A hopeful preview
The St. Louis Cardinals sit 0.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central. These two teams face each other in a three game series starting July 23 and ending July 25. Since they have already played each other ten times this season, the Cardinals going 4-6 in those games, let’s make this short and sweet.
Reasons the Cardinals could win the series
Missing Wade Miley’s turn
Wade Miley has been the Reds best pitcher this season according to Baseball Reference. Fangraphs agrees, those the two sites place him at different values — 5.0 rWAR and 2.6 fWAR. Instead the Cardinals will face Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray.
Harrison Bader is back, baby
Bader has only played in 38 games so far in 2021, but in the time he has been a huge boost to the team. He was injured May 24 with a broken rib and returned July 1. By my quick count that makes the Cardinals 14-20 with him out of the lineup during that time. With a current record 49-48 that makes the Cardinals 35-28 the rest of the time. It is not just about Bader adding centerfield defense or his bat coming around, either. With Bader and Tyler O’Neill both in the lineup, Dylan Carlson can move over to right field and Tommy Edman, Edmundo Sosa, and Paul DeJong can split time at shortstop and second or even spell Nolan Arenado at third. It is a ripple effect.
Mostly though, it is nice to see plays like this on the regular again:
Paul Goldschmidt was never really gone
It was easy to miss, but all of a sudden Goldy is back to being one of the best hitters on the team. Part of this is an indictment on the rest of the team not exactly lighting it up, but you might remember that Paul Goldschmidt got off to a rough start. His wRC+ at the end of April was 65, but all his peripheral stats still looked good. He stayed the course, and after hitting 115 during May it climbed to 91, through June he was hitting 130, pulling his wRC+ up to 103, and now 22 days into July Goldschmidt is hitting 187 in July for a season wRC+ of 118. That is second on the team behind Tyler O’Neill.
Nick Castellanos will miss the series
Unfortunately for the Reds and Castellanos he has suffered a microfracture in his right wrist and could miss several weeks. He has been the Reds best hitter this season slashing .329/.383/.582 for a 153 wRC+. Looks like we won’t see a sequel to this:
Reasons the Cardinals could not win the series
The Pitching Matchups
The Reds definitely have the better pitching matchups, at least on paper. The Cardinals starters will be Wade LeBlanc, Jake Woodford, and Johan Oviedo. They have pitched well, but their performance on any given day is a little bit of a wild card. Meanwhile the Reds pitchers lined up for this series have been solid.
The Reds Offense is better
The Reds offense is just hitting better. As a team their wRC+ is 98. The Cardinals is 88. They have eight players with over 100 plate appearance with a wRC+ over 100. The Cardinals only have five, and of those five the highest is Tyler O’Neill with 130. That would be third highest on the Reds.
Great American Small Park
The Reds home park is small and that leads to some interesting and unpredictable games.
Friday, July 23, 6:10 pm: Wade LeBlanc vs. Tyler Mahle
Saturday, July 24, 6:10 pm: Jake Woodford vs. Luis Castillo
Sunday, July 25, 12:10 pm: Johan Oviedo vs. Sonny Gray