While he has a little pop, he is less of a power threat than Alonso, but getting on base is where his game really is. He leads the Mets with a .381 OBP. Rounding out some of the top hitters are the Franciscos, both Lindor and Alvarez, who each have 12 homers.
I would be remiss to not mention one of the game’s top closers David Robertson. In just over 30 innings he has a 1.78 ERA and 2.88 FIP. He has been striking out 33.1% of batters while walking just 6.6% in his age-38 season.
That’s the Mets. Some exciting players, but also some players that haven’t had a lot of success. Both the Mets and the Cardinals are looking to turn things around and quick. One of them has to win this series. Maybe it will be the Cardinals weekend?
Friday, June 16 at 6:10 pm CT: Miles Mikolas vs. Tylor Megill
Saturday, June 17 at 3:10 pm CT: Adam Wainwright vs. Kodai Senga
Sunday, June 18 at 12:40 pm CT: Matthew Liberatore vs. Carlos Carrasco