MLB Regular Season
Matchup: Kansas City Royals at St. Louis Cardinals
Date/Time: July 23, 7:10 p.m. ET
Pitching Matchup: Chris Young (8-5, 3.03) vs. John Lackey (8-5, 2.90)
MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook
Moneyline: St. Louis -135
The two best teams in baseball meet on Thursday night in front of the best fans in baseball ™ for this makeup game of a postponed matchup from June 14. Chris Young and John Lackey have a lot of years worth of experience and they will be the starters for this final game of the regular season in the I-70 series. Rain washed out the originally scheduled game between these two as the Cardinals were going for a three-game sweep of their in-state, interleague rivals.
Makeup games like this always create an interesting dynamic. The Cardinals will welcome the Atlanta Braves to Busch Stadium, while the Royals host Houston for the weekend. This short little trip to St. Louis should probably favor the Cardinals, even though the travel distance is nominal for the Royals. The Royals are coming off of three high-leverage games against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cardinals wrapped up a brief series with the White Sox after an off day on Monday.
Chris Young has quite a task on Thursday night. Because of Jason Vargas’s torn UCL, the Royals bullpen worked extensively on Tuesday night to outduel Gerrit Cole. That’s a tired group, even though the All-Star Break just passed. The fact that the Royals are having another magical season is somewhat unbelievable because a strong case can be made that Young has been the staff’s best starter. Young is 8-5 over 14 starts and six relief appearances with a 3.03 ERA.
However, his advanced metrics don’t tell as rosy of a story. Young has a 4.37 FIP and a 4.99 xFIP. Sabermetrics don’t look favorably on pitchers like Young, however. As a very extreme fly ball pitcher, the nature of the beast includes a high home run rate. He also doesn’t miss many bats, especially relative to his walk rate. The silver lining to being that much of a fly ball pitcher is that hits are hard to come by, which is why Young has a .207 BABIP against this season. The loss of Alex Gordon may cause some regression in that number. Gordon, Kansas City’s star left fielder, is out until mid-September with an injury.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better bargain in baseball than John Lackey, given the right context. The 36-year-old signed a five-year, $82.5M deal back in 2010. The option year that was tacked on came at the cost of $500,000. That’s the salary that Lackey is pitching at this season. Young players making the league minimum are better bargains, but Lackey has been excellent with a 2.90 ERA and a 3.50 FIP over his 19 starts. Like Young, however, there are some red flags with Lackey.
Lackey has stranded 80.6 percent of his runners, despite a declining strikeout rate. Lackey’s strikeout rate has gone down from 20.7 percent to 19.7 percent to 17.1 percent over the last three seasons. With the bases empty, Lackey has a .320 BABIP against. With men on base, his BABIP against is .259, even though his strikeout rate drops by 2.4 percent. With runners in scoring position, the strikeout rate climbs back up, but the BABIP drops to .247. Some of this has to do with Lackey’s pitchability and an elite defense behind him. Some of it has to do with random variance and good luck.
MLB Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals
Even though this is a game that the Royals should get up for, they have a big schedule on the horizon and this may be a bit of a throwaway game after a tough series with the Pirates. The Royals play the Astros and Indians over their next six games and those have a little bit more importance than this one.