The fourth matchup of the season, third preview
The St. Louis Cardinals will compete in a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates for the fourth time this season. The Cardinals are 6-3 against the Pirates so far scoring 46 runs across those nine games while allowing 36. Overall the Pirates are 41-71 and in the fifth place in the National League Central.
The Pirates team wRC+ is 83 which is tied for 27th in baseball. Their best hitter and most valuable player this season has been Bryan Reynolds. He has been mentioned in each of the previous two previews we have written of the Pirates and he is getting mentioned again because he has been that good. Reynolds is one of the top ten hitters in baseball according to wRC+ and comes in 11th in fWAR among all qualified position players. After displaying a lot of promise during his Rookie season in 2019 he had a bit of setback in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but seems to be breaking out in a big way in 2021. He is slashing .308/.391/.531 for a 147 wRC+, has hit 19 home runs, walks over 10% of the time, all while playing a competent centerfield.
The Pirates traded reliever Clay Holmes to the Yankees in return for infielders Hoy Park and Diego Castillo. Park has hit well in the seven games he has appeared in for the Pirates so far. He has no home runs so far, but has hit four doubles in 27 plate appearances, good for a .160 ISO in his limited playing time. Castillo has not yet made his big league debut. You can read what Fangraphs prospect expert Eric Longenhagen has to say about them here.
Ben Gamel has been another reliable hitter for the Pirates, but is currently on the 10-day Injured List. Adam Fraizer was one of the Pirates top hitters, but was traded to the Padres.
Overall the Pirates defense is not rated very highly — they come in at 25th in Major League Baseball in UZR and the defensive component of fWAR, Def, this season. There are some standout players, though. Catcher Jacob Stallings has been one of the best defensive players in the league this season and the second-best defensive catcher in the National League after Omar Narvaez. He has racked up 18 Defensive Runs Saved, the most of any qualified player in MLB. He has a 21.7% caught-stealing rate, allowing 36 stolen bases against him and throwing out 10 would-be base-stealers. A lot of his defensive value comes from pitch framing. He is the third-best catcher in the league in Fangraphs Framing Runs, which might be something to keep an eye on during the game.
The Pirates have also had a good defensive shortstop in Kevin Newman. Newman is tenth in baseball in Def and has 8 DRS, making him one of the top defensive shortstops in the National League.
The Pirates pitching staff is also at the bottom of the league, coming in 27th in team FIP with 4.66 and 28th in ERA at 5.11. The Cardinals will miss the Pirates best pitcher this season in Tyler Anderson and are scheduled to face Steven Brault, Wil Crowe, and JT Brubaker in this series.
JT Brubaker has had the best season of the three. He has pitched over 107 innings with a 4.95 ERA and 4.98 FIP. Brubaker throws five pitches: a slider, sinker, and 4-seamer, and then occasionally a curveball or changeup. He throws his slider the most at 34.4% of the time, but it has been a very inconsistent pitch for him. His slider has a 41% Wiff rate, but he has also allowed 10 home runs off the pitch.
Wil Crowe has struggled this season. He has a 5.40 ERA and 6.01 FIP in 75 innings. His walk rate is over 10% and he is allowing 2.16 home runs per nine innings. He has one pitch with a negative run value and that is his changeup. He 4-seamer has been one of the least valuable in baseball this season with a 13 run value. The batting average against his 4-seamer is .308 and the slugging percentage is .604. Looking at his location map it is not hard to see why there has been trouble.
Brault has only pitched 4 innings this season. He also throws five pitches: 4-seamer, slider, changeup, sinker, and sometimes a curveball. In the past he has also thrown a cutter with some success, but it looks like he ditched it for some reason, despite it being one of his more successful pitches.
Tuesday, August 10 at 6:05 pm CT: J.A. Happ vs. Steven Brault
Wednesday, August 11 at 6:05 pm CT: Adam Wainwright vs. Wil Crowe
Thursday, August 12 at 11:35 am CT: TBD vs. JT Brubaker