Looking back and then ahead to the Mets series

The Cardinals were due for a bad game.  It happens.  Jaime Garcia pitched like he was on the road today, getting in trouble with 2 outs and no one on base.  Other than that, there’s not much to complain about except for the use of Carlos Martinez in a game when you’re down 5-0.  If the Cards have a couple of close ones the next few games where Martinez is needed, Mike Matheny might regret that decision.  I say this because of the Cards talking about limiting the action Martinez sees out of the BP early on until he gets used to it.  I know Matheny wants to get the BP some work because of the lack of opportunities this week from the two off days the Cards had this week as well as the two complete games by Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright.  However, today’s game had Joe Kelly and Fernando Salas only written all over it.  I would have liked to have seen Kelly stretched out a bit to try and get back on track instead of the use of Martinez.  Anyway, before looking ahead, let’s look back a bit.

What more can be said of Miller?  After giving up a leadoff hit to start the game, he put down 27 straight Rockies Friday night.  His 4-seam fastball seems to confuse hitters on both location and late explosiveness.  When it explodes into the spot Yadier Molina wants it, it’s not only a thing of beauty, but it leaves hitters guessing, which is odd considering Miller is a fastball/curveball pitcher mainly.  You know you’re going good when Troy Tulowitzki is baffled twice looking at strike three.  Miller is the real deal, but it will be interesting to see how teams (especially the NL Central teams) make adjustments to him over a long season.

Adam Wainwright tried to one up Miller Saturday, and a one out hit in the 8th inning ended the chance for a no-hitter for Waino.  If the playoffs started today, Wainwright would obviously be your game one starter, followed by Miller IMO.  What I like about what Wainwright, Miller and Lance Lynn are doing is that they’re all throwing the 4-seamer up in the zone.  I never disagreed with Dave Duncan’s philosophy, especially with most of the pitchers he had that lacked pure stuff, but I like that the Cards are letting some of the power arms experiment with the power pitching up in the zone.  The groundball on the 2-seamer is still there as a first course of action, but putting hitters away with 2 strikes with a different look is something I’m enjoying.

Defensive metrics say the Cards aren’t very good as far as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), but they’re getting to the balls they can and making the routine plays as good as anyone in baseball.  They have the second fewest errors (14) in the NL to Arizona (8).  The Cards have a UZR of -5.8, which ranks them 10th in the NL.  To put it in perspective, the Cards had a team UZR of -34.7 in 2011, which was next to last in the NL and they won it all. Could this be something that the coaching staff realized might be the case before the season started which is why Wainwright, Miller and Lynn are going for the K more often?  That might be a stretch, but power pitching in the playoffs is something all teams long for.

I know there’s a lot of talk about the offense, but I’ll continue to say that’s the least of my worries with this team.  Even with the season long struggles of David Freese as well as the early struggles for Jon Jay and Allen Craig’s power outage, the Cards as a team are 4th in the NL with a .263 AVG, 4th in OBP at .326 and tied for 8th in SLG at .390.  The Cards are also keeping the K’s down on offense, only striking out 18.4% of the time, good for the 4th lowest rate.  Jay is making harder and more consistent contact with his new stance and approach, and Freese doesn’t look as completely lost as he did 2 weeks ago.  I feel I must also say again that I hope Matheny doesn’t move Matt Carpenter out of the leadoff spot.  He works the count every AB, and his 4.13 of pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) is something no one else on the team has come close to in the past except for Matt Holliday

Even with the struggles of the BP until the last week or so, the Cards have the best team ERA in all of MLB at 3.03.  Where it gets almost unbelievable is the SP’s ERA of 2.25, which is almost a full run better than the Nationals SP’s who are second at 3.22. 

As the Mets come to town with their 14-20 record, all signs point to the Cards taking at least 3 of 4 in the series.  The Mets have one SP with an ERA under 4.63 in Matt Harvey (1.44), and we don’t have to face him as he pitched today.

Here are the SP matchups:

Game 1:  Jeremy Hefner (0-4, 4.63 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (5-1, 2.72 ERA)

Game 2:  Dillon Gee (2-4, 5.55 ERA) vs. John Gast (MLB debut)

Game 3:  Shaun Marcum (0-3, 8.59 ERA) vs. Shelby Miller (5-2, 1.58 ERA)

Game 4:  Jon Niese (2-4, 5.93 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (5-2, 2.30 ERA)

I hate having to say the Cards need to win 3 of 4 in a series in May, but when you’re playing at home against SP’s with numbers like the Mets have, I feel you almost have to.  Due to the injury to Jake Westbrook, John Gast will make his first MLB start.  Gast is 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA at Memphis in 7 starts in 2013.  He’s a lefty that lives with location.  He has a fastball around 89-91, a plus change-up and a better than average curveball.  Chalk another one up to the great Cards farm system, the gift that keeps on giving.

There’s not much to say about the Mets.  David Wright (.297 AVG, .417 OBP, 5 HR’s), Lucas Duda (.368 OBP, 8 HR’s) and John Buck (10 HR’s, 29 RBI’s) are having decent years, the Cards just can’t let those guys beat them.  The Mets are lucky to be at 14-20 with the numbers they have across the board.  They’re 14th in UZR at -9.9, 13th in AVG at .234, 11th in OBP at .306 and have the 4th highest K rate as an offense at 22.1%.  They have a 4.39 ERA as a team, which is next to last (Brewers, 4.70).  In other words, they’re awful.  The only bright spot on this team aside from Harvey is closer Bobby Parnell and his 1.10 ERA and 0.73 WHIP, but he’s just 3 for 5 in save opportunities. 

The only thing that will keep the Mets out of the cellar in the NL East are the Marlins, and it will be a coin flip to determine which club, either the Marlins or the Astros will have the worst record in all of MLB in 2013, with the Mets and Cubs close behind.  The Mets have also had the luxury of playing 21 games at home (9-12) and only 13 on the road (5-8).

Like I said, winning less than 3 of 4 in this series for the Cards would be a head scratcher.  The Cards have everything going for them right now…a fresh BP, dominant SP and an offense that can put up 6 with ease when they’re in sync.  Then again, these are exactly the types of teams I think some of us worry about playing.

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One Response to Looking back and then ahead to the Mets series

  1. bstanley says:

    I don’t think Gast is going to be anything special. A couple of failed outings and Wacha will be here or Kelly moves to the rotation if Westbrook doesn’t come back.

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