Cardinals vs. Red Sox MLB Preview and Free Pick

profile image of Jason.Lake

Former teammates face each other this Friday when the Boston Red Sox host the St. Louis Cardinals. Who will beat the MLB odds?

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox

Friday, June 17, 2022 – 07:10 PM EDT at Fenway Park

Michael Wacha knows a thing or two about the St. Louis Cardinals. Wacha spent seven years pitching for St. Louis, making the All-Star team in 2015; sadly, his career got derailed by injuries, and now Wacha is with his fourth team in four years, the Boston Red Sox – where he’s suddenly thriving again.

Wacha’s resurgence makes the Red Sox a tempting choice for your Friday MLB picks. They opened overseas as +110 home dogs versus the Cardinals, even though FiveThirtyEight (52 percent) and ESPN’s Baseball Power Index (50.9 percent) both prefer Boston to win.

Alas, Boston (34-30, minus-0.13 betting units) opened at -106 on the MLB odds board at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review). And of course, the Cardinals (37-28, plus-3.75 units) know a thing or two about Michael Wacha.

They’ve also got one of their best starters taking the mound Friday night in former three-time All-Star Adam Wainwright. So maybe the Red Sox aren’t all that. Let’s find out.

Is Michael Wacha Any Good?

He’s okay. Wacha’s 2.33 ERA thus far would be the best of his career if he can keep it up, and the Red Sox are 7-3 in his 10 starts for 4.30 units of pure profit. But look at these peripheral stats (as per FanGraphs):

  • .213 BABIP allowed
  • 81.3 LOB%
  • 6.00 K/9

These numbers aren’t so promising. Wacha’s .213 BABIP is considerably lower than his .298 career average, and his 81.3 percent strand rate is up from 73.2 percent lifetime.

Wacha’s six strikeouts per nine innings also puts him on pace for the lowest K rate of his career. It all adds up to a 4.37 xFIP (park-adjusted Fielding Independent Percentage), which isn’t awful, but definitely not All-Star caliber.

Is Adam Wainwright an All-Star?

Nope. At least he shouldn’t be; again, Wainwright’s 2.84 ERA translates to a more pedestrian 4.03 xFIP, so his 8-4 team record (plus-2.45 betting units) deserves some side-eye.

There’s something to be said for consistency, though. Wainwright’s second decade in the majors hasn’t been as good as his first, but he has yet to fall apart the way Wacha did in 2019, his last season with the Cardinals.

Put these gentlemen side-by-each, and there’s no question St. Louis have the advantage. FiveThirtyEight have Wainwright 32 Elo points ahead of Wacha, which is pretty big – although I have to walk back what I said last month about one run being worth 25 Elo points. I got my wires crossed; that’s the rule of thumb for one point in football, not one run in baseball. Dreadfully sorry about the confusion.

Home-field advantage is worth 24 Elo points according to FiveThirtyEight, though, and home teams win about 54 percent of the time in baseball, which works out to roughly a third of a run – and about 17 cents on the moneyline. Glad we cleared that up.

How Strong Is Boston’s Bullpen?

Back to our baseball game. The advantage St. Louis have in the starting department is almost entirely negated by Boston’s home-field advantage; then we get to all the things working for the Red Sox in this matchup – starting with their bullpen, which ranks No. 16 (plus-1.2 WAR) on the FanGraphs charts.

Being league-average isn’t a sin. The Cardinals bullpen ranks No. 21 overall (plus-0.8 WAR), which is problematic for St. Louis; however, they do have the rest advantage after taking Thursday off, so keep that in mind.

Buyer beware: These numbers are for the entire season up to press time. Narrow it down to the past 30 days, and Boston’s bullpen jumps to No. 10 overall, while the Cards only improve four spots to No. 17.

We have to look at the longer term when we make our baseball picks
– that’s why Elo exists. But 30 days is a decent sample size, and the more recent results are still more likely to indicate what’s in store for both teams.

That includes the other side of the plate. For the season, the Cards check in at No. 5 (plus-11.3 WAR) on the hitting charts, ahead of Boston (plus-9.6 WAR) at No. 10. Make it the past 30 days, and the Sox are outhitting the rest of the majors, with St. Louis sliding into ninth place.

So there you have it. Boston’s early-season struggles appear to be behind them, although the quality of opposition has been much weaker recently. The Cards are pretty good anyway you slice it, but the trends and the projections are pointing towards the Red Sox – for a suitably small bet at these betting odds.

MLB Pick: Red Sox (-106) at Heritage Sports

Heritage Sports logo
Red Sox (-106)
Visit Site

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.