[News] Expect the Padres and Cardinals to regress

As we approach the All-Star break, it’s time to look at some trends bettors can get ahead of for the second half of the season. One of those trends is offenses that started out hot but showed signs of slowing down in the next couple of months. I break down two of those teams: The St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Padres. 

The ball has been absolutely flying out of Busch Stadium this year, and at what point do we think the sample is big enough to mean something? I think that point is now. 

A stadium does not go from 29th in home run park factors in 2021 to third in one season without a dramatic change somewhere. The dimensions have not changed there at all, though. So something else, beyond variance, has to be the cause here. Busch Stadium was bottom six in HR park factors in both 2018 and 2019 and was below average in the shortened 2020 season, too. 

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Paul Goldschmidt
USA TODAY Sports

Paul Goldschmidt is off to a scorching start in his home ballpark, but even he has seemed to benefit from the warmer months. Almost all of his home runs at home have come in the past month when temperatures and dew points have considerably risen. 

Whatever your preseason run environment expectation was in St. Louis, it’s wrong and time to be adjusted upward in a big way. The market clearly hasn’t done so to this point in the year. 

While St. Louis’ offense is clearly benefiting from its now-hitter-friendly home park, there are still some troubling signs for this group as a whole long term. When you compare weighted on-base average (wOBA)-expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) across the entire league to see which offenses are most over-performing their underlying numbers, St. Louis ranks second luckiest in the league. The Cardinals put a ton of balls in play, but with one of the lower hard-hit rates in the league, they won’t be able to sustain their current level of run production. 

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The difference between their xBA and actual batting average is also the second most fortunate in the league. The same is true for the xSLG numbers. The Cardinals rank fifth-best in runs per game in the whole sport, but the offense is just 23rd in barrel rate and 26th in hard-hit rate. 

I’d expect some regression, and once Goldschmidt cools off, the Cardinals are still pretty reliant on rookies Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman to produce in high spots in the lineup. St. Louis should continue to be effective vs. lefties, but I’ll be looking to fade them against better righties in the coming months. 

In San Diego, Manny Machado’s injury leaves a gaping hole in the middle of a struggling Padres lineup. San Diego was already over-performing at an unsustainable rate — second in clutch hitting, third luckiest offense based on wOBA-xwOBA — and now the Padres will not have their MVP-caliber hitter. 

Manny Machado
Manny Machado’s injury leaves a hole in the Padres’ lineup.
Getty Images

Until Fernando Tatis Jr. returns to the lineup — and who knows when that will be — I’m going to continue to look to play against the Padres. The offense is seventh in runs scored per game despite being 24th in xwOBA, 28th in barrels, and 23rd in hard-hit rate. 

Either those numbers will have to improve, or San Diego’s offense is going to regress, and its run production will decline considerably. 

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