St. Louis starter Michael Wacha’s potential is truly unlimited as the former first round draft choice has quickly become one of the most dominant arms in baseball. Wacha reached the Majors in less than twelve months after being drafted by the Cardinals, and his debut in 2013 was nothing short of spectacular. Specifically, Wacha was 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 64.2 innings pitched (65/19 K/BB rate) last year and has carried that momentum into 2014. Wacha was a perfect 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in spring training wherein he allowed four earned runs on fourteen hits in 20.1 innings of work (23/4 K/BB rate).
The 22-year-old has garnered a 2.10 ERA and 1.033 WHIP this season, including posting an impressive 35/8 K/BB rate over 30 innings pitched. Wacha is also the beneficiary of throwing to one of the game’s best catchers in Yadier Molina, who is outstanding in framing pitched to get extra strike calls. Busch Stadium has also been kind to Wacha where he was 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA and 0.91 WHIP last season (47/14 K/BB rate in 46.0 IP), and he has carried that success into 2014 (2-0 with a 2.92 ERA and 1.13 WHIP). Wacha is also supported by a surging St. Louis bullpen that owns a 2.12 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over the last seven games.
I don’t expect much scoring from a scuffling Milwaukee lineup that is batting just .257 with a .305 on base percentage this season (4.0 runs per game), including hitting .232 with a .288 on base percentage versus division opponents (3.5 runs per game), .256 with a .305 on base percentage versus right-handed starters (3.8 runs per game) and .250 with a .306 on base percentage over the last ten days (3.3 runs per game). In addition, Milwaukee will be without outfielder Ryan Braun (right rib cage strain) and shortstop Jean Segura (plastic surgery to repair right eye injury).
Meanwhile, Milwaukee right-hander Yovani Gallardo is 1-12 with a career 6.49 ERA and 1.47 WHIP versus the Cardinals. In ten of his seventeen starts against St. Louis, Gallardo has yielded at least four earned runs. And, in eight of those starts, he has not made it past the fifth inning. Let’s also note that Gallardo has surrendered 20 home runs to St. Louis hitters – seven more than any other opponent. In his last four trips to Busch Stadium, Gallardo has allowed a combined 20 runs on 29 hits over 18 1/3-innings of work! For the technical geeks out there like me, St. Louis is a profitable 29-9 (+17.6 units) at home versus starting pitchers with an ERA of 3.50 or less, 32-14 (+17.1 units) versus starting pitchers with a WHIP of 1.15 or better and 52-23 (+16.7 units) at home versus teams with an on base percentage of .325 or worse.
Finally, St. Louis falls into 289-146, 136-58 and 29-12 systems of mine so the technical analysis overwhelmingly favors the Cardinals tonight. Take the Cardinals behind one of the best pitchers in baseball and invest with confidence.