The storied rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs is one that dates back a long time. The two teams have played more than a full MLB season against each other in franchise history, eclipsing 2,430 games last season. Another chapter of the rivalry will be written tonight on Sunday Night Baseball when the Cardinals and Cubs battle it out at Wrigley Field.
This is the second straight night game in the series, as the Cubs take the field in the -140 range at BetUS Sportsbook with a total of 9.5 for the matchup between Carlos Martinez and Kyle Davies. The Cubs are in search of a series sweep in this one and are favored to get it.
St. Louis Cardinals
The loss for St. Louis on Saturday dropped the team down to 32-32, as expected regression hit for John Gant and the Cardinals bats were silenced by Kyle Hendricks. The Cardinals have actually lost 10 of their last 12, so they are mired in some kind of funk. The injury to Jack Flaherty really hurt the starting rotation and we’re starting to see that the Cardinals have another below average offense this season and it has negatively impacted them in the standings.
The Cardinals enter today’s game 20th in wOBA for the season and have a wRC+ of 93. wRC+ is park-adjusted, so it does consider how difficult it is to hit at Busch Stadium. The St. Louis offense has gotten good contributions from Nolan Arenado, Tyler O’Neill, Yadier Molina, and Dylan Carlson, but a lot of other regulars have struggled. Paul Goldschmidt is only a few ticks above league average. Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader have done virtually nothing in their plate appearances. Tommy Edman is having a poor offensive season.
A lot of the part-time players have struggled and teams like the Cardinals have long used platoons and other ways of creating surplus offense. Perhaps we’ll see this group level off at some point, but for now, this is a subpar offense in a lot of ways.
That is a problem because guys like Carlos Martinez have greatly struggled on the rotation side. C-Mart has a 6.21 ERA with a 4.24 FIP on the season. His 4.24 FIP is solely because he has not allowed many home runs, but he’s been hit hard in other ways and has allowed a lot of hard contact. Martinez’s K% is down to 15% and there is rampant speculation that he might be hurt or otherwise compromised.
He also has a 54.3% LOB%, so Martinez has not been able to successfully pitch his way out of jams. He continues to induce a lot of ground balls, but has a 44.6% Hard Hit% for the season and the highest Barrel% of his career. He has only allowed four home runs in 58 innings, but two-out hits have been a major problem for him this season.
Is Kyle Davies starting to figure it out a little bit? The Cubs right-hander threw six shutout innings against his former team last time out in San Diego. That was after a rough start against the Giants on June 3, but his two previous outings were pretty solid. Davies has a 4.45 ERA with a 4.52 FIP in his 60.2 innings of work. Like Martinez, he’s limited home runs, with only four against him in 13 starts.
Unlike Martinez, though, Davies has a 72.8% LOB%. Both pitchers have low strikeout rates and allow a lot of balls in play. Both pitchers have also allowed a lot more hard contact than in past seasons. Since May 1, however, Davies has a 2.16 ERA with a 3.73 FIP in his 41.2 innings of work. The K/BB numbers are still ugly, but he’s commanded the baseball more effectively and has only allowed one home run.
The Cubs offense has been solid enough this season to grade slightly better than league average with a 101 wRC+. Chicago has hit for more power than recent years and success at home has been a big reason why. While the Cubs are 11th in wOBA overall, they rank seventh at home and have a 114 wRC+ in that split. Chicago’s walk rate is also much higher at home and the ballpark has been rocking now that Wrigley Field is back to full capacity.
Patrick Wisdom has provided a huge lift with eight home runs in just 18 games, but the Cubs have gotten solid seasons from Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and several other players. Javier Baez is even up to a 99 wRC+ with a recent run of improved performance. Right now, you could make a strong case that the Cubs look like the best team in the NL Central.
There are some concerns about the bullpen, including one of the league’s highest LOB% marks to help that group outperform its true talent level, but this is a deeply-flawed division and the Cubs appear to have the fewest flaws.
Cardinals vs. Cubs Free Pick
The Cardinals are not playing well right now. They’ve only had a couple of offensive explosions during this run with 10 losses in 12 games. Zach Davies has actually pitched pretty well of late, whereas Carlos Martinez is going in the wrong direction. The chalky Cubs look like the play again here, as you can follow along with this one on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
Pick: Chicago Cubs