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Series Preview: Mariners (37-51) vs. Cardinals (41-41)

The Mariners head into the All-Star break with a six-game homestand beginning with a three-game set against the Cardinals.

Cleveland Indians v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Mariners launch into a change of pace on a couple of fronts today, as they welcome the Cardinals to town for a series that will wrap up on Independence Day. As Seattle continues their turn through the NL Central, the Cardinals bring their skill at having an incredibly normal one to town: they’re 41-41 with a -1 Run Differential. Basically it’s almost like they haven’t played any baseball at all, yet. We’ll see what sort of fireworks the next three days provide, but hopefully the Mariners do a better job of providing entertainment with said fireworks than my neighbors do: inappropriately timed and frankly unpleasant to be around.

At a Glance

Cardinals Mariners
Cardinals Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, July 2 | 7:10 pm
RHP Jack Flaherty LHP Wade LeBlanc
52% 48%
Game 2 Wednesday, July 3 | 7:10 pm
RHP Adam Wainwright RHP Mike Leake
50% 50%
Game 3 Thursday, July 4 | 1:10 pm
RHP Michael Wacha LHP Tommy Milone
50% 50%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Cardinals Mariners Edge
Overview Cardinals Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 94 (12th in NL) 109 (4th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 40 (4th) -71 (15th) Cardinals
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 110 (13th) 116 (13th) Cardinals
Bullpen (FIP-) 96 (4th) 109 (13th) Cardinals

As noted above, the Cardinals have been incredibly average this year. They opened the year well, posting a 19-10 April, but have stumbled badly of late, losing 5 of their last 6 to reach equilibrium. They’ve been facing off against a slate of West Coast teams both back in St. Louis and on the road of late, and arrive in Seattle fresh from dropping a series in San Diego to the Padres. They will look to right their playoff scow, which is taking on a lot of water. It’s been a trying year for a team that pushed a lot of chips into the center of the table, sending prospects out to acquire Paul Goldschmidt and signing Andrew Miller. The NL Central is a crowded race, but with the potent Brewers and Cubs ahead of them, it’s getting late early for St. Louis.

Cardinals Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Matt Carpenter 3B L 326 0.263 90 -0.4
José Martínez RF R 240 0.335 98 -1.2
Paul DeJong SS R 351 0.291 111 6.6
Paul Goldschmidt 1B R 352 0.302 98 0.5
Tyler O'Neill LF R 48 0.476 62 -0.1
Dexter Fowler CF S 256 0.300 101 2.5
Yadier Molina C R 267 0.286 75 -3.3
Kolten Wong 2B L 303 0.260 84 5.7

Though the Cardinals have thus far generated most of their overall value with hitters (their hitters make up 5 of their top 6 players on the year by bWAR), that’s more a function of defense than offense, as the lineup is ranked 21st in both runs scored (366) and wRC+ (88). Among regulars, only Marcell Ozuna, Paul DeJong, and Dexter Fowler are posting above average numbers at the plate, and even those three lack the punch of a Vogelbach or even a Narváez or Santana (Ozuna leads the team’s hitters with a 118 wRC+, and just hit the IL with multiple jammed fingers and maybe a broken one--reports I found were unclear.) Flagship acquisition Paul Goldschmidt has posted just a 98 wRC+--the power numbers are decent but the batting average and OBP have plummeted--and while youngsters Kolten Wong and Harrison Bader have made contributions in other arenas, both have hit like a slightly weaker version of Dee Gordon. It’s not a pretty picture.

Obligatory ex-Mariner note: Tyler O’Neill has a wRC+ of 62 in just 48 PA in the majors, and of 96 in AAA. He was just recalled for their weekend series to replace Ozuna against San Diego and went 0-8 with 6 strikeouts.

Probable Pitchers

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

RHP Jack Flaherty

85 1/3 26.3% 7.6% 20.7% 36.4% 4.75 4.76
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 48.6% 94.4 2209 132 128 105
Sinker 9.8% 92.2 1961 107 142 127
Changeup 4.0% 87.2 1693
Curveball 11.8% 78.6 2348 102 97 86
Slider 25.8% 84.9 2482 95 136 105
Stuff+ Explainer; Flaherty’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

Jack Flaherty’s rookie season was a resounding success. He struck out nearly 30% of the batters he faced and posted a park and league adjusted ERA 15% better than league average. Despite the solid beginning to his career, his follow-up campaign has been rough. In an effort to bring down his walk rate that was hovering around 10% last season, he’s throwing more fastballs at the expense of his elite slider. His walk rate is down a couple of points but so is his strikeout rate. But all those additional fastballs have ballooned his home run rate all the way up over 20%. He doesn’t really have a consistent third option in his repertoire to keep batters off his fastball-slider combo.

RHP Adam Wainwright

82 2/3 21.5% 9.3% 16.9% 50.9% 4.35 4.48
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 14.7% 89.9 2172 75 93 72
Sinker 24.8% 90.5 2146 57 91 111
Cutter 20.5% 85.3 2323 56 116 92
Changeup 2.8% 84.7 1760
Curveball 37.1% 75.3 2734 109 81 96
Wainwright’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

Last year was supposed to be Adam Wainwright’s last season with the Cardinals. Injures had taken their toll on him the last few seasons and his big contract was expiring. But then he came back from an elbow injury in September and threw four strong starts. The Cardinals re-signed him to a one-year deal and he made the starting rotation out of spring training with a bit of rejuvenated velocity. He’s throwing his signature curveball more than ever, giving him a solid pitch to lean on even though the rest of his repertoire has deteriorated.

RHP Michael Wacha

73 19.0% 11.4% 22.9% 46.2% 5.30 5.92
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 48.5% 93.0 2025 107 62 107
Cutter 18.2% 89.4 2095 97 90 113
Changeup 20.6% 85.5 1615 78 132 85
Curveball 12.0% 75.4 2007 66 97 106

Almost everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for Michael Wacha this season. His strikeout rate has dipped below 20%, his walk rate has continued to climb, and he’s giving up a home run on almost a quarter of the fly balls he’s allowing. Unsurprisingly, he’s posting career-worsts in ERA and FIP and has accumlated -0.3 fWAR. His velocity is down to a career low which likely explains some of his troubles. His fastball’s whiff rate has fallen well below league average but he’s throwing it more often than he was last year. His secondary offerings are still pretty effective so it’d be interesting to see what would happen if he started relying on them a little more often.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 53-32 0.624 -- L-L-W-W-W
Rangers 46-38 0.548 6.5 W-W-W-L-L
Athletics 46-39 0.541 7.0 W-L-W-W-W
Angels 42-43 0.494 11.0 W-W-L-L-L
Mariners 37-51 0.420 17.5 W-L-L-L-L

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 24-60 0.286 -- L-W-W-L-L
Royals 29-56 0.341 4.5 L-L-L-W-L
Tigers 27-52 0.342 5.5 L-L-L-W-L
Blue Jays 32-53 0.376 7.5 L-W-W-L-W
Marlins 32-50 0.390 9.0 L-L-W-W-L
Mariners 37-51 0.420 11.0 W-L-L-L-L
Giants 37-47 0.440 13.0 L-W-L-W-W
Mets 38-47 0.447 13.5 L-L-L-L-W
Reds 38-44 0.463 15.0 L-W-L-W-L
White Sox 39-42 0.481 16.5 L-W-W-L-W

At Kate’s behest, I’ve started including 10 teams in the 2020 Draft Position table. Not only does that show where the Mariners are in relation to the worst teams in baseball, it helps us see who else is competing for these top draft picks (lol Mets).