Dodgers vs. Cardinals, 2013 NLCS breakdown: No narrative, just baseball

DodgersCardinals

The Dodgers are set to play the Cardinals in the 2013 NLCS, which is interesting because it’s not interesting. In other words, the media hasn’t really figured out a narrative here. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports gave it a go, but it was sort of a half-hearted rich/poor thing.

So maybe, just MAYBE, the baseball can speak for itself? Here’s hoping, but I doubt it. Something about Adam Wainwright teaching Yasiel Puig how to be a better man or whatever.

Anyway, I already put my roster predictions in for the Dodgers, and like I did with the 2013 NLDS against the Braves, here’s my position-by-position breakdown of a series that has the potential to be great.

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Notes

wRC+ is a player’s offensive production. The moar over 100 the player is, the moar gooder they are.
BR is BRR/BsR averaged. BR/150 means it’s per 150 games.
D is UZR/DRS/FRAA averaged. D/150 means it’s per 150 games.
ERA-/FIP- mean the moar under 100 the player is the better.

Positionnal adjustment, replacement level, and WAR don’t matter for these matchups. I wanted everything context neutral and judged on the same playing field, hence this methodology.

In other words, why penalize current starters for being part-time players during the regular season if they’re full-time players now?

Is this perfect? Absolutely not, but I think it provides a starting point for discussion.

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Catcher

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Yadier Molina is worse on the bases than A.J. Ellis, but he hits like 40% better. Catcher defense on that chart should be thrown out, since it’s the most difficult thing for sabermetrics to gauge. Still though, Molina dominates in that category and his impact is arguably even greater than what that comparison shows.

A.J. had a great NLDS, but really, this isn’t even close.

Advantage: @BestFansStLouis by a metric ton.

First Base

2013NLCSBreakdown2

They’re both slow as hell, but Matt Adams lacks Adrian Gonzalez‘s reactions and hands, so A-Gon grades out as a superior defender. Adams can smash the ball a bit better than A-Gon, but he’s done it over a far smaller sample size. Furthermore, Adams has a brutal platoon split, one that A-Gon doesn’t have.

I’ll take A-Gon’s track record, defense, and lack of need for a platoon partner.

Advantage: #Didgers, but it’s closer than most would think.

Second Base

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Mark Ellis is a better defender, but Matt Carpenter will be on the NL MVP ballot for his combination of hitting and baserunning that’s complimented by a solid glove.

Easy one.

Advantage: @BestFansStLouis by an ocean distance.

Third Base

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Juan Uribe is a better all-around player at the moment, mainly due to David Freese‘s year-long slump. Freese’s defense was never good, but he usually hits better than he has in 2013, which would make this closer.

Unfortunately for him, Uribe is in the middle of a Gold Glove caliber defensive campaign, is solidly above-average with the bat, and even runs the bases better. Freese would have the whole intangibles/clutch thing going for him if it wasn’t for the fact that Uribe has two World Series rings and just hit the most memorable Dodger homer in recent history.

Advantage: #Didgers by more than their reputations would imply.

Shortstop

2013NLCSBreakdown5

Pete Kozma is great defensively, but Hanley Ramirez is just carrying this Dodgers team and has been all year while healthy. Andrelton Simmons is a better defender and a better hitter than Kozma, and Hanley still got the nod over him last series, so this is Hanley in a runaway.

Advantage: #Didgers because Hanley rules.

Left Field

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Carl Crawford hit three homers in a four-game span, which was great, but we also have to remember why that was so great. The primary reason being that he had hit one homer since May 7, and there’s probably no way he does that again at any point in his career. Even if you give him a bit of a boost, Matt Holliday has been one of the more consistently excellent hitters of the last decade, and nobody seems to care.

He is, of course, terrible defensively:

MattHollidayLinerDick

But I’ll still take his bat any day.

Advantage: @BestFansStLouis by a nutshot.

Center Field

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Andre Ethier is the easy choice here over Jon Jay because he hits better and they’re both mediocre defensively … oh wait, Ethier’s not 100%.

Jay has struggled a bit with the bat and glove in 2013, but Ethier’s not fully healthy and was already mediocre in center. Also, I have to wonder how the long layoff will affect his bat.

Advantage: Push because Ethier might be a gimp, though Jay is basically fringe-average.

Right Field

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Yasiel Puig vs. Carlos Beltran is a great matchup because it’s easy to choose Puig when looking at the regular season comparison but Beltran is one of the greatest postseason hitters of all-time.

Puig proved his worth in the NLDS already. He basically made one blunder, which cost the Dodgers a single base, but he posted an OPS above 1.000 and was otherwise solid defensively and on the basepaths. Like everybody has said about the concerns regarding Puig, the bottom line is that he provides more value than he costs in the big picture.

So that’s good for Puig and all, but Beltran is not human. His postseason line is .345/.453/.761/1.214, and while I realize that might be statistical noise, I just can’t overlook how horrifying it is to face him at this point in the season. I tell myself that it’s irrational and he’s bound to regress to the mean at some point, especially given his age … and then boom, he hits a homer. It’s ridiculous at this point.

Advantage: Push because I love Puig and objectively he should be the better player, but Beltran is some kind of playoff robot that needs to go away.

Rotation

2013NLCSBreakdown9

This is similar to the matchup with the Braves, where the Dodgers have the better rotation, but the difference isn’t as significant as it would seem on paper. Also, unlike the Braves, the Cardinals have an ace in Adam Wainwright that matches Clayton Kershaw in terms of providing a clear advantage over his opposing pitcher (Hyun Jin Ryu/Michael Wacha). I would take Zack Greinke over Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly, though, and Ricky Nolasco is basically a push going against either of those two for me.

Here’s the decider for me, though: the Dodgers rank 15th in the majors against lefties via wOBA and 11th against righties, putting them in the middle of the pack, regardless. But the Cardinals are 25th against lefties and 3rd against righties, and fortunately for the Dodgers, they have two quality lefties in their rotation.

Advantage: #Didgers win barely on matchups but a wider gap emerges when factoring in lineups and handedness.

Bench

The Dodgers have a prototypical utility man in Nick Punto, who can hit a bit but really stars on defense and as a potential replacement should anything happen to a starter. Michael Young and Skip Schumaker will likely handle pinch-hitting duties, hopefully in platoon roles, as both are actually solid singles hitters against the opposite handedness. As always, neither should see the field if at all possible. Scott Van Slyke has pop off the bench, though he went inexplicably unused in the NLDS. Tim Federowicz is a defense-first backup catcher. If Dee Gordon makes the team, then he’s basically the designated pinch runner.

The Cardinals will likely go with Kolten Wong, Daniel Descalso, Shane Robinson, Tony Cruz, and Adron Chambers. That is … not a good bench. Out of those five players, only Robinson has a wOBA over .300, and even that’s only at .303. Also, as far as I can tell, none are particularly good at defense nor are they experienced.

Advantage: #Didgers in a landslide.

Bullpen

The Dodgers’ pen is rock solid in theory. Kenley Jansen is an elite closer. Brian Wilson has been almost flawless since being signed. J.P. Howell has regained his old form as a shutdown lefty. Rookie Chris Withrow has emerged as a reliable late option as a power arm. Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisario both had good years. Of course, the issue is that both Paco and Beli have collapsed down the stretch, and since Withrow can still be prone to doubts of command issues, it essentially leaves Mattingly with Howell as his third-best option. Chris Capuano looking solid in the NLDS is promising, but he’s still a wild card, and the same goes for the potential addition of Edinson Volquez or Carlos Marmol.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, have so much young pitching talent that they put Shelby Miller (temporarily?) in the pen. He makes the unit that posted a 3.26 FIP in 2013 even better. Miller joins the likes of Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Edward Mujica, John Axford, and Seth Maness from the right. And Kevin Siegrist and Randy Choate will come from the left.

Advantage: @BestFansStLouis by quite a bit. Their young power arms shine, while two of the Dodgers’ best relievers are limping into the NLCS.

Overall

The Dodgers are the more talented team on paper and have an advantage in a lot of the key matchups, but it’s not by all that much. A lot of how this series will go is going to depend on how the Cardinals choose their rotation (Miller?) and how they handle the two lefties in Kershaw and Ryu.

Not only do the Cardinals have to beat Greinke and Kershaw at least once, but if the series goes seven games, they could see the lefties four times as well. I would pick the Cardinals if it wasn’t for the platoon splits, but in a lot of ways this is a bad matchup for them. In the end, I see that being the difference and I’m picking the Dodgers in seven.

About Chad Moriyama

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