Cubs at Cardinals Pick: St. Louis Cardinals (-125)
We have some afternoon baseball to enjoy on this Wednesday, however we’ll take aim at a nightcap contests as we dive into this Cubs vs. Cardinals MLB Pick from St. Louis!
Cubs vs. Cardinals Betting Odds
St. Louis Cardinals
Over 8 (-110)
Under 8 (-110)
Despite a likely teardown if its core prior to the July 30 MLB Trade Deadline, the Cubs have continued to play and have won three of five coming out of the break as they’ll look to build on that success behind their ace Kyle Hendricks tonight.
Hendricks hasn’t exactly pitched like an ace this season, however. The 2016 NL Cy Young winner enters this one sporting a 3.65 ERA on the season which is somewhat above his career norm of a 3.17 mark, but he’s also posted a 4.76 xERA/FIP, a 4.46 xFIP and 4.53 SIERA, so you wonder if there’s some regression to be had moving forward.
While his hard-hit rate and average exit velocity rank among the top 21% of the league, Statcast also has Hendricks in the 25th percentile in terms of xwOBA and xERA, 12th in xBA, 20th in xSLG and 28th in barrel rate. He also possesses one of the worst fastballs in the league as judged by his 2nd percentile in fastball velocity and 1st percentile in fastball spin. He’s never been a flame-thrower and his success is built on command, but those are some ugly figures.
It’s also worth noting that his ground-ball rate has dropped to 40.1% from a career 46.7% mark and a 47.1% mark last season. Combine that with a 9.2% barrel rate and Hendricks is giving up more home runs than ever before with a 1.62 HR/9 on the season, a number astronomically above his career 0.96 mark.
He’s been real good of late, however, allowing more than three earned runs in just one of his last 12 starts and four or less in all 12 of those outings.
We’ll see if he can keep up the good work or if the shalky peripherals come back to bite him in this one.
What’s With the Offense?
A core-four of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras should be able to deliver above-average results on offense, but that just has not been the case this season.
The Cubs will enter this one ranked 21st with a .305 wOBA on the season, but it actually gets worse from there. They’re in a tie for 23rd alongside the Colorado Rockies with a .298 wOBA versus right-handed pitching (they’ll face a righty to start tonight), but they also sit in a tie for 24th alongside the Texas Rangers with a .289 wOBA on the road. The Cubs are at their best when at home facing left-handed pitching, and the complete opposite is true tonight.
Even in winning three of five this team is averaging just 4.60 runs per game. Making matters worse is the fact that Bryant left last night’s win with a hamstring issue and manager David Ross has stated that he likely won’t suit up for this one tonight. With Bryant enjoying a quality season and set for free agency at the end of the year, he’ll almost certainly be traded prior to the deadline so look for the organization to tread carefully with this ailment.
If the core is indeed broken up over the last week and change, they aren’t exactly going out on a high note.
The one department keeping this team afloat in the NL Central race prior to a late-June collapse was the bullpen. That said, they have regressed along with the offense of late.
For the season, they still rank fifth with a 3.45 ERA on the season with a solid 4.17 FIP and 4.09 xFIP as well. Walks have been an issue, but a 46.3% ground-ball rate and 10.91 K/9 clip have largely mitigated the damage done by the free pass.
That said, since an 11-game losing streak was initiated on June 25, this Cubs bullpen ranks dead last with a 6.75 ERA, 6.36 FIP, 2.65 HR/9 and -0.9 fWAR. Since the All-Star break they own a 4.42 ERA despite getting extremely lucky with a .152 BABIP. They also own a 26th-ranked 5.85 FIP in five games since the break.
Closer Craig Kimbrel is enjoying a lights-out season and he too is scheduled to hit the open market at season’s end, so look for his name to be involved in the rumor mill until the end of the month.
Like the Cubs, the Cardinals aren’t where they want to be as they sit tied with the Cubs at 47-48 on the season and 8.5 games back of the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers (56-40). Unlike the Cubs, however, the Cardinals will attempt a second-half charge and they’ll look for the reliable Adam Wainwright to get one started tonight.
At 39, Wainwright continues to deliver quality results. He’ll carry a 3.71 ERA/4.07 FIP into this one to go along with a 4.21 xERA, 3.81 xFIP and 4.05 SIERA.
If you’ve followed his career, you’ll know that he has long pitch much better at home than on the road and the splits are rather wide this season. While he’s been touched up for a 5.35 ERA on the road, Wainwright has turned in a 2.84 mark at home where he’s yielded just a .206 average, .607 OPS, .264 wOBA and 0.99 HR/9. He’s also walking just 1.97 batters per nine at home compared to 3.72 on the road.
He has run into some trouble over his last two starts at the hands of the MLB-best San Francisco Giants. After allowing three earned runs in five innings at San Fran, he came back home and allowed four more over six innings his last time out. However, it was only the second time in 11 home starts in which he’s yielded more than three earned runs.
Wainwright also hurled eight shutout innings with just one hit and one walk against seven strikeouts in his last meeting with the Cubs back on May 23 at Busch Stadium, so he probably feels pretty good about himself entering this one tonight.
Can the Bats Back Him Up?
While Wainwright has done his part in winning ball games this season, the Cardinals’ offense has lagged.
After acquiring Nolan Arenado from the Rockies this winter, this Cardinals offense was expected to produce but there’s simply been too many passengers. Arenado was an All-Star and has performed as advertised, but the remainder of the group has largely disappointed.
The Cardinals enter this one ranked 27th with a .297 wOBA on the season. Hanging around the likes of the Pirates, D-backs, Orioles and Marlins is completely unacceptable for this group given the personnel on board.
Their work against right-handed pitching has been weak, as has their production at home. Against righties, the Cardinals rank 28th with a .294 wOBA while they are tied with the Rangers and Brewers for 25th with a .302 wOBA at home this season.
That said, the offense is heating up of late. After scoring just seven runs in three games coming out of the break, the Cardinals have notched 14 in two games against the Cubs despite dropping a 7-6 decision last night.
It’ll be a challenge against Hendricks, but the Cardinals’ bats could be waking up when they need them the most.
Along with the offense, this Cardinals bullpen hasn’t lived up to expectations.
They sport a palatable 4.47 ERA on the season, but that’s only good for 18th league wide while their 5.01 xFIP is the worst mark in the Majors. They aren’t giving up many homers with a 0.77 HR/9 rate thanks to a combination of low hard-hit and barrel rates, but walks have been the major issue.
Their 5.45 BB/9 from the bullpen is by far the worst mark in the league. The problem was not corrected with some rest over the break as they’ve come out and issued 6.75 walks per nine innings over their last five while they’ve also posted an ugly 6.23 ERA over that time. Their 4.91 FIP and 5.15 xFIP suggests this group has indeed struggled since the All-Star festivities concluded.
There are plenty of top-notch arms in that group, but control has been a major issue and a bottom-half result is the bottom line to this point in the season.
With their playoff hopes already hanging by a thread, the Cardinals will need to go on a run in a hurry and I think they at least get a start tonight with a moneyline win.
For one, Wainwright has been extremely reliable at home and dominated this Cubs team his last time out. Losing Bryant for this one does not help a scuffling offense that has disappointed for much of the season.
The offensive numbers aren’t pretty for St. Louis, either, but at least they’re hitting right now. It’s a group that will be in tough with Hendricks, but this Cubs bullpen has been very bad for nearly a month, especially in the home run department. Despite the walk, at least this Cards’ bullpen keeps the long ball in check with rock-solid batted-ball data.
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