The Cardinals however are a surprise to quite a few that expected the team to falter. I for one expected them to finish over .500 but this would qualify as a bit of a surprise.
The Dodgers quickly dispatched of the Braves in the National League Division Series with the Cardinals outlasted the Pirates. Will the Dodgers make a return to the World Series? Will the Cardinals offense manufacture a way through the Dodgers? Let’s overview of each team’s starters, closers, and offense to see if we can find a kink in the Dodgers or Cardinals armor.
This is not a team that oozes power in fact they are middle of the road in extra base hits and home runs. They are third in on-base percentage and fourth in OPS. They just find a way to score enough runs to win games, but now they are healthier than they have been all year. Hanley Ramirez is arguably playing the best baseball of his career, phenom Yasiel Puig bounced back from a slow September to hit over .400 in the NLDS, Carl Crawford is back to being Carl Crawford, and the list goes on and on. Their offense is better than the numbers and this team boasts some real post season experience that can play a big factor in determining who advances to the World Series.
The Dodgers pitching staff was second in the National League (and baseball) in ERA (3.25), tied for third in WHIP (1.23) and third in opposing team batting average at .243. They have the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has a miniscule 1.83 ERA with 232 strikeouts and a WHIP of .92. The number two and three starters behind Kershaw could both be number one starters in Zach Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Those two have a combined 29-12 record and an ERA no worse than 3.00. The front three for the Dodgers are just dominant. Kenley Jansen is no Craig Kimbrel but is no slouch closing down games either. He saved 28 or 32 possible in 2013 with a 1.88 ERA and a WHIP of .82.
What Needs To Happen
Clayton will be Clayton but the Dodgers need rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu not to get wrapped up in the moment and Zach Greinke to pitch well in order to keep pace with the Cardinals pitching staff. Hanley Ramirez is the spark for Dodgers offense and he cannot slump in the NCLS or it will ripple through the lineup. Yasiel Puig must maintain his composure and avoid the errors he has been prone to in his rookie campaign since errors are amplified this time of the year.
St Louis Cardinals
The St Louis Cardinals are near the bottom of the National League in home runs but that is not reflective of this offense. They were second in team batting average (.269), first in doubles and lead the National League in runs scored and on base percentage. Yadier Molina is not only an incredible defensive catcher and game caller but also hit almost .320. Up and comers Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig are just solid with both hitting over .310, Craig driving in almost 100 and Carpenter scoring over 125 runs. Veterans Matt Holiday and Carlos Beltran are just getting the job done. They do have a huge void in team speed but when players start out at second base that helps hide the issue. A solid offensive club up and down the lineup.
The St Louis Cardinals have a solid but not exceptional pitching staff. The team was fifth in the National League in ERA at 3.42. They held opposing teams to a .244 batting average (sixth) and struck out 1,294 good for fifth in the National League. They have a true ace in Adam Wainwright who went 19-9 in the regular season with a 2.94 ERA. He also struck out over 200 and was impressive winning both his starts in the NLDS. Lance Lynn is solid and they have budding stars in Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha (win in NLDS) coupled with a good not phenomenal back end of Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica. They will not knock your socks off but they are a complete staff.
What Needs To Happen
The Cardinals need to see youngsters Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha continue to not let the playoff atmosphere bother them. They must be great behind their ace, Adam Wainwright. Nothing can happen to Yadier Molina. He is the most important member of the Cardinals. His batting average is a bonus but he defense and game calling are key. He could hit .100 and still be irreplaceable. Offensively they must continue to produce and they need to avoid injuries to Beltran and Holiday. A little rekindling of David Freese post-season magic would not hurt either.
Prediction: Dodgers in six games
There would be no ratings drop-off if this series went seven games. However, the Cardinals just appear to be overmatched but not by a lot. The Dodgers are just too good. They have the best pitching staff left in the MLB playoffs and a veteran offense (with a budding young star). The Cardinals have scored the most runs in the regular season but playing a seven game series against the Dodgers rotation is no picnic. I am just not sure the young Cardinals pitchers can keep it up as the playoff pressure increases.
The Dodgers dominated baseball in July and August while relaxing in September when they did not need to win. St Louis played a great September. It really is close between these two teams. When it comes down to it the Cardinals will not be able to overcome Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Clayton Kershaw and the rest of the high priced boys from LA. The Cardinals will lose one at home and that will be enough to send the Dodgers back to the World Series.
Who do you think will win the NLCS?
- Cardinals (54%, 151 Votes)
- Dodgers (46%, 128 Votes)
Total Voters: 279