May
26

5/26-5/28 Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

By
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

(Joe Robbins/Getty)

After a one series reprieve, the Yankees are right back in an NL park for another interleague series. Thankfully this is their final visit to the so-called Senior Circuit this year, at least until the World Series, of course. The Yankees are visiting the new Busch Stadium for the first time this week for three games against the defending NL champion Cardinals. It is their first trip to St. Louis in general since 2005.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Cards are coming off two straight wins over the Reds and they’ve won nine of their last eleven games overall. They were scuffling a bit earlier in the season, but they’ve definitely turned it around of late. St. Louis is 28-22 with a +24 run differential overall, which is the second best record in the NL Central and fourth best record in the NL overall.

Offense
At 3.84 runs per game with a team 96 wRC+, the Cardinals are a bit below average offensively. Unsurprisingly, their historic success with runners in scoring position last year (.330/.402/.463 (!!!)) has not carried over to this year (.242/.324/.334). That’s just not something a team will do year after year. OF Peter Bourjos (87 wRC+) has been sidelined by a stomach bug the last few days, but otherwise the Cardinals are perfectly healthy on the position player side.

Craig. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Craig. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Manager Mike Matheny’s lineup is anchored by C Yadier Molina (133 wRC+), who also happens to be the best defensive catcher in all the land. Life will not be easy for the Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner led running game this week. SS Jhonny Peralta (123 wRC+) and 1B Matt Adams (124 wRC+) are having very strong years while 3B Matt Carpenter (110 wRC+) and OF Matt Holliday (111 wRC+) have been good but not great. Certainly not as good as they were last season. OF Jon Jay (101 wRC+) has been solid.

The lack of production from RF Allen Craig (89 wRC+) has really hurt the Cardinals these first few weeks. He was expected to be one of their top middle of the order guys. 2B Kolten Wong (83 wRC+) and 2B Mark Ellis (32 wRC+) have more or less shared time at second, though Wong is getting more of the at-bats of late. OF Shane Robinson (24 wRC+), IF Daniel Descalso (10 wRC+), and C Tony Cruz (115 wRC+) round out the bench, which is surprisingly weak for an NL team. It was especially noticeable in the World Series last fall.

Pitching Matchups (Pitcher GIFs is still down for whatever reason)

Monday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. STL) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (vs. NYY)
Wacha, 22, shot from college to (near) the front of the Cardinals rotation in less than two full years, which is damn impressive. He has a 2.54 ERA (2.77 FIP) in ten starts and 60.1 innings this season thanks to excellent strikeout (9.58 K/9 and 26.4 K%), walk (2.54 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), and homer (0.60 HR/9 and 7.5% HR/FB) rates. His ground ball rate (43.0%) isn’t great and he has a tiny platoon split. Wacha’s performance this year is almost exactly the same as last year, and it’s kinda freaky. After relying on his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and knockout mid-to-high-80s changeup almost exclusively last season, Wacha is using his upper-80s cutter and mid-70s curveball much more often this year. It’s very hard to believe he won’t turn 23 until later this summer.

Lynn. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Lynn. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Tuesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. STL) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (vs. NYY)
At 27 years and 14 days, Lynn will be the oldest starting pitcher the Yankees see in this series by more than three full years. He comes into the series with a 3.60 ERA (3.10 FIP) in ten starts and 60 innings, and his peripherals — 8.85 K/9 (22.6 K%), 3.00 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 0.60 HR/9 (7.0% HR/FB), and 44.5% grounders — are career bests as a starter across the board. Lefties (.348 wOBA) are hitting him much harder than righties (.273 wOBA). Lynn is something of a 4.5-pitch pitcher. He uses his low-90s two and four-seam fastballs to set up his mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball, plus he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups per start. For whatever reason, Lynn has really scaled back his changeup usage the last two seasons. He’ll look like a legitimate ace on his best days.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out this will be a homecoming for Phelps, who was born and raised in the St. Louis suburbs. He told George King he was a die-hard Cardinals fan growing up. I’m sure he’s excited for this game.

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. STL) vs. RHP Shelby Miller (vs. NYY)
The Cardinals reportedly shopped the 23-year-old Miller heavily over the winter, which made me think his arm was about to explode. Especially after they avoided using him in the postseason (faced only four batters despite being on the roster all three rounds). You don’t try to trade former first round pick after he pitched to a 3.06 ERA (3.67 FIP) as a rookie. Sure enough, Miller has taken a big step back this year, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at his 3.18 ERA. His strikeout rate (7.15 K/9 and 18.7 K%) has dropped quite a bit, his walk rate (4.76 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%) has nearly doubled, and he’s been far more homer prone (1.43 HR/9 and 15.0% HR/FB) despite a relatively static ground ball rate (41.8%). Lefties (.381 wOBA) have pounded him as well (.310 wOBA for righties). His 5.22 FIP is no accident. Miller sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and will mix in the occasional upper-80s cutter. A sharp upper-70s curveball is his top secondary pitch, though he also has a mid-80s changeup. Based on how he’s pitching this year compared to last year, I have to think something is very wrong with Miller. Either he’s hurt or his mechanics are a total mess. He went from budding ace to replacement level in an offseason.

Rosenthal. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Rosenthal. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Cardinals recently welcomed RHP Jason Motte (8.19 FIP in limited time) back from Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him all of last year. He is currently being eased back into things while RHP Trevor Rosenthal (2.96 FIP) continues to handle closing duties. He’s had some walk (13.3 BB%) problems this year. RHP Carlos Martinez (3.88) handles setup work.

LHP Kevin Siegrist just landed on the disabled list with a forearm problem, leaving former Yankee LHP Randy Choate (2.90 FIP) as Matheny’s top southpaw. RHP Seth Maness (3.70 FIP), RHP Pat Neshek (1.99 FIP), and LHP Sam Freeman (2.05 FIP in one whole inning) fill out the rest of the bullpen. The Cardinals don’t really have a true long man, though I’m not sure that’s a flaw. It’s just different. Only Choate and Neshek pitched last night, and they threw a combined 17 pitches. Their ‘pen is fresh.

Our Bullpen Workload page has everything you need to know about the Yankees’ bullpen heading into the series. For the latest and greatest on the Cardinals, check out Viva El Birdos.

Categories : Series Preview
  • Yangeddard Solarte

    It’s going to be tough to take this series. I think they’ll be lucky to take one game. Cardinals are good and they’re everything the Yankees should be with the dollars they have to throw around. Look at all this good young pitching they have. Wish we had the ability to grow that pitching on the farm.

  • Kosmo

    getting past Wacha/Jawaka will be a tall order. Whitley pitching 6 innings of 2 run ball would be great and go along way to keeping the BP somewhat fresh. Lynn and Miller I´m not to concerned about.
    Kuroda is due for a great game.

  • Luisergi

    So, Randy Choate is still pitching… in 2014. Holy shit, I had no idea.

  • Frankie Beans

    Yankees can’t even grow fruit on their farm.

  • Farewell Mo

    They’re lucky they missed Wainwright by a day.

    2 of 3 would be awesome, I’m expecting 1 of 3 and I’m hoping it’s not 0 of 3.

    • TheRealGreg

      I’m expecting and hoping 1 of 3 as well. Cardinals are on a bit of a hot streak right now. The pitching matchups are not in our favor at all. Still, after splitting 6 in Chicago, I feel okay.

      • Farewell Mo

        I expected a game better than splitting with the Cubs and White sox

        • mustang

          THIS!!!

        • TheRealGreg

          Well they were a David Robertson blown save away from getting that game.

          • Farewell Mo

            True but they also had a 3 run 9th inning rally or else it would have been a 2-4 trip so it goes both ways

            • mustang

              THIS!!!

              The blown saves just cancel each other.

    • Mike HC

      Exactly. Expectations are low for this series. But anything can happen over 3 games.

    • nycsportzfan

      2-0 in Whitley started games. Cards lost 5 of Wacha’s last 7 starts. I think we can easily take 2of3 from these guys.

  • mustang

    Don’t know why, but I got a “season turning win” vibe from Saturday’s win. On paper this looks like a sweep or 1 out 3 at best so it’s a bit of test to see if Saturday really meant anything. They have 5 games left this month 4 and 1 gets them to 6 over .500 which would be nice.
    People can complain about the Yankees lack of developing starting arms, but Whitley, Phelps and Nuno have done a nice job being what they are.

    • TheRealGreg

      As you know, I have been a critic of that. But you are correct. They have shown well. But do they have longevity and consistency? That is the question.

      • mustang

        Isn’t that always the question?

        I think the key to series is the Phelps game. Whitley due for a bad game and even if he doesn’t have one the way Girardi uses him the pen will be used. Who knows with Kuroda, but a least they have the luxury of having an off day Thursday. So Phelps needs to be the bridge to give the pen a rest between Whitley and Kuroda. It would also be nice if the offend show up.

  • http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038823/ Paisa

    I really hope that Girardi spares us of the agony of having to watch Alphonse swing it against Wacha and Lynn and gets either Zoilo or KJ some starts in right the first couple games of this series.

    • vicki

      (some reason, soriano’s been great v. lynn over a 22 at-bat sample.)

  • TheRealGreg

    Here is the lineup

    Gardner
    Jeter
    McCann
    Solarte
    Ichiro
    Johnson (Tex was a late scratch)
    Roberts
    Whitley

    • TheRealGreg

      Gardner
      Jeter
      Ellsbury
      McCann
      Solarte
      Ichiro
      Roberts
      Johnson
      Whitley

  • mustang

    Anyone know why Tex was a late scratch.

  • mustang

    Saw this on LoHud so true:

    “Giuseppe Franco May 26th, 2014 at 1:24 pm
    It wasn’t really that long ago when people didn’t even want Teixiera back from the DL.

    Now they’re holding their collective breaths that it’s nothing serious.”

  • mustang

    So much for the information super highway Tex is a late scratch and no one can tell us why.

    • TheRealGreg

      Because nobody knows. It was undisclosed

      • mustang

        How many people cover the Yankees?

        Its called sport reporting!

        • Mike HC

          Goddammit. Break into Girardi’s office and torture him Jack Bauer style with two lamp wires until he gives up the info!!!

          • mustang

            Exactly !!!!!!

      • trr

        Stiffness in the wrist

  • TheRealGreg

    Just broke: Sore wrist. Uh oh

    • TheRealGreg

      Specifically it is stiffness in the wrist. Girardi says that he’s been feeling it for the last few days. Doesn’t think it’s serious. Is Day to day

    • mustang

      Nice job!

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    They’re obviously going to swept in two games here by the greatest franchise in the history of sports.

    • mustang

      Breaking news the Memphis Redbirds will be playing the Yankees since the Cardinals players wanted the holiday off and their organization is that deep . So that sweep MIGHT actually take 3 games now.

  • TheRealGreg

    Buchholz: 3+IP 4H 4ER 8BB 4Ks

    • mustang

      Good way to start the baseball day.

      Hopefully after today only 6 more loses to catch the 1926 Red Sox at 17 in row.

      • TheRealGreg

        Scratch that. Make it 6 ER. Now has an ERA of 7.02

      • mustang

        Ok it could get better they can for the all time Boston record:

        1906 Boston Beaneaters lost 19 in row and the 1906 Boston Americans lost 20 in a row. Apparently 1906 was bad year for baseball in Boston.

    • vicki

      8 walks in 3ip. eight!

    • mustang

      6 to 1 in the 5th
      11 in row and 10 games under .500 is looking very good.

      • mustang

        open mouth insert foot

        • mustang

          6 to6

  • TheRealGreg

    Red Sox come back with a vengeance.

    With 2 outs in the 4th….

    Walk, double, walk, 2 run single (Pedroia), 3 run homer (Ortiz)

    6-6. Turner Field went nuts, pro Boston.

    • TheRealGreg

      5th inning

    • mustang

      “Turner Field went nuts, pro Boston.”

      Thus why baseball in Atlanta is a lost cause no matter how many new stadium they built.

      • TheRealGreg

        Listen to a replay. It sounds like they are in Fenway.

        Think when the Yanks went to Baltimore when the O’s still sucked.