MLB Odds & Picks for Cardinals vs. Padres: How To Find Value on St. Louis-San Diego Showdown (Sunday, May 16)

MLB Odds & Picks for Cardinals vs. Padres: How To Find Value on St. Louis-San Diego Showdown (Sunday, May 16) article feature image

Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images. Pictured: San Diego Padres starting pitcher Ryan Weathers.

  • The San Diego Padres look to close out a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.
  • The Padres could pull into a tie for first place in the NL West, but will have to take out the NL Central leaders one more time to have a chance.
  • Sean Zerillo breaks down the game below and has found value with several plays.

Cardinals vs. Padres Odds

Cardinals Odds+108
Padres Odds-126
Over/Under7 (-114 / -106)
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday afternoon and via FanDuel.

The San Diego Padres (23-17) are looking to complete a three-game sweep over the National League Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals (23-17) on Sunday Night Baseball, and could potentially pull into first place in the NL West with both a win and a San Francisco Giants loss this afternoon.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have won three consecutive games, but struggled over the past few weeks and just lost star shortstop Corey Seager to a broken hand in Saturday's game. It seems as though the Padres now have a path to an NL West crown, but they need to start building up a lead within their division.

The Cardinals have been one of the hottest teams in baseball over the past few weeks, and have built a three-game lead over the Brewers within their own division. Most projection systems had Milwaukee as the divisional favorite coming into the season, but can St. Louis hold off its banged-up rival?

Let's jump into the matchup, which will feature Kwang Hyun Kim (1-0, 2.75 ERA) and Ryan Weathers (2-1, 0.81 ERA) on the mound.

St. Louis Received Little Love in Preseason Picks

Prior to the 2021 season, FanGraphs only gave the Cardinals a 29% chance of making the playoffs and a 24.7% chance of winning the NL Central. As of Sunday morning, those odds have increased 43.4% and 35.2%, respectively.

FanGraphs still thinks that the Brewers (48% and 40% respectively) are the most likely team to win the Central, but that gap is closing and quite aggressively.

PECOTA is still very low on the Cardinals' chances, putting them at 27.6% to make the playoffs and 27.6% to win the Central, behind both the Brewers and Cubs. However, I disagree with that projection.

The Cubs are clearly going to look to sell, with multiple pending free-agents (Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez) on their roster. Meanwhile, the Cardinals will continue to spend and add pieces at the trade deadline.

In terms of expected 2021 production, the Cardinals rank 11th on offense (.324 xwOBA) and 25th in pitching (.337 xwOBA), but their actual rankings in wOBA are 19th and 11th. In other words, their offense has been unlucky to date, but their pitching has been equally fortunate.

St. Louis ranks seventh in Defensive Runs Saved (+13), but is middle of the pack (14th) in Outs Above Average (zero). The Cardinals have one of the best defensive outfields in baseball, led by center fielder Harrison Bader, who has already recorded four DRS through 15 games played after ranking third at the position (+15) in 2019.

Per Statcast, Bader is the 16th-fastest player in baseball this season, just one-tenth of one second behind both Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Trout in sprint speed. If you use Bader's peak mark (29.5 ft/s) from 2020, he would move up to 11th in the ranking. Regardless, he's incredibly fast and a positive defender whether sorting by deep, medium, or shallow hits. His throwing arm is also slightly above average.

The Cardinals rotation (4.68 xFIP, 29th; 10.3% K-BB%, 28th) and bullpen (5.07 xFIP, 30th; 8.2% K-BB%, 30th) have both looked like severe weaknesses to this point in the season, but top-notch team defense can help to cover some of those warts. And last season's best defensive team (+36 DRS) has picked up right where they left off.

Sunday's starter Kwang Hyun Kim (2.02 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, 4.5 SIERA) has been reliant upon that strong defense through his first 13 MLB appearances. The former SK Wyverns hurler has carried a .264 BABIP and 84% strand rate to date, but he seems primed for regression toward his expected indicators. Kim's home run to flyball rate (7%) also figures to rise.

There's nothing in Kim's profile that suggests that he is a soft-contact savant, and he's neither a groundball (44.6%) nor a popup (8.8%) specialist. He is a southpaw with below-average velocity (89.6 mph), and has good command over a four-pitch mix (slider/curveball/splitter). Kim has used the fastball/slider combination more than 80% of the time this season, throwing his best secondary pitch with more frequency.

ZIPS, Steamer and FanGraphs project Kim to carry a FIP between 4.06-4.14 the rest of the season, but "The Bat", which incorporates batted ball data more aggressively (as I do), projects Kim for a 4.46 FIP the rest of the way; and, I think that mark is closer to his true talent level.

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San Diego's Bullpen Putting Together Solid Campaign

Some projection systems thought the Dodgers and Padres were on level terms entering this season. Others, particularly after the Trevor Bauer signing, still saw a six-to-eight win gap between the divisional rivals.

FanGraphs' put the Padres' playoff chances at 92.3%, and their NL West chances at 29.8% prior to the start of the season. As of Sunday, those numbers have moved to 92% and 35% respectively because they sit a half-game back of the Giants, who have done as much to increase their own playoff percentages (5.7% and 0.2% preseason; 23.4% and 1.5% currently) as any other team.

I think the Giants are legitimate. They hit enough (16th in xwOBA) to carry an elite pitching staff (third in xwOBA against), which is further buoyed by top-notch defense (second in OAA; fourth in DRS) in the field.

To date, the Padres (14th on offense; 8th in pitching; 12th in OAA; and, third in DRS) haven't necessarily outplayed their Northern California rivals and my confidence in both the Dodgers and Padres making the playoffs is shrinking by the day. If anything, I have started to consider Giants' futures more seriously.

The Padres' bullpen (3.46 xFIP, 2nd) has been one of the most effective units in baseball, and their new-look rotation (3.57 xFIP, 8th) has also met expectations.

Back-end rotation depth looked like a concern for San Diego, with many expecting MacKenzie Gore to fill that role. However, it has been rookie Ryan Weathers, the son of former MLB hurler David Weathers, who has stepped up in a big way.

Ryan Weathers' first career start was 💰

— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 17, 2021

Like Kim, Weathers is primarily a fastball-slider lefty (combined 94.7% usage), but unlike his opponent, Weathers throws his fastball at an average velocity of 94.3 mph. That ranks in the 90th percentile for a left-handed starting pitcher. It's a low-spin fastball (seventh percentile) which should help to generate groundballs (48.1% to date) at a high clip moving forward.

The lack of a third pitch (5.3% changeup usage) is a concern. Righties (.242 wOBA, 6 BB, 12 K over 47 batters faced) have hit Weathers harder than lefties (.135 wOBA, 1 BB, 8 K over 33 batters faced) and he may need to use his changeup with more confidence against opposite-side hitting.

That could be a key against a right-heavy lineup like the Cardinals, who have beat up on left-handed pitching (126 wRC+, 2nd) to this point in the season.

The four projection systems I mentioned earlier – which project Kim for a FIP between 4.06-4.46 the rest of the way – have Weathers projected for a FIP between 3.98-4.16 over the remainder of the season.

In a vacuum, I think the Padres have the more effective starter, but the matchup against the Cardinals with their splits against southpaw pitching is definitely a concern.

Cardinals-Padres Pick

The moneyline for the first five innings (F5) for Sunday's contest looks right to me, but I think there should be at least a 10-cent gap between the F5 and full-game lines.

I projected the Cardinals' bullpen for a 4.33 ERA, but I have the Padres' bullpen at 3.65. As a reminder from the information above, San Diego's bullpen ranks second in xFIP this season, while the Cardinals are dead last.

As a result, I would take a shot on the Padres' moneyline up to -126 odds at something more than a one-percent edge. I'm using a fairly conservative projection for Weathers, and he clearly has the higher upside between these two pitchers, so the true edge might actually be higher than what I projected.

I also see slight value with regard to the total, but I need -105 or better in order to take a shot on the Over 7, – but after sitting at plus-money Saturday those odds are trending closer to -120 odds.

One additional small stab I will make is the F5 Over 3.5 (up to -120). I projected the line at four runs, and think it's worth adding a small (quarter unit) play for early offense.

Pick: St. Louis Cardinals (0.5 units, bet to -126) | Over 7 (0.5u, bet to -105) | F5 Over 3.5 (0.25u, bet to -120)

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