St. Louis Cardinals
The Paul Goldschmidt trade looked really good to begin with, giving up a package including Carson Kelly and Luke Weaver, but now the Cardinals have really maximized their value with an extension for the slugging first baseman. Was Goldy the missing piece for this team? Hell, was firing Mike Matheny the missing piece? After all, the Cardinals went 41-28 after Mike Shildt took over.
The results for the Cardinals were a lot like the Cardinals themselves. Nothing individually stands out, but the team is loaded with good players. St. Louis was 43-38 at home and 45-36 on the road. The Cardinals were 22-22 in one-run games, 61-52 against right-handed starters, 27-22 against left-handed starters, 50-43 against .500 or better teams and 38-31 against teams with losing records. Again, nothing stands out as a playable angle or something we can exploit.
Although, it is interesting that the Cardinals were just 38-31 against teams with losing records. They were the only team with a winning record to have fewer than 40 wins against bottom feeders. Even the Tigers and Royals had at least 40 wins against sub-.500 competition. Is it fair to say that the Cardinals play down to the level of inferior competition? Maybe that merits watching this season.
The Cardinals are a very deep team offensively, so even if one or two guys sit out, lines aren’t going to see big adjustments. Goldschmidt probably creates the biggest one, but when he doesn’t play, Jose Martinez does, so that isn’t as big of a drop off as it would be for most teams with their first basemen on the bench.
Keep that in mind as you bet Cardinals games this season.
Money Line Spots
Perhaps we did find one with the record against teams with losing records. Then again, the Cardinals were 27-44 against teams .500 or better in 2017 and 56-35 against teams with losing records. So, it could just be noise. It probably is noise.
One spot I have taken advantage of is to fade the Cardinals after they play the Cubs. The Cardinals were 1-3 in the next game after playing the Cubs this past season. They finished the season with the Cubs, so we missed out on a chance there. St. Louis was 2-4 in this spot in 2017. They were 1-5 in this spot in 2016. That means that over the last three seasons, the Cardinals are 4-12 in games immediately following a game against the Cubs. There aren’t many situational spots in baseball, but this is one of them. It’s a small sample size, but I still think there’s something to it.
Slow-starting teams may have issues with St. Louis this year. The Cardinals outscored the opposition 261-173 in the first three innings last season. They scored in 51 first innings compared to 40 for the opposition. If the Cardinals are up against pitchers that struggle to settle in the first time through the order, taking a piece of St. Louis pregame with the chance at an early lead or an arbitrage makes some sense.
The Cardinals were 78-77-7 to the under last season, so they were virtually split down the middle. Busch Stadium slants slightly to the pitcher’s side of the equation. St. Louis scored 57 more runs on the road, but allowed almost the exact same number of runs both home and road.
In looking at the Cardinals for this season, the offense does look a little more daunting with Goldschmidt and with Matt Carpenter’s resurgence. Furthermore, the pitching staff has some regression candidates. Miles Mikolas hung a 2.83 ERA with a 3.67 xFIP. Michael Wacha had a 3.20 ERA with a 4.12 xFIP. Adam Wainwright is back in the rotation. We’ll see what role Carlos Martinez has, but he had a 3.11 ERA with a 4.42 xFIP.
This could be a team that has some higher-scoring games this season. The bullpen is also littered with question marks with some injuries and the unknown of Andrew Miller.
Individual Players to Watch
Miles Mikolas – You’ll hear me talk a lot about “degrees of regression” this season. Mikolas is one of those types of guys. No, he probably won’t post a 2.83 ERA. He is one guy I would expect to regress to his xFIP because he’s got such a high ground ball rate. Typically ground ball guys, even if they don’t allow a lot of home runs, have a higher HR/FB% because of sample size.
Mikolas is a guy I expect to be in the 3.50 to 3.75 range with his ERA. That’s still really good. The markets like to go overboard with fading guys with ERA/xFIP discrepancies. Many of them will still be pretty good, just not as good. Mikolas is one, but he’s also a contact management wizard with an exceptional walk rate.