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October 11, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

NLCS Preview: Dodgers vs. Cardinals

by R.J. Anderson

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For those who like nonstop chatter about how differently the teams were constructed, this is the series or you. Expect to hear about the Cardinals' homegrown ways and how they contrast with the free-spending Dodgers. There's a solid chance that talking point gets annoying by the second or third game; luckily, the games should be fun regardless of the predictable narratives.

Projected Lineups (AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv)

Dodgers
LF-L Carl Crawford (.283/.329/.407/.274)
2B-R Mark Ellis (.270/.323/.351/.261)
SS-R Hanley Ramirez (.345/.402/.638/.364)
1B-L Adrian Gonzalez (.293/.342/.461/.294)
RF-R Yasiel Puig (.319/.391/.534/.334)
3B-R Juan Uribe (.278/.331/.438/.282)
CF-L Skip Schumaker (.263/.332/.332/.242)
C-R A.J. Ellis (.238/.318/.364/.266)

The Dodgers finished ninth in the league in True Average, two spots ahead of the Cardinals. The similarities between the lineups extend beyond their regular-season numbers: Both are missing a star-level performer and have a hole near the bottom of their order. It's probably worth noting the Dodgers have, at least statistically, the top two batters in the series, in Ramirez and Puig.

Cardinals
2B-L Matt Carpenter (.318/.392/.481/.310)
RF-S Carlos Beltran (.296/.339/.491/.288)
LF-R Matt Holliday (.300/.389/.490/.297)
1B-L Matt Adams (.284/.335/.503/.289)
C-R Yadier Molina (.319/.359/.477/.296)
CF-L Jon Jay (.276/.351/.370/.261)
3B-R David Freese (.262/.340/.381/.250)
SS-L Daniel Descalso (.238/.290/.366/.240)

The Cardinals lack the elite top-end the Dodgers have, but are reasonably well-balanced over their top five batters. Should Carpenter's struggles in the Divisional Series continue, Mike Matheny might have to find a new leadoff hitter. Matheny changed lineups early last round, moving Jay down in the order, so don't treat these lineups as if they are set in stone.

Projected Benches (AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv)

Dodgers
C-R Tim Federowicz (.231/.275/.356/.215)
OF-L Andre Ethier (.272/.360/.423/.285)
INF-L Dee Gordon (.234/.314/.298/.238)
INF-S Nick Punto (.255/.328/.327/.237)
1B/OF-R Scott Van Slyke (.240/.342/.465/.288)
INF-R Michael Young (.279/.335/.395/.250)

Ethier is a wild card. The Dodgers suggested he could increase his role this series after serving as a pinch-hitter during the divisional round.

Cardinals
C-R Tony Cruz (.203/.240/.293/.175)
INF-R Pete Kozma (.217/.275/.273/.201)
INF-R Ryan Jackson (.000/.000/.000/.008 in seven PA)
OF-L Adron Chambers (.154/.241/.192/.185 in 29 PA)
OF-R Shane Robinson (.250/.345/.319/.257)

There was some optimism that Allen Craig could rejoin the club for the series. That doesn't appear likely now, however, so the Cardinals will move forward with a weak-hitting bench

Projected Starting Pitchers (IP/ERA/FIP)

Dodgers
RHP Zack Greinke (177.2/2.63/3.20)
LHP Clayton Kershaw (236.0/1.83/2.36)
LHP Hyun-jin Ryu (192.0/3.00/3.21)
RHP Ricky Nolasco (199.1/3.70/3.32)

The Dodgers' decision to use Clayton Kershaw in Game Four of the Divisional Series all but decided their Game One and Two probables for them. Greinke and Kershaw were always starting the first two games anyway. From there Ryu will make his second postseason appearance. Nolasco didn't pitch in the Divisional Series, and it'll be interesting to see how long his leash is in Game Four.

Cardinals
RHP Joe Kelly (124, 2.69, 3.98)
RHP Michael Wacha (64.2, 2.78, 2.90)
RHP Adam Wainwright (241.2, 2.94, 2.52)
RHP Lance Lynn (201.2, 3.97, 3.25)

It's Kelly, not Lynn, getting the Game One start. Wacha, arguably the breakout star from the Divisional Series for the Cardinals, receives the nod in Game Two. The short turnaround between series means Wainwright won't start until Game Three and is limited to two starts. Lynn, meanwhile, will try to make a good postseason start for the first time in his career. Another failure and the Cardinals might have to reconsider his position in the rotation should they advance.

Projected Bullpens (IP/ERA/FIP)

Dodgers
RHP Kenley Jansen (76.2/1.88/1.96)
LHP Paco Rodriguez (54.1/2.32/3.06)
RHP Brian Wilson (13.2/0.66/2.00)
RHP Ronald Belisario (68.0/3.97/3.61)
RHP Chris Withrow (34.2/2.60/3.54)
LHP J.P. Howell (62.0/2.03/2.86)
LHP Chris Capuano (105.2/4.26/3.52)

Howell and Rodriguez are lefties, but both were effective against righties this season, so Don Mattingly doesn't have to chase matchups this series.

Cardinals

RHP Trevor Rosenthal (75.1, 2.63, 1.88)
RHP John Axford (65, 4.02, 4.31)
RHP Edward Mujica (64.2, 2.78, 3.69)
RHP Seth Maness (62, 2.32, 3.41)
LHP Randy Choate (35.1, 2.29, 2.54)
LHP Kevin Siegrist (39.2, 0.45, 2.26)
RHP Carlos Martinez (28.1, 5.08, 3.06)
RHP Shelby Miller (173.1, 3.06, 3.64)

The Cardinals can throw power arm after power arm at teams in the late innings.

Defense
The Dodgers hold the edge over the Cardinals when it comes to defense. Los Angeles ranked ninth league-wide in defensive efficiency, including the second-highest rate of turning groundballs into outs. Of course the first ranking came without Skip Schumaker manning center field, so make of it what you will. The Cardinals, on the other hand, ranked 21st in defensive efficiency, though that rank was earned with Craig at first base most days.

Managers
Don Mattingly, whose job security appeared limited earlier in the season, is as old school as his nickname. Mattingly is likely to draw ire for his fondness toward the bunt and the intentional walk. Yet, even though he likes to interrupt the flow of play at times, he's not one to call for many stolen bases or hit-and-run attempts. Likewise, Mattingly seldom uses his bench to pinch-hit or pinch-run, and given his roster, it's not like he's forced to do so often.

Mike Matheny is fortunate: two seasons as manager, two postseason appearances. Matheny lets his team's talent do most of the work, and rarely calls for a hit-and-run, steal, or bunt attempt. Being a former catcher himself, he's not opposed to visiting the mound in spots usually reserved for pitching coaches. Likewise, Matheny lets his pitchers work deep into ballgames, as he finished third in 120-plus pitch appearances, behind Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia. Matheny has a talented roster, so letting that talent dictate the game isn't a bad idea.

Prediction
This is a tough one. It's as hard to go against the Dodgers rotation as it is to bet against the Cardinals. Either way, we're probably looking at an extended series.

PECOTA Says
PECOTA has the Dodgers as overwhelming favorites in this series. The algorithm could be underselling the Cardinals' rookies, so St. Louis fans needn't panic yet.

Advance Reports
Matt Carpenter
Adrian Gonzalez
Yasiel Puig

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

7 comments have been left for this article.

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