2014 National League Championship Series Preview

Well, it finally happened. Our national nightmare of a Cardinals/Giants NLCS is happening, much to the dismay of everyone outside of St. Louis and San Francisco. I think the boys at Cespedes Family BBQ summed up best with this.

So what makes the Cardinals so hate-able? Well aside from the fact that they find themselves in the postseason just about every year, and have been to the NLCS for 4 straight years, it’s mainly from their fans and their media considering themselves God’s gift to baseball. This article from SB Nation is pretty much all you need to see (LINK). As for the Giants? I love the city of San Francisco, but little things about the Giants seem to irritate me. Maybe it’s that they’ve also been very successful recently, winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012, despite each year having a team that makes you say, “yeah, they’re good, but how are they still winning?” That’s even more true this year, as they’re pitching isn’t as dominant as the 2010 and 2012 teams and they started a guy named Juan Perez in left field of Game 4 of the NLDS, someone I have never heard of before and I like to think I follow baseball pretty closely. I’d be lying as well if I didn’t add that I may be harboring some ill-feelings towards the Giants due to the fact they knocked the Phillies out of the playoffs in 2010. This whole intro is a little depressing, so let’s get to the preview.

Starting Pitching

Starters

EDGE: St. Louis. This could change if Adam Wainwright isn’t 100%, as is being reported that he may not be, however he will be starting Game 1. Even without a healthy Wainwright, I think I’d still give the Cardinals the edge. The Giants rotation pitched very well in the Wild Card game and the NLDS, but outside of Madison Bumgarner, they’re just not as good as the Cardinals rotation. Jake Peavy has certainly pitched well since arriving in San Francisco (not as much during his time in Boston), but outside of their NLDS starts, Hudson and Vogelsong weren’t pitching particularly well at the end of the season.

Bullpens

Top 3 relievers for each team (by fWAR).

Relievers

EDGE: St. Louis. This one looks to be pretty close, but the Cardinals once again come out slightly ahead. I don’t really have much to add on this section, so how about we just move on.

Offense

Offense

EDGE: St. Louis. That may be counterintuitive based on the statistics that are shown in the table above, but let me explain. Yes, the Cardinals did not have a good year offensively, but much of that can be attributed to a number of things. Yadier Molina missed 40 games due to injury, Jhonny Peralta had a terrible month of April, Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong got off to slow starts, and Peter Bourjos was the starting centerfielder for much of the first 3 months (he was replaced by Jon Jay, who had a 115 wRC+ compared to Bourjos’ wRC+ of 82). On the other hand, San Francisco is missing Angel Pagan and will likely only get pinch hit duties from Mike Morse. Their offense consists of basically Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, and Panda. That’s not bad, but I’ll still take the Cardinals.

Baserunning

Baserunning

EDGE: San Francisco. Neither team will really steal many bases, so we shouldn’t really expect anything special on the base paths.

Defense

Defense

EDGE: St. Louis. San Francisco will have a better defense if Morse is relegated to pinch hit duties during the series, but the Cardinals have a clear edge when it comes to defense.

Verdict

Despite St. Louis having the edge in every category but one, I think this series will be closer than it looks. Similar to the ALCS (although not as much of a stark difference), there is a managerial advantage for the San Francisco Giants, as Bruce Bochy is a better tactical in-game manager than his St. Louis counterpart, Mike Matheny. I don’t think this turns the tide of the series, but it could realistically cost the Cardinals one game, maybe two games. I’ve been burned by statements like this before (especially concerning the Giants), but I don’t think San Francisco matches up with the Cardinals in terms of talent, and that’s why I think St. Louis will be heading back to the World Series, after beating the Giants in 7 games.

*DEFINITIONS: FIPwRC+UBRwSBDRSUZR/150

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