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October 18, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

NLCS Game Six Preview: Dodgers at Cardinals

by Ben Carsley

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Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) vs. Cardinals (Michael Wacha) – 8:30 PM EST

PECOTA Odds of Winning: Dodgers 53.6%, Cardinals 46.4%

Dodgers vs. Wacha (R)

Cardinals vs. Kershaw (L)

Carl Crawford, LF (L)

Matt Carpenter, 2B (L)

Mark Ellis, 2B (R)

Carlos Beltran, RF (S)

Hanley Ramirez, SS (R)

Matt Holiday, LF (R)

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (L)

Yadier Molina, C (R)

Andre Ethier, CF (L)

David Freese, 3B (R)

Yasiel Puig, RF (R)

Matt Adams, 1B (L)

Juan Uribe, 3B (R)

Jon Jay, CF (L)

A.J. Ellis, C (L)

Pete Kozma, SS (R)

Clayton Kershaw, P (L)

Michael Wacha, P (R)

With their proverbial backs against a proverbial wall in Game Five of the NLCS, the fun-loving, ever-exciting Dodgers fought back against the stodgy, holier-than-thou Cardinals to force a Game Six.

Or is it that the Cardinals, the paragon of all that is just and sportsmanlike, allowed the very essence of America’s moral decline, the Dodgers, to extend the series?

No matter which side of the aisle you stand on, let’s not lose track of the most important development of the NLCS to this point: this series has been a ton of fun to watch.

That figures to continue tonight, when the Cardinals will attempt to take down the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw with one of the game’s more promising young arms in Michael Wacha.

The last time Kershaw and Wacha went head-to-head, St. Louis’ rookie lived up to the daunting task of outpitching the Dodgers ace. Wacha allowed no runs on five hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings en route to a 1-0 Cardinals victory. Brooks Baseball tells us that Wacha’s terrific changeup was especially effective, as Dodgers hitters swung and missed at nearly a third of his off-speed offerings.

Puig and Uribe had particularly tough nights in Game Two, combining to go 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts, while Schumaker and Gonzalez were also both held hitless. However, the Dodgers were without two of their better hitters in that game in Ramirez and Ethier, both of whom figure to start tonight. Despite the rib fracture he suffered in Game One of this series, Ramirez has been one of October’s better hitters, putting up a .357/.471/.679 line in 34 PA. Neither player has ever faced Wacha in his career, which makes sense given that Wacha has just 64.2 innings of regular-season pitching to his name.

As good as Wacha has been to this point in his career, and especially in the postseason, there’s a reason PECOTA picks the Dodgers to win this game: Clayton Kershaw.

We’re all aware of what Kershaw can do at this point. In the postseason, he’s picked up where he left off at the end of September, allowing one earned run and fanning 23 batters in 19 innings.

None of the Cardinals had more than one hit against Kershaw in his Game Two start, which meshes with how St. Louis’ starters have faired against Kershaw all time: only Holliday and Kozma have been remotely successful in facing the southpaw.

Similarly to Wacha, Kershaw got his best results in Game Two relying on his off-speed pitches. Brooks tells us that hitters swung and missed at about a quarter of his curveballs and sliders. (And if you want to see the definition of a consistent release point, look at Kershaw’s results from that game.)

While the Cardinals and Dodgers had the second- and fourth-best OPS’s by NL teams this season, the two starting pitchers are quite capable of making this a low-scoring game. And thanks to the day off and relatively light usage in Game Five, both teams should have their bullpens fully stocked heading into Game Six.

My prediction: PECOTA probably doesn’t give quite enough credit to the rookie Wacha here, but it remains, as always, very difficult to bet against Kershaw. I like the Dodgers to take this one in St. Louis and force an incredibly entertaining NLCS to a Game Seven.

That’s something that everyone, save for Cardinals fans, should be happy to hear.

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

14 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

BrianGunn
(439)

How did this narrative arise that the Dodgers are fun and loose and flashy and the Cardinals are stodgy, button-down, and moralizing? There was one extremely mild comment by Carlos Beltran about Yasiel Puig, and that's it (the beef btw Wainwright and Gonzalez had nothing to do with celebrating). But in poking fun at this drummed-up media narrative, respectable guys like Ben Carsley, Ben Lindbergh, and Jonah Keri are perpetuating it. It's all very weird.

Oct 18, 2013 09:09 AM
rating: 3
 
Auggie6

Yeah, Ben Carsley really seems to prefer the Dodgers. Which is fine, But I would expect a BP author to be unbiased, this is something I would read from a beat writer. Although it seemed like a quality analysis of game six, stating your opinion that the Dodgers are fun-loving and ever-exciting and the Cardinals are stodgy and holier-than-thou unfortunately, doesn't lead me to think that this was a quality preview from an unbiased observer. It simply turns the focus of the series to a narrative about the character of the teams, kinda like a beat writer would do.

Oct 18, 2013 13:13 PM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Ben was being sarcastic, as the line immediately after that makes clear.

Oct 18, 2013 14:27 PM
 
Auggie6

It just didn't register I guess, crappy reading comprehension on my part. It seems like this narrative is all were reading or hearing about with this series, BP is usually the place to get away from it. Apologies to Ben.

Oct 18, 2013 14:59 PM
rating: -1
 
BrianGunn
(439)

Ben is clearly using sarcastic language when he refers to the "ever-exciting" Dodgers and the "holier-than-thou" Cardinals, but I took it to mean that he was signing off on that same dichotomy, just talking about it in an exaggerated way. After all, talking about the Cardinals as the paragon of all that is sportsmanlike, defenders against moral decline, is the very language critics are using to trash the Cardinals. So maybe I'm missing something too, but I still find it very fuzzily worded.

Oct 18, 2013 15:26 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

You're missing the next sentence, I think. Ben is mocking the idea of ascribing morality to baseball teams.

Oct 18, 2013 15:38 PM
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I will have to take your word for it (b/c it reads as if supporters of that dopey "Cardinals Way" are the ones ascribing morality, and as such Ben is taking sides against it). But again, if he meant otherwise I'm fine with that.

Oct 18, 2013 16:13 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I mean, he says the opposite thing in the next sentence, so I don't see why you would think he's taking either stance. Ben can answer for himself if he sees this, but it didn't cross my mind that he might be endorsing either position. I think we're all more interested in the baseball than we are the narratives about the baseball.

Oct 18, 2013 16:31 PM
 
tmangell

Sorry, Ben, but I agree with buck gunn; Ben C's references to the Cards are critical in both paragraphs. I'm subjective in this regard, granted, since I'm a Cardinals fan, but I thought those paragraphs were one-sided and didn't catch the ribbing of the Dodgers. I missed when the Cards added Brian McCann to the post-season roster.

Oct 18, 2013 17:22 PM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

Apologies for the confusion this has caused, but Ben L. has it right. This was indeed supposed to be laden with sarcasm, and I don't see how calling the Dodgers "the essence of America's moral decline" can be taken as an anti-Cardinals statement. I have no rooting interest in this series or in the "controversy" that surrounds it.

Oct 18, 2013 17:38 PM
 
Dodger300

Sheesh! So defensive. Don't take everything so seriously.

Thank you for providing Exhibit A as to why some Cardinals fans deserve serious mocking....

Oct 18, 2013 18:42 PM
rating: -1
 
Dodger300

Auggie? Auggie? Is that you, Auggie Busch?

Oct 18, 2013 18:43 PM
rating: -1
 
wfarmer

I'm a big Cards fan but it's hard to argue with PECOTA here. It should be a very good game.

Small edit to make: ...."holier-than-thou Cardinals to force a Game Five" should be "Game Six".

Oct 18, 2013 11:09 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Fixed.

Oct 18, 2013 14:26 PM
 
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