The St. Louis Cardinals are returning to the states after a series split in London, England against the Chicago Cubs. The next opponent on the schedule is the 42-36 Houston Astros. The scheduled starters are Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and J.P. France.
Per FIP, the Astros have a top five pitching staff and they are led by Valdez. In 99 innings the lefty has a 2.27 ERA and a 2.71 FIP with a 23.7% K rate, a 5.4% walk rate, and a 0.55 HR/9. He throws four pitches: a sinker, curveball, cutter, and changeup. Per Baseball Savant’s run value his sinker is one of the most valuable pitches in the game at -16 runs. It doesn’t move a lot and fires in right down the middle of the plate at 95 mph. It doesn’t really make a lot of since why it is so effective, but something must be happening because batters are hitting .246 against it with a .330 slugging.
The Cardinals face a solid pitcher in Cristian Javier on Wednesday. He has a 3.25 ERA and 3.76 FIP with a 0.98 HR/9 and strikes out 22.9% of batters while walking 7.1%. He throws a 4-seamer almost 60% of the time followed up with a slider nearly 32% of the time. He very rarely has thrown a curveball. His 4-seamer is a pretty good pitch — per Run Value is has amassed -12 runs. It averages 13.6 inches of drop with 5.6 inches of break and he likes to throw it near the top of the zone in the middle of the plate, almost daring batters to hit it, even though it tops out at around 93 mph. Batters don’t often get hits off it though — the batting average against is .244 and the slugging percentage is .416.
The weakest and least experienced pitcher of the trio is scheduled to face the Cardinals on Thursday. At 28-years-old J.P. France is in the midst of his rookie season. In 53 innings he has worked a 3.54 ERA and 4.95 FIP. In the minors he strikeout rate was near 30% but that hasn’t quite translated to the majors just yet. He is striking out 18.8% while walking 8%. He throws a 4-seam fastball and then splits up the rest of his pitches between a cutter, slider, changeup, and then curveball. There is not really anything special about his fastball, other than he places it up and away to righties with impeccable consistency. He has not thrown his curveball a lot as of now, but when he has it has had a ton of movement — over 66 inches of drop. I had to see what that looked like...
The relivers for the Astros have also been solid. The bullpen has a collective 3.73 ERA and 3.70 FIP (which is just above the Cardinals at 3.76). They have four really solid relievers. Phil Maton leads the ‘pen with 2.88 FIP and has a 1.86 ERA. He also has a 28.5% K rate and 6.0% walk rate. Ryan Pressly is listed as the closer and has a 2.97 ERA and 2.97 FIP. He has the lowest walk rate of the four at 5.3%. He also strikes out a lot of batters with a 26.7% K rate. Hector Neris has the lowest ERA at 1.14. He stranding 93.2% of runner and is allowing just 0.57 HR/9. He walks quite a few more batters than his teammates, but it has yet to really burn him yet. Bryan Abreu strikes out the most batter of this group with a 37.2% K%. He has a 2.75 ERA and 3.24 FIP.
On offense the Astros are mediocre. Per wRC+ they are 15th in the league with a 100 — about as average as you can get. Their best hitter is Yordan Alvarez. In 242 plate appearances he has slashed .277/.388/.589 for a 167 wRC+. He has a .312 ISO with 17 homers on the season. After Alvarez there are a lot of good hitters, but no one truly outstanding this season. Five players have a wRC+ between 100 and 120. As team the Astros don’t really strike out a lot. They are seventh in the league in K% at 21.1%.
And that is sort of all I have about the Astros: an okay offense that doesn’t make too many mistakes with solid pitching and strong bullpen. This seems like the type of team the Cardinals might have trouble against, but we will just have to see!
Tuesday, June 27 at 6:45 pm CT: Frambler Valdez vs Jordan Montgomery
Wednesday, June 28 at 6:45 pm CT: Cristian Javier vs TBD
Thursday, June 29 at 6:15 pm CT: J.P. France vs TBD