Well I put up a series preview and the Brewers take two of three, coincidence? I think not. With that in mind here is another preview of the next series against the Cardinals.
The 55-60 Cardinals come to tow to take on the 62-56 Brewers. The Brewers have a slim 1 1/2 game lead of the Cubs and a 5.5 game lead over the Cardinals. I said before the last series that it was a very important series for the Astros. For the Cardinals, this whole week is vital as they go to Wrigley for a three game set after this one.
The Brewers come in 4th in the league in runs and 10th in the league in runs allowed. How are they doing it? With slugging and the bullpen. As a team the Brewers are 9th in the league in OBP but 2nd in the league in slugging. Meanwhile, the Brewer starters have a 4.60 ERA with the bullpen checking in at 4.04.
The Cardinals are 12th in the league in runs and 12th in the league in runs allowed. They have a respectable team OBP of .336, good for 6th in the league, but have trouble slugging out of a wet paper bag. They are 11th in the league in slugging at .401. The Cardinals are even more bullpen reliant with their starters having an ERA of 5.19 and relievers checking in with a 3.89 ERA.
So how is this team even close to .500? They are way outpreforming their pythagorean record of 49-66. We have mentioned David Gassko's study on teams outpreforming their pythagorean record and two of the biggest components in that is a strong bullpen and a long tenured manager.
So it looks like the game plan here is jump on the Cardinal starters and let our strong pen hold the lead. While this didn't work too well in the last series against the Cards it does appear to be the recipe for success. So lets take a look at the pitching matchups.
Tuesday: Wells v. Capuano
Wednesday: Pinero v. Gallardo
Thursday: Wainwright v. Bush
Again, you know all about the Brewer pitchers so I am going to focus on the Cardinal starters.
Kip Wells was a free agent acquisition who we saw a lot of with the Pirates the last few years. Wells has a 5.27 ERA and hasn't posted an ERA below 5 since 2004. His K/9 is ok at 6.63 but he is walking 4.27 per 9 innings, which is way too many. Home runs haven't been a problem but unearned runs have been. His RA is a hair over 6 but his FIP is much lower at 4.40. This isn't too surprising since the Cards have been terrible on defense this year. Lastly, he has been a pretty extreme groundball pitcher over his career and this year is no exception. Should be an interesting matchup against the flyball hitting Brewers.
Piniero came over in a deadline deal from the Red Sox where he was pitching in relief. I had been very high on Piniero early in his career with the Mariners but a terrible 2005 and 2006 in a great pitchers park caused them to give up on him. Boston picked him up and made him a reliever where he pitched ok before coming to the Cardinals
Piniero has lost his strikeout touch recently as he has barely made it to a 5 K/9 the past few years. His walks aren't horribly high but if you aren't striking anyone out you really need better command than he has shown. Again he is an extreme groundball pitcher who doesn't give up a huge amount of homers so that should be something to watch. He is now moving from a fairly good fielding team to a pretty poor one which is never a good thing for a groundball pitcher.
Wainwright is the ace of their staff after pitching out of the bullpen last year. Pretty much the same story from him. A righty who doesn't strikeout that many and gets a lot of groundballs. He is the best on the staff at keeping the ball in the park which is why his ERA is 4.21.
A few other random notes. The Cardinals are last in the league in stolen bases so our poor job of throwing out runners this year shouldn't matter too much. LaRussa had been batting Chris Duncan behind Pujols in the cleanup spot but has stopped doing that recently. If he bats Edmonds or Rolen there then our pitchers need to be extra careful to Pujols. We didn't do a great job of that last series with Carlos Lee. Pujols is better than Lee so don't let Pujols beat you.
Lastly, I can't not mention the recent callup of Rick Ankiel. He has hit three homers and a double in the 16 ABs he has had with the Cardinals. For a team so power starved he could be a real addition. His power is real, looking at his minor league numbers, but he carries a low OBP. I would try to see if he will chase some breaking balls out of the zone. Hopefully we should have a decent scouting report on him with the Sounds playing the Cardinals AAA team Memphis so often this year.
As Jeff said we should be expecting a 4-2 homestand so 2-1 against the Cardinals is probably the most likely outcome. If I had to hazard a guess I would say the Crew takes games one and two and the Cardinals salvage the third game of the series.