A bunch of these series previews become redundant because the St. Louis Cardinals keep playing the same teams over and over. Particularly in the division, this is the case. Most of you know the basic construction of the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds and don’t really need to be reminded, “Hey, this Joey Votto character? Pretty good. Pitchers should look out for him.” But this week, the Cardinals have a four-game set against a team they have not yet played in 2018, the Colorado Rockies.
It has been over a year since the Cardinals and Rockies squared off. The Rockies, a surprise postseason team last season, are right back in the thick of the playoff hunt in 2018, despite a negative run differential. Nolan Arenado, the only player in the history of Colorado baseball who is not punished in the public consciousness for playing his home games at Coors Field (it is only fair that his bust in Cooperstown is built out of the ballots with Larry Walker’s name on them), is having quite easily his best season–the third baseman leads the National League in home runs (COORS!) and is among the league’s best hitters by park-adjusted measures such as wRC+ (NOT COORS!). Trevor Story, about whom the consensus opinion fluctuates seemingly weekly, has been the team’s second-best hitter while playing shortstop, while Charlie Blackmon, who signed an extension before the season and thus depriving the 2018-19 free agent class of a solid second-tier options, is having a decent season, though not to nearly the caliber of his 2017 campaign.
The least surprising thing about the Colorado Rockies is that the whole “hey, let’s sign Ian Desmond, a guy whose value is inherently tied up in being able to provide decent offense from premium defensive positions, and play him at first base” thing isn’t working out. The most surprising thing about the Colorado Rockies is that the pitching staff is, like, good. The Cardinals will face the team’s most valuable player by Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement on Wednesday in Kyle Freeland, who along with Tyler Anderson have managed ERAs in the threes (Freeland’s is 3.13!) despite the difficulty of pitching home games at a hitter’s haven. Both pitchers are outperforming their peripherals by a fair amount, while Jon Gray, who has a lackluster 5.16 ERA, has underperformed his to historic levels–he has a 3.01 FIP and while he is back with the Rockies, he was demoted earlier in the season, presumably in large part to his poor run suppression.
The Rockies bullpen was supposed to be bolstered in the off-season with the signing of lucrative free agent closer Wade Davis, but he has been disappointing. Two names to watch this series are Old Friends of the Cardinals–Adam Ottavino, who became a legitimate star once he went from journeyman starter to terrific relievers, and Seung Hwan Oh, who was acquired last week via trade from the Toronto Blue Jays.
It could be an interesting series in the sense that the trade deadline is situated right in the middle of it, and the series includes two teams in similar, somewhat undefined positions. I present these projected starters merely as guidelines because honestly who knows what’s going on here, there, or anywhere. All start times are Central.
Monday (7:10 p.m.): Tyler Anderson (6-3, 3.57 ERA) vs. Carlos Martinez (6-6, 3.39 ERA)
Tuesday (7:15 p.m.): Jon Gray (8-7, 5.16 ERA) vs. Jack Flaherty (4-5, 3.28 ERA)
Wednesday (7:15 p.m.): Kyle Freeland (9-6, 3.13 ERA) vs. Luke Weaver (6-9, 4.70 ERA)
Thursday (12:15 p.m.): Antonio Senzatela (4-3, 5.01 ERA) vs. Miles Mikolas (11-3, 2.83 ERA)
I would highly recommend the Cardinals doing good this series.