Cardinals vs. Royals Odds, Preview, Prediction: Jack Flaherty to Return in Kansas City (Friday, August 13)
Ron Vesely/Getty Images. Pictured: Jack Flaherty.
- The Cardinals and Royals are set to open a three-game series on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
- Jack Flaherty is set to return to the mound for the first time in more than two months opposite Mike Minor.
- Michael Arinze breaks down the matchup and whether bettors should back Flaherty.
Cardinals vs. Royals Odds
|Friday, 8:10 p.m. ET
|Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings
The battle of Missouri shifts to Kansas City on Friday night as the Royals host the Cardinals to start a three-game series. Both teams met in St. Louis last weekend, with the Cardinals taking two out of the three games.
Kansas City's Mike Minor pitched in that series opener, and he'll do so again this time around. However, he won't be up against the Cardinals' former ace in Adam Wainwright. Instead, he'll start opposite current ace Jack Flaherty, who is set to be activated from the injured list tonight.
There are two questions we'll need to answer for this game: Can Flaherty shake off the rust after being sidelined with an oblique injury, and will Minor be able to bounce back after picking up the loss just seven days ago?
Let's dig into this matchup and see where the value ultimately lies.
Cards Get Their Ace Back
It's been more than two months since Flaherty pitched in the majors. Had he remained healthy, we might be talking about him as the leading candidate to win the National League Cy Young Award. After all, he was 8-1 with a 2.90 ERA before the injury.
There's no question that Flaherty has tremendous talent. He's already into his fifth big-league season at 25 years old and has a career record of 31-23 with a 3.31 ERA.
I haven't had to look at Flaherty's stats much this season, but I am surprised to see that his advanced numbers point to some regression.
After 11 games, his 3.75 FIP and a 3.99 xFIP are both higher than his ERA. Some of that is likely due to an HR/FB rate of 11.7% and his 2.90 BB/9 ratio. While those numbers may be a tick high, something also has to be said for Flaherty's ability to pitch in high-leverage situations.
Per FanGraphs, Flaherty actually gets better as the pressure intensifies. In a low-leverage spot opposing hitters have a .224/.293/.425 slash line, which drops to .169/.271/.217 in medium-leverage situations. And when he's in a high-leverage spot, he wins the battle as hitters have a .000/.100/.000 line in that spot.
Thus, Flaherty's quality in these pressure situations is much less quantifiable if you're solely looking at his advanced numbers.
Kansas City Royals
The last two seasons haven't gone according to plan for Minor, as his ERA has hovered over five. He'll carry a 5.39 ERA with an 8-10 record into his 24th start in 2021.
Minor is a bit of an enigma in that his 1.27 WHIP is fairly low for someone with a high ERA. His advanced numbers would support the assertion that perhaps he's been a bit unlucky when you consider his 4.30 FIP and 4.29 xFIP.
However, I have my concerns when I see a 1.45 HR/9 ratio. That suggests to me that while Minor might have some relatively clean innings, his opposing teams are putting up some crooked numbers against him.
If we assess Minor's ability to pitch in leveraged spots just as we did with Flaherty, we'll find that he performed much worse as the situation intensifies. Opposing hitters have a .225/.277/.398 line in a low-leverage spot and a .246/.316/.452 line when it's medium.
However, those numbers balloon to a .556/.571/.889 line in a high-leverage spots. And if you look at the head-to-head numbers, St. Louis has a lineup that can put Minor in plenty of high-leverage situations.
In 57 at-bats, St. Louis The Cardinals lineup has a .386/.429/.737 line against Minor with a .351 ISO. He'll need to be especially careful when facing Paul Goldschmidt, who is 5-for-9 with two home runs against Minor.
After running this matchup through my model, I project the Cardinals as a -138 favorite. Right now, the market is a bit more bullish on them, with their odds as high as -146.
However, I think this pitching matchup is much more tilted in the Cardinals' favor.
Not only is Flaherty a quality pitcher, but he's had tremendous success against Kansas City. The California native is a perfect 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in his three starts against the Royals. Kansas City's current lineup only has 4 hits in 35 at-bats against him. That equates to a .114/.184/.143 line overall.
Flaherty's just built differently and while he may be on a pitch count in this start, I trust the St. Louis bullpen a bit more than Kansas City's, which is 21st with a 4.61 ERA.
Pick: Cardinals ML (-140, play to -145)