While the ALCS emanates a fresh vibe, the NLCS features two familiar, borderline-stale opponents. Either the Cardinals or Giants has appeared in each of the past four World Series, a streak that will extend to five regardless of the victor. These powerhouses have so ruled the postseason that they've combined to go 15-1 in postseason series against other teams, according to Tom Verducci. (That one? Last year's World Series.) With two World Series appearances apiece, which team will break the tie and earn their third crack at the championship in five years? Let's find out.


CF-L Gregor Blanco (.260/.333/.374/.272, 2.2)
2B-L Joe Panik (.305/.343/.368//259, 0.5)
C-R Buster Posey (.311/.364/.490/.316, 5.9)
3B-S Pablo Sandoval (.279/.324/.415/.284, 3.1)
RF-R Hunter Pence (.277/.332/.445/.289, 3.9)
1B-L Brandon Belt (.243/.306/.449/.278, 1.6)
SS-L Brandon Crawford (.246/.324/.389/.269, 3.9)
LF-L Travis Ishikawa (.274/.333/.397/.273, 0.4)

Comparatively, the Giants have the better offense. San Francisco scored 46 more runs and owned an eight-point advantage in True Average over St. Louis during the regular season. That advantage holds true even when it came to hitting with men on base, an area where the Cardinals excelled last year. Not so in '14, as St. Louis finished near the bottom of the league; the Giants, meanwhile, were a middle-of-the-pack team. Worth noting: The Giants could improve their offense by replacing Ishikawa with Michael Morse, though his rust could leave him in a lesser role for the time being.

3B-L Matt Carpenter (.272/.375/.375/.289, 3.8)
CF-L Jon Jay (.303/.372/.378/.279, 1.5)
LF-R Matt Holliday (.272/.370/.441/.293, 2.9)
1B-L Matt Adams (.288/.321/.457/.282, 1.3)
SS-R Jhonny Peralta (.262/.336/.443/.286, 4.5)
C-R Yadier Molina (.282/.333/.386/.258, 1.9)
RF-R Randal Grichuk (.245/.278/.400/.245, 0.1)
2B-L Kolten Wong (.249/.292/.388/.242, 0.6)

Everyone mocks the Royals for their no-pop ways, yet the Cardinals were right there with them and the Padres in ISO. Not good. Further complicating offensive matters is how St. Louis finished as a well-below-average baserunning team (though San Francisco owns no great advantage there). If the Cardinals can brag about something, it's a higher on-base percentage than the Giants despite a lower batting average. The key? A majors-leading 86 hit batsmen, including Jay and Holliday, each of whom was struck by more than 15 pitches during the season.

Neither team is a threat to steal bases.


OF-R Michael Morse (.279/.336/.475/.296, 1.90)
C-R Andrew Susac (.273/.326/.466/.291, 0.79)
OF-R Juan Perez (.170/.224/.270/.186, -0.51)
IF-R Joaquin Arias (.254/.281/.301/.217, 0.07)
OF-R Gary Brown (.429/.429/.429/.325, 0.14)

Morse is the big X factor here, as he returns from tightness in his side. If he's right, he gives Bruce Bochy a fearsome pinch-hitting option. On the opposite side of the spectrum sits Perez, otherwise known as the guy who'll check in to left field late in games for defensive purposes. Brown could be left off the roster for another pinch-hitter type, in Matt Duffy. Beyond that, the rest of the bench will go mostly unused, with Arias and Susac around just in case of emergency.

INF-R Pete Kozma (.304/.385/.435/.298, 0.3)
INF-L Daniel Descalso (.242/.333/.311/.245, 0.1)
OF-L Oscar Taveras (.239/.278/.312/.218, -1.2)
OF-R Peter Bourjos (.231/.294/.348/.243, 1.2)
C-R Tony Cruz (.200/.270/.259/.191, -0.7)

Kozma started against Clayton Kershaw once and came off the bench the second time, so he may or may not get the nod at second base against Madison Bumgarner. Taveras received a plate appearance in each of the Dodgers games as a pinch-hitter, he figures to reprise that role here. Bourjos is similar to Perez, in that he could average fewer than a plate appearance per game played. The other two won't play. Descalso received one plate appearance in the previous series; Cruz has one plate appearance in his postseason career—that came in 2012.

Starting Pitchers (IP, ERA, FIP)

LHP Madison Bumgarner (217.1, 2.98, 3.02)
RHP Jake Peavy (78.2, 2.17, 3.03)
RHP Tim Hudson (189.1, 3.57, 3.51)
RHP Ryan Vogelsong (184.2, 4.00, 3.82)

If Bumgarner isn't the most decorated young postseason pitcher going, then he's at least in the discussion. The kicker? He remains the youngest pitcher on San Francisco's postseason roster. After the young Bumgarner, the Giants will turn to a trio of graybeards: 33-year-old Peavy, 39-year-old Hudson, and 37-year-old Vogelsong. Each except for Hudson has been this deep in the postseason before, so he's your guy if you're looking for a ring-free veteran to cheer on.

RHP Adam Wainwright (227, 2.38, 2.85)
RHP Lance Lynn (203, 2.74, 3.32)
RHP John Lackey (60.2, 4.30, 4.24)
RHP Shelby Miller (183, 3.74, 4.51)

Wainwright's status for LDS Game Five was questionable due to off and on arm woes. He remains in line for the Game One start nonetheless, but would likely be replaced by Lynn if he can't go. Either way, Lackey and Miller bring up the tail end. Lackey wasn't as good with the Cardinals during the regular season as they might've hoped, yet he turned in a quality outing against the Dodgers. Miller, on the other hand, made his first postseason start against L.A. and was lifted before the sixth.

Bullpen (IP, ERA, FIP)

RHP Santiago Casilla (58.3, 1.70, 3.15)
RHP Sergio Romo (58.0, 3.72, 4.50)
RHP Hunter Strickland (7.0 0.00, 0.53)
RHP Jean Machi (66.3, 2.58, 3.40)
LHP Jeremy Affeldt (55.3, 2.28. 2.83)
LHP Javier Lopez (37.7, 3.11, 4.30)
RHP Yusmerio Petit (117.0, 3.69, 2.65)
RHP Tim Lincecum (155.7, 4.74, 5.09)

Over the last few years Casilla and Romo have traded the ninth inning back and forth. Both are a little better against righties than lefties, but they get the job done. When not giving up home runs to Bryce Harper, Strickland is a power arm who could finish the month with more innings thrown in the postseason than the regular season. Machi will face mostly righties, Lopez mostly lefties. Petit gives the Giants length if necessary. Lincecum hasn't pitched this postseason. If he does appear, the game will be either deep into extras or in boat race territory.

RHP Trevor Rosenthal (70.1, 3.20, 2.96)
RHP Seth Maness (80.1, 2.91, 3.35)
RHP Pat Neshek (67.1, 1.87, 2.35)
RHP Carlos Martinez (89.1, 4.03, 3.15)
LHP Randy Choate (36, 4.50, 3.55)
RHP Michael Wacha (107, 3.20, 3.14)
LHP Sam Freeman (38, 2.61, 3.76)
LHP Marco Gonzales (34.2, 4.15, 4.72)

Rosenthal is the nastiest reliever in the series, though Martinez probably gives him his toughest in-house competition. A southpaw with typical splits, Choate yielded a homer to the only batter he faced during the Dodgers series. A southpaw with reverse splits, Freeman walked the only two batters he face during the Dodgers series. Wacha hasn't appeared yet, but gives Mike Matheny a wild card to play as he wishes. Another starter in the bullpen, Gonzales, was used, albeit as a B-unit middle reliever.

Two good, evenly matched defenses. The Giants finished the regular season with a .718 defensive efficiency and 1.57 PADE, as compared to the Cardinals' .714 and 1.55 marks. Each club features a strong defensive catcher, but there are some differences here. The Giants finished as the second-best team in the majors at turning groundballs into outs; whereas the Cardinals finished second-best in turning fly balls into outs. Both were quality at catching line drives.

From the Wild Card preview: “Two World Series titles for Bruce Bochy has something to do with that, but there’s more to Bochy’s reputation than his shiny rings. Bochy seems to maximize the contributions from his veterans and does an excellent job juggling his lineup when it is called for. Bochy is hardly a number cruncher, but he also avoids the tendency to over manage in key situations. He seems to have found that impossible balance between pulling the plug on a player too soon and waiting too long for a player to fail. The Romo/Casilla closer decision is a prime example of this, but Bochy’s roster management in general is a definite strength.”

From the Divisional Series preview (though still applicable): "Matheny will make his money this series in his bullpen usage. There are few enough decisions of consequence to be made with the lineup, that any of these will mostly be narrative rather than real advantages gained or lost, and while pinch-running may play a role, this is a team horribly built for small-ball."

The closest baseball can get to a "Freddy Versus Jason" series pits the Cardinals and their magical ways against the Giants, who seem incapable of losing an elimination game. We'll take the Giants in six, based on the strength of their lineup and Wainwright's uncertain status. Here's hoping the series is better than the movie was.

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Here's a statistic that I can't figure out the best place for, so this article seems as good as any. In what amounts to ten post-season games the Giants have played since the start of the 2014 World Series, they only have allowed six runs scored against them on balls that stayed inside the yard. That is, counting the 18-inning game last week as 2 games – – but no other extra-inning games as anything more than one game – – the Giants allowed a total of 15 runs in those ten games. Men scored on balls in play only six times, two of which actually came when Bumgarner threw the ball away on a sacrifice bunt. Otherwise, the other nine runs came on home runs. I'm not sure what this says, but my guess would be that it means things like the Giants have had great bullpens, great defense, didn't need to score like mad, have great starting pitching in the postseason. In fact, the Giants only gave up one run in the last 3 Cardinals games in the 2012 NLCS that got SF to the World Series that year. Perhaps the Dave Righetti made some deal with the devil the night the Cards scored 8 on October 18, 2012 - - though the Giants only gave up two in-play runs the two games before that. John
This article from shows how similar they are: CATEGORY StL SF Stolen Bases 15 14 Home Runs 15 7 K’s by batter (fewest) 1 5 Late & Close Batting AVG 5 1 Opposite Field BA (righties) 5 2 Opposite Field BA (lefties) 7 3 Defensive Efficiency 3 2 BA Allowed on BIP 4 1 Bullpen Losses (fewest) 4 1 In an era of record strikeouts, depleted power and sophisticated defensive shifts, both teams use hitters who put the ball in play and use the whole field. On defense, they combine rangy, athletic defenders who bring out the best in their pitching staff. And their managers are former catchers who are among the very best at bullpen deployment — the biggest separator of in-game managing skills in baseball.
Sorry about the formatting - table didn't paste in.
No question in my mind. Cards win 4-1. Their offense is on fire. Their offense is much better now than it was during the season. It will almost be too easy.
Offense is extremely unreliable, particularly in the post season. That the Cardinal offense has been outperforming its regular season suggests that regression to the mean is more likely than not. The team has not changed.
All things are particularly unreliable in the postseason, even regression.
Totally agree - they will (should) regress - but I think I would mitigate that a tiny bit b/c the Cards arguably underperformed offensively during the regular season (cumulatively far below Pecota percentiles).
The team has changed. Jon Jay is now the everyday center fielder. Grichuk is the everyday right fielder. Kolten Wong is the everyday 2nd baseman. The lineup has stability. That's why the offense is clicking. It's over for the Giants. Minus Bumgarner the Giants pitching staff has been exposed.
John Jay started in center for the majority of the season and put up 468 plate appearances, so he is not exactly a new find. Ditto Kolton Wong, who posted 433 PA while playing nowhere else but second base. While those two already played two-thirds of the season for the Cards, I'll grant you that Randal Grichuk is a recent addition. It had not struck me how incredibly stabilizing Grichuk's post-season OBP of .208 and SLG of .304 have been for the Cardinals lineup through game two, until you were kind enough to focus our thoughts on him. Thank you for that insight. Now I understand why you are convinced that "It will almost be to easy."
The good news is now that the Cards, with their "on fire offense," has a shutout loss in game one out of the way, all they have to do is win the next four straight to turn you into a major prophet. It will almost be too easy.
You nailed it, 4-1. It was almost too easy. Sorry, though, wrong team. The reason there was no question in your mind the Cardinals would win is because your mind was never open. It was closed by your own cocky arrogance. The Cardinals have been a model franchise with great success, especially recently. Too bad you couldn't accept that good fortune with a modicum of humility, let alone enough sense of security to acknowledge that the Giants were a worthy opponent. When the series started I was ambivalent about which team to root for until I read your comment. I immediately backed the Giants hoping they would teach you a lesson. I wonder if you can even recognize that your comments provide a textbook example of the attitude of many Cardinals fans that other baseball fans resent. Regardless of the outcome of this series, the Cardinals remain a credit to the game and have many first class fans. However, in that you have chosen to unleash your support in such an obnoxious manner, it is a real pleasure to grind your nose into the words that you wrote! In fact, it is almost too easy.
I love Freddy vs. Jason.
Tim Hudson has to promise not to start any more 18-inning games.
Are you kidding? 3 or 4 extra inning games would be great and one went 18, all the better.