Well, it’s official. The Cardinals are going to sell. They theoretically have a chance to surprise us in the final two months, but it will be made infinitely harder when the Cardinals sell. The series loss to the Cubs guarantees the Cardinals will sell, if there was any doubt. The Cardinals had a chance to make it difficult to sell, and well they made it incredibly easy this weekend. So... they’ve got that going for them.
But the longer lasting effects of what happened this weekend won’t affect the Cardinals in the short term. Unless they get a head start on the trading deadline, we are likely to see the current iteration of the Cardinals’ for the last time this week. That might be true for all 30 teams, but it’s definitely true for the Cardinals. There’s a decent chance someone will be traded who isn’t an impending free agent who you like a lot, so try to appreciate all the players you enjoy watching this week, because it might be the last week you see them in a Cardinal uniform.
The Diamondbacks are, unfortunately, another one of those teams who I can’t really figure out how they are so much better than the Cardinals, record-wise. They are 11th in wRC+ in baseball. The Cardinals are 6th. They are 23rd in ERA, 22nd in FIP, and 18th in pitching fWAR. The Cardinals are better in FIP and pitching WAR, nearly tied in ERA (at least before yesterday’s game). They do have the Cardinals beat in defense and are quite a bit better, but that closes the gap from the offensive disparity and leaves maybe 1-2 wins that they should be better. They have 10 more wins than the Cardinals.
I know you guys are all annoyed at hearing this, this is just the most bizarre season of Cardinals’ baseball I’ve ever watched.
Anyway, back to the Diamondbacks, they are led offensively by Rookie of the Year favorite Corbin Carroll, who has a 143 wRC+ and 4 fWAR and it looks not even a little flukey. The 22-year-old has already made an All-Star game. Christian Walker, Paul Goldschmidt’s replacement, is also a scary bat with a 124 wRC+ and 20 homers. Ketel Marte has successfully bounced back to what he was, at least with the bat, and has a 137 wRC+. 23-year-old Geraldo Perdomo has managed to kick Nick Ahmed out of a starting job with a 118 wRC+ and 2.6 fWAR.
Now you might be wondering: wait they have a worse offense than the Cardinals? Well, the players I listed above are pretty much the only good hitters. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has a 103 wRC+, which is fine but I’m sure they were hoping for better. Jake McCarthy has been an enormous disappointment, with an 87 wRC+, and Alek Thomas even more so, with a 78 wRC+, but McCarthy is 26 and Thomas is still just 23. Their catchers have also been underwhelming. Gabriel Moreno has an 82 wRC+ and is currently on the IL, and Carson Kelly has barely played due to injuries, but has an 18 wRC+ in his 63 PAs.
They don’t have a particularly good bullpen, but there are standouts. Kyle Nelson has a 31.6 K% and a 3.07 xFIP, though has been homer prone. Andrew Chafin, in a fairly lengthy and long career, has the highest K% of his career at 32.9%, though he is also walking over 10% of batters. Kevin Ginkel has gotten the two most recent saves in the bullpen, although his 2.39 ERA appears to be better than he’s actually pitched (3.13 FIP, 3.64 xFIP).
Monday - 8:40 PM
Adam Wainwright (7.66 ERA/5.88 FIP/5.87 xFIP) vs. Ryne Nelson (4.82 ERA/4.75 FIP/4.98 xFIP)
Now that the season is effectively considered over from a playoff perspective - though I’m sure Wainwright and the players wouldn’t say that - there truly is no real downside to Adam Wainwright pitching. If anything it’s a win/win. Wainwright is good, there’s a good chance he gets 200 wins and we have a more positive memory of him when he retires. If he’s not good, well, there’s an argument to be made that once the playoffs are out, more losses might be a good thing.
He’s facing a good opponent to beat, even if Wainwright hasn’t solved whatever bugaboo has been affecting him. Nelson is very hittable.
Tuesday - 8:40 PM
Steven Matz (4.67 ERA/4.13 FIP/3.90 xFIP) vs. Zac Gallen (3.18 ERA/3.04 FIP/3.55 xFIP)
Well, the takes they will be hot for this game. The best I can say about the Cardinals’ chance against Gallen is he’s been more hittable than usual lately. In his last two starts, he’s allowed six earned runs and three home runs combined. He did last seven innings in his last start, but neither FIP nor xFIP thought either of his last two games were well-pitched games. Nevertheless, he won’t be an easy matchup.
I realize he’s coming off a few good games, but it is hilarious how much better Steven Matz’s season stats are in comparison to what the popular assumption would be. Yes, it includes time in the bullpen. And yes I’m not going to deny that his ERA was ugly when he was taken out of the rotation. But well, his xFIP when he was taken out of the rotation was 4.26. His “expected” FIP, given his history would probably 4.60 or so. That is below average, but not as much as you’d think given the higher offensive run environment this year.
Anyway, he remains a strong contender for a spot in next year’s rotation and if the Cardinals do this deadline and offseason right, I actually think if he was slotted in as the #4 starter, the Cards would be look pretty good next year. (If you’re wondering, and it depends on how the last two months go, one of the top three would be a free agent signing and another of the top three would be via trade. The third would obviously be Miles Mikolas. The #5 starter would be of the one-season variety, the platonic ideal is someone capable of doing what Nathan Eovaldi is doing on a one-year deal. That way all the young pitchers can be good depth.
Wednesday - 2:40 PM
Jack Flaherty (4.39 ERA/4.18 FIP/4.42 xFIP) vs. Merrill Kelly (3.22 ERA/3.86 FIP/3.84 xFIP)
I am very curious if Flaherty gets traded, and I suspect he will, however I am not positive he nets a great return in a trade and it might be in the best interests of the 2024 squad if he’s not traded, if he’s offered a qualified offer - which I think there’s a nonzero chance Flaherty would accept - and the Cardinals get a season of Flaherty without the slow start. In theory anyway. I don’t know what kind of offers are on the table, I just am not sure two months of what has been an average pitcher - sporadically great, but not super reliable - is demanding a high price. We’ll see though!
Kelly seems like a pitcher who always does well against the Cardinals, so even though this is his first start from the injured list, I fully expect him to shut down the Cardinals.
Definitely some interesting matchups in this one, late games due to being on the West Coast and the first series in a good long while where I have officially given up on the playoffs.