Cardinals Preview - Playoff Preview?

Current Record: 47-41, 2nd place in NL Central

Pythag Record: Scored 391 runs, Allowed 332 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 51-37

The Cardinals are still chasing the Reds and the recent memory of being swept by the Rockies when the vaunted pitching staff gave up 24 runs in three games at Coors. Luckily for the Cardinals they were able to face the hapless Astros just before the break  to get some semblence of respectability back.

The Dodgers cleaned the Cardinals clock outscoring them 17 - 7 in a three game set from June 7th - June 9th. This four game series can set the tone for the 2nd half. Both teams are set up to pitch their best pitchers, luckily for the Dodgers they go four deep so the final matchup has Padilla against Suppan, which will be a good way to end the series after having to face Carpenter, Garcia, and Wainwright.

Position Breakdown

1B - Albert Pujols.  It has been a long time since Pujols was not one of the best hitters in baseball, but right now he's not even the best 1st baseman. With an OPS of only .992 Pujols is being out hit by Joey Votto this year.

2B - Skip Schumaker has been the starter most of the year but in July it has been a time share between Schumaker and Tyler Greene. Greene is also playing SS so I think we will see him at SS, and Schumaker at 2nd. Schumaker is having a dismal year, posting a wOBA of only .289. He's been even worse in July and he may have a limited time to keep his job.

SS - Tyler Greene seems to have won the job from Brendan Ryan for now. Greene is off to a great start but he's not much of a hitter. His game is speed and if he gets on base enough he will steal some bases. 

3B - David Freese is on the DL and might return for this series. If he does then Felipe Lopez might slide over to 2nd, if not Lopez will be manning 3rd base. Freese is one of those unheralded minor league players who gets ignored but seems to do just fine once he hits the majors. He is the anti - Alex Gordon. Very much like our own Blake DeWitt, good OB guy with not enough power for 3rd base. 

LF - Matt Holliday the gift that keeps on giving. He made the all-star team but he will always be remembered fondly in Los Angeles for ballsy defense. That said he's still an all-star hitter posting an OPS of .902 and a wOBA of .390.

CF - Colby Rasmus should have been an all-star, and should have been starting in CF for the NL. All he has done in the 1st half is lead all center fielders in OPS (914), wOBA (.390).

RF - Ryan Ludwick is still hurt but might play at some point in the series. If not then the timeshare of Jonathan Jay, and Nick Stavinoha will get the time.  Jay has been tearing up RHP during his brief trial, while Nick has struggled against LHP.  When Ludwick was playing he was posting a .822 OPS, solid. If Jay continues to tear up RHP maybe the Cardinals will do a timeshare with Jay and Ludwick and end up with a two headed monster. Randy Winn has been a non factor in playing time in July.

C - Yadier Molina got the first NL hit in the all-star game.

Bench - Felipe Lopez is off the DL and currently playing 3rd. We might seem him at 2nd as well this series. Brendan Ryan was the starting SS but it looks like he is now a utility player.   Jason LaRue is the backup catcher who has seen less playing time than A.J. Ellis.

Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game 1 - Chris Carpenter, RHP (vs. Clayton Kershaw, LHP)

Vintage Carpenter has been missing since he took a line drive off his forearm two weeks ago. He says the line drive has nothing to do with his recent struggles. In his last two games his ERA has risen from 2.70 to 3.29 giving up 18 hits in nine innings, along with 11 earned runs. It would be nice to see that Carpenter instead of the one who has dominated the NL five of the last seven years.

Game 2 - Jamie Garcia, LHP (vs. Chad Billingsley, RHP)

The left handed dynamo, young Garcia has simply been outstanding in his first full major league season. He is neck and neck with Wainwright for the best pitcher on the team in 2010. His TSL of .217/.329/.373 shows he is not a fluke. Cardinal fans have to be worried that he will eventually hit the wall given his injury history, and the lack of innings he pitched in since 2007. By the time he finishes his game on Friday he will have pitched more innings in 2010 then in any previous professional season.

Game 3 - Adam Wainwright, RHP (vs. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP)

Wainwright is just a younger, better version of Carpenter.  He has more strikeouts (8.38 per nine innings), a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.63), and will just about always give you seven innings a game. Simply one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Game 4 - Jeff Suppan, RHP (vs. Vicente Padilla, RHP)

Thank God for Jeff Suppan. After facing two legitimate aces, and one of the best young lefthanders in 2010 they get to face restauranteer Suppan who was released by the Brewers earlier this year. Jeff Suppan is not very good and it does not matter who he's pitching for.

Bullpen:

Ryan Franklin gave up six runs on July 3rd but that is about the only blemish on his record. He is still the closer, even though closer in waiting Jason Motte is breathing down his neck.  Motte is not someone you want to see in the 8th inning with the Cardinals in the lead.  Since May 15th he has been just about unhittable. In those 22 games he has given up hits in only six appearances. Kyle McClellan might even be better.   Trever Miller, and old friend Dennys Reyes are the Cardinals' LOOGY options.  Mitchell Boggs rounds out the formidable bullpen.

Old Friends:

Be sure to check out Viva El Birdos, the SB Nation Cards' blog, for in-depth analysis. 

Cardinals news on Twitter@stlcardinals @thebirdos @MatthewHLeach @dgoold @JoeStrauss @PitchersHit8th @andrewdmoses @Steve_Sommer

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