2014 National League Division Series Preview: St. Louis vs. Los Angeles

The other National League Division Series has the St. Louis Cardinals facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. If I’m going to be honest here, these are my least two favorite teams in the playoffs, so the good news is that one of them will be eliminated right away. To the preview!

Starting Pitching

Ohhhhhhhh, Game 1 is gonna be good!

Starters

EDGE: Los Angeles. The Cardinals have some good pitchers, but the Dodgers have a starting rotation that is up there with the best (Washington and Detroit). Dan Haren may be a bit of a drop off from the 3 pitchers in front of him (it hasn’t been announced if he’ll even start a game), but the Dodgers still have a better pitcher in each slot from the top to the bottom.

Bullpens

Top 3 relievers for each team (by fWAR).

Relievers

EDGE: St. Louis. Outside of Kenley Jansen (who is REALLY good), the Dodgers bullpen isn’t all that good, like at all. Howell and League have performed better than there peripherals, and they walk batters just a little more than you’d like them too. Additionally, as a unit, the Dodgers bullpen was tied with the Tigers in fWAR, placing them 26th in all of baseball. The St. Louis bullpen isn’t great either (where did this season from Pat Neshek come from?!?!?!), but they’re a much better unit than the Dodgers.

Offense

Offense

EDGE: Los Angeles. The Dodgers are clearly the better offensive team, and they tied the Angels for the best wRC+ in the majors this year. The extended loss of Yadier Molina, along with slow starts from Peter Bourjos and Kolten Wong hurt the Cardinals offense, so I wouldn’t be surprised if their offense performs better than their full season statistics show. Still, it will be a difficult task against the Dodgers starting pitchers.

Baserunning

Baserunning

EDGE: Los Angeles. Neither team is all that great at baserunning, although the Dodgers are a better than average team when it comes to stealing bases. However, that’s not team wide like the Royals, that’s mostly the result of Dee Gordon and (to a lesser extent) Carl Crawford. No one else on the Dodgers roster has a wSB higher than 0.4.

Defense

Defense

EDGE: St. Louis. The Cardinals are clearly the better defensive team, but the Dodgers are better than average (their DRS is 9th best in baseball), so other than the occasional Hanley Ramirez misplay, I don’t think defense will play much of a negative role in this series.

Verdict

Overall, I think the Dodgers will win this series. They have clear (and sizeable) advantages with their starting pitching and their offense, and don’t trail much on the defensive side. They do have a weak bullpen, but their starters (especially Kershaw and Greinke) can go deep enough into games on a regular basis that the Dodgers would be able to go straight to Jansen or not even need the bullpen at all. In my Playoff Predictions, I picked the Dodgers to sweep the Cardinals. That may have been a little aggressive, but I think they still win the series.

*DEFINITIONS: FIP, wRC+, UBR, wSB, DRS, UZR/150

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