Through 25 games, the Cardinals are overachieving. This was projected to be a .500 or sub-.500 ballclub, yet the Cards are four games over .500 and hanging within reach of Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the Giants haven’t lost a beat despite the roster turnover. They’re 14-9 with a +32 run differential.
Interestingly, outside of the Dodgers, the Cardinals and Giants have allowed the fewest runs in the National League (77 and 78 respectively). I’d expect a low-scoring affair in this series.
That’s especially true in this matchup, considering Logan Webb is on the mound for the Giants. He’s one of my favorite pitchers in MLB.
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this big NL matchup.
St. Louis Cardinals vs San Francisco Giants Odds
The Giants are underdogs, at home, with their ace on the mound.
Make it make sense!
Well, Miles Mikolas has been a stud so far this season. Think 29 ⅔ innings over five starts with a 1.52 ERA stud.
And Webb has been uncharacteristically mediocre to start his year. He’s pitched 30 ⅓ innings over five starts but his ERA is up near 3.30 and his K/9 is in the mid-5.00s.
But does it still make sense to make San Fran home underdogs?
St. Louis Cardinals Starting Lineup
RF Daniel Carlson S
1B Paul Goldschmidt R
LF Tyler O’Neill R
3B Nolan Arenado R
DH Corey Dickerson L
SS Paul DeJong R
CF Harrison Bader R
C Yadier Molina R
2B Tommy Edman S
St. Louis Cardinals vs Logan Webb
So, Webb’s strikeout rate is down.
I don’t think it’s a big deal.
He’s suppressing exit velocity to the same degree he was last season and his xERA is about 40 points lower than his actual ERA. Plus, projections have him skyrocketing that K/9 number closer to 9.00 by the end of the season.
Because while Webb’s whiff and chase rate has dived on his slider …
Image credit: Baseball Savant
His spin rate hasn’t. The velocity on Webb’s fastball is down maybe one tick, but I still don’t think it’s cause for concern.
When Webb is rolling, he’s the best pitcher on this staff and a top-five rotation guy in baseball. This could even be a good buy-low spot.
There’s nothing special about the Cardinals lineup. In fact, it might even be bad.
The Cardinals have managed a 101 wRC+, meaning it’s been average. But the Birds are also fourth-to-last in average exit velocity (87.1mph), second-to-last in barrel rate (5.5%), and dead last in hard-hit rate (33.1%).
Taking Baseball Savant’s expected stats into account, the Cardinals’ .299 xwOBA is second-to-last and their .371 xSLG is dead last. This is a lineup due for regression if St. Louis doesn’t start hitting the ball harder.
None of this falls on Nolan Arenado or Tommy Edman. The two have combined for 4.0 bWAR so far this season, with Arenado posting a whopping 1.124 OPS and Edman a .419 OBP. Plus, with Edman pacing all of MLB in defensive runs saved, the Cardinals are a top-10 team in that stat.
Defense and pitching may have to keep the Cardinals above .500. Because this lineup isn’t doing it.
San Francisco Giants Starting Lineup
RF Mike Yastrzemski L
1B Brandon Belt L
DH Darin Ruf R
LF Joc Pederson L
SS Brandon Crawford L
3B Wilmer Flores R
2B Thairo Estrada R
CF Steven Duggar L
C Joey Bart R
San Francisco Giants vs Miles Mikolas
Mikolas has come out dealing. But is it a mirage?
Probably a bit. Mikolas’ .229 BABIP and 90.9% strand rate indicate heavy negative regression, and his 3.46 xFIP backs that up.
But given the Cardinals are so good defensively, he might not see as much regression as usual. The Cards’ pitching staff always overperforms their FIP because of the guys behind them, like Edman and Arenado. St. Louis is a good spot to pitch in.
Mikolas has kept his exit velocity and hard-hit rate way down, ranking above the 85th percentile in both stats. That’s pretty good in St. Louis.
The Giants lineup has been more solid than the Cardinals, but San Fran is due for a decent amount of negative regression. The Giants pair a .373 wOBA with a .325 xwOBA. But it’s still better than the Cardinals!
The Giants are also a buzzsaw at Oracle Park, where their wRC+ jumps to 109, and their record stands at 10-5 (compared to 4-5 on the road). It’s tough to bet against the Giants at home.
St. Louis Cardinals vs San Francisco Giants Pick & Prediction
My pick: San Francisco Giants ML (-105 at Fox Bet)
Which is why I’m backing San Fran big as a home dog.
This line is crazy. It’s worth mentioning that Webb is not guaranteed to start even though it’s his turn in the lineup, and the Giants have yet to announce a pitcher.
With Webb on the mound, I’ve seen projections that make Giants ML about -150. On a bullpen day, those same projections still make the Giants around -140. This is an absurd line that provides tons of value to the best home underdog team in baseball.
We believe in the Giants around here, and I’ll be backing them big on Thursday evening.