The NL Central remains bunched up behind Milwaukee as the Cubs and Cardinals are tied for third with identical 46-47 records. The Reds are only two games up and they’ll host the Cards for three before heading to Wrigley for four, but only after facing the Mets. For now, though, we’re only concerned with the teams playing in St. Louis over the next four days.
Neither the Cubs nor the Cardinals have played very good baseball this season, a fact evidenced by both posting negative run differentials thus far. The Cubs (-20) are significantly better than the Cardinals (-42) in that regard because the Redbirds’ offense is hot trash. Only the Mets (342) and Pirates (338) have scored fewer runs than the Cards (365) to this point in the season and I think that’s enough of a sample to be valid.
Two of the biggest contributing factors to their offensive ineptitude are an 8% walk rate and .150 ISO that both rank firmly in the lower third of MLB. So even though the Cardinals are one of the five best teams in baseball when it comes to limiting strikeouts, their aggregate 87 wRC+ is one of the four worst.
Perhaps not coincidentally, their best hitter is also the one who strikes out the most. Tyler O’Neill has a 137 wRC+ with 16 homers in just 265 plate appearances, putting him on pace to be much better than the All-Star third baseman acquired from Colorado this past winter. In case you’ve been living under a rock, that would be Nolan Arenado. Paul Goldschmidt has been solid as well, though his 119 wRC+ would be one of the three lowest marks of his career if it holds.
Yadier Molina is once again producing runs at a below-average rate, which has been the case for the last three seasons and five of the last seven. His 89 wRC+ this season has actually dragged his career mark to 99, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Of course, the Cubs still need to pitch well over the course of this series to keep their opponents down and give the bats time to work. That’s easier said than done, particularly when the bullpen can’t be counted on to pitch clean innings. Remember when Dan Winkler had a 0.46 ERA (4.88 xFIP) through 22 appearances? Well, it’s jumped to 6.75 (5.89 xFIP) over his last 14 outings and 9.00 (6.48 xFIP) over his last 10.
The walks have really killed the Cubs this season, particularly since they began their ongoing run of mediocrity in June. Their staff has an aggregate 4.35 BB/9 mark that is better than just one team in that same span: the Cardinals (4.43). If those numbers bear out, we should see about nine walks per game in this series. Fun times.
It’s entirely possible we’ll get a classic tilt featuring all kinds of great performances spurred by a great rivalry, so I guess let’s just hope for that. The Cards have said they won’t be selling at the deadline, though losing this series could bury them in the standings. The Cubs figure to moving a few more players no matter how this one shakes out, making the series more about pride than anything else.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Monday, July 5 at 7:15pm CT on Marquee and ESPN
- Tuesday, July 6 at 7:15pm CT on Marquee
- Wednesday, July 7 at 7:15pm CT on Marquee and ESPN (out of market only)
- Thursday, July 8 at 6:15pm CT on ESPN and Marquee and MLBN (out of market only)
|Kwang Hyun Kim||32||L||2.87||5-5||3.78||2.22|
What to Watch For
- Matt Duffy has gone 4-for-13 with a double in his rehab assignment and should be activated soon.
- This is yet another turn through the rotation without Jake Arrieta, who went on the IL just before the break with a hamstring issue that was totally not at all a phantom injury meant to cover for his poor performance.
- Kris Bryant had gone 0-for-9 against the D-backs before roping two doubles Sunday afternoon and looks primed to break out.
- Hendricks has won 10 straight decisions, Alzolay has lost five straight. It would be nice to keep one streak alive while ending the other.
- The featured image is the logo from a shirt we sell in our CI shop, so check it out and maybe buy one for yourself and every single person you know.