Today the St. Louis Cardinals will try to rebound in Houston after a 9-8 loss last night. The team is currently in third place, three games behind the Cincinnati Reds and one game behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. A preview of tonight’s game appears below.
The Starting Pitchers
Adam Wainwright: 4-6, 65 IP, 57 K, 21 BB, 4.98 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
Cardinals Analysis: Thus far the season has largely been about Wainwright trying to find the pre-Tommy John surgery rhythm that made him one of the top pitchers in the National League. While Wainwright’s ERA is ugly, his xFIP (3.32) and high BABIP (.316) suggest that he is due for some better performances. Wainwright also tends to perform well against the Astros, pitching 16 scoreless innings against the team in 2010.
Bud Norris: 5-2, 63.2 IP, 64 K, 25 BB, 4.52 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
Astros Analysis: Norris is an average to below-average pitcher against the rest of the league, but has gained a reputation as a Cardinal-killer over the past few years. Tales of Norris’ dominance against the Cardinals is now running joke amongst knowledgeable Cardinals’ fans. In 2011 Norris had a 2.52 ERA against the Cardinals over 25 IP, and a 3.38 ERA over 26 IP against the Cardinals in 2010. Like Wainwright, Norris’ xFIP (3.93) and high BABIP (.322) suggest that he is due for better results. The only good news for the Cardinals is that many of the hitters this year, i.e. Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams, are not the same players Norris has performed well against in the past.
Via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
1. Rafael Furcal, SS
2. Daniel Descalso, 2B
3. Carlos Beltran, RF
4. Allen Craig, LF
5. David Freese, 3B
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Matt Adams, 1B
8. Adron Chambers, CF
9. Adam Wainwright, P
Cardinals Analysis: The Cardinals woes cannot be blamed on the offense. The team is scoring 5.07 runs per game, which is actually higher than the 4.70 rate of the 2011 world championship team. The Cardinals OBP (.339) ranks third in the Majors behind only the Dodgers and Rangers. The team’s slugging percentage (.447) ranks fourth.
1. Jose Altuve, 2B
2. Jed Lowrie, SS
3. Fernando Martinez, RF
4. J. D. Martinez, LF
5. Chris Johnson, 3B
6. Brett Wallace, 1B
7. Justin Maxwell, CF
8. Jason Castro, C
9. Bud Norris, P
Astros Analysis: The Astros lineup hardly looks imposing on paper, but they have managed to produce a respectable 4.29 runs per game. However, the team’s OBP (.321) ranks 23rd in the league, and their slugging percentage (.386) ranks 26th. The team’s high BABIP (.305) suggests that they are due for some offensive struggles in the future.
Cardinals Analysis: The Cardinals’ bullpen helps explain many of the team’s losses over the last month. The bullpen’s 4.38 ERA ranks fourth worst in the majors. Injuries to Klye McClellan, Fernando Salas (kidney stones), and Scott Linebrink have taken a toll over time.
Astros Analysis: The bullpen is the one strength of what is otherwise a poor Astros team, and may provide for good trade bait in July. Astros relievers have a 3.49 ERA this year, but the real strength is found at the back end where Wilton Lopez (2.35 ERA) and Bret Myers (2.25 ERA with 14 SV) have thrived in late-inning situations.
The Cardinals have typically deemphasized defense in favor of hitting and pitching, and it shows. Currently the team has -12.7 ultimate zone rating (UZR). The UZR attempts to measure defensive performance by plotting where balls are play. The rating system reward players who makes plays on balls that a “normal” defensive player would not make and penalizes players who do not make defensive plays a “normal” player would. The negative rating reflects plays that Cardinals’ player did not make on a number of balls put in play.
The Astros, on the other hand, benefit for +5.4 UZR rating thanks in large part to the speed of their outfielders, who track down balls that many other players would fail to get to.