Monday, October 04, 2004

Cardinals vs. Dodgers

I spent a little time sorting through some stats in order to get an idea of what we might expect to see in the NLDS. I know that we'll all read countless articles from various sources as to who has the best match-ups, which team has the advantage in the bullpen, etc. So, I decided to focus on numbers down the stretch rather than the entire season.

Note that I used sortable stats from ESPN, and they have a bit of a fluke - you can sort for September, but not October. So keep in mind as you look at these numbers that they don't include anything from the weekend. Most likely, though, stats from 3 games will not have a large impact on the September numbers.

Cardinals Offense

Here are the 3 hottest hitting regulars for the Cardinals in the month of September. (And you probably can guess who they'll be without even looking).

Albert Pujols - .344/.445/.633, 1079 OPS
Scott Rolen - .257/.435/.600, 1035 OPS
Jim Edmonds - .267/.400/.533, 933 OPS

Even with nothing to play for, a lot of time off, and Rolen getting time off to injury, the heart of the lineup enters post-season play hitting very well. When your 3-4-5 hitters all are posting OBP's at .400 or better, the team is going to score a lot of runs.

Now a look at the 3 coldest hitting regulars in September.

Edgar Renteria - .239/.277/.284, 561 OPS
Tony Womack - .297/.323/.330, 653 OPS
Mike Matheny - .254/.312/.408, 720 OPS

Here is something that I didn't expect - the coldest hitters actually give reason for optimism rather than pessimism. The only guy on this list that is of concern is Edgar Renteria. It would be nice to see him hitting a lot better than this. Hopefully, a start or two against lefty Perez will help get him on track. It would also be nice to see Tony Womack getting on base at a better clip, even though the .297 average is fully acceptable.

The interesting one on the list is Mike Matheny. While he has one of the bottom 3 OPS' in the month among Cardinal starters, his 720 OPS is the best month he's posted since April. If he can keep up an OPS around 700 in the playoffs, an already potent offense will be even better. And history actually suggests that this is possible. In 3 career playoff series, which is a span of 38 at-bats in 2001 and 2002, Mike has hit .316/.350/.474 - 824 OPS. In those 12 games he has 3 doubles and a home run. Let's hope he can keep that up!

The other thing that I stumbled across in looking at splits is something that I had overlooked. Most of us knew that the Cardinals record in September was misleading, as the regulars were getting rest. However, the side benefit of the regulars getting time off is that the bench players were getting playing time, which appears to have done them a lot of good.

Mabry .258/.310/.515, 825 OPS
Taguchi .293/.383/.415, 798 OPS
Luna .298/.365/.421, 786 OPS
Cedeno .292/.333/.438, 771 OPS
Molina .273/.304/.455, 759 OPS
Anderson .262/.262/.429, 690 OPS

That's an impressive set of statistics right there. To have a bench sporting 5 guys that posted 759 or better OPS' in September, including 2 guys with OBP's of .365 or better is likely to pay off in pinch-hitting situations in October.

Dodgers Offense

The Dodgers offense wasn't as impressive in September. First, their hottest regulars.

Adrian Beltre - .350/.432/.583, 1015 OPS
Shawn Green - .273/.374/.485, 859 OPS
Jayson Werth - .271/.358/.490, 847 OPS

Beltre was great, and Green and Werth were very good. But what you see is a pretty big difference between the big guns of the two teams. The coldest regular stat line shows more of the same.

Alex Cora - .208/.310/.333, 643 OPS
Steve Finley - .195/.278/.381, 658 OPS
Cesar Izturis - .264/.308/.380, 688 OPS

Basically, the in the month of September the Dodgers featured 4 outs in their lineup. Of course, Steve Finley proved on Saturday that just because someone has been cold, it doesn't mean they still aren't dangerous.

Cardinal Pitching

Rather than listing hot and cold, I'm simply going to list the OPS allowed for each player in September.

Cardinals

Kline - .000/.333/.000, 333 OPS (2 at-bats)
Calero - .139/.184/.250, 434 OPS
King - .167/.250/.250, 500 OPS
Izzy - .205/.262/.333, 595 OPS
Tavarez - .250/.351/.281, 633 OPS
Haren - .247/.284/.370, 654 OPS
Eldred - .333/.333/.405, 738 OPS

Morris - .225/.277/.422, 698 OPS
Marquis - .274/.319/.427, 746 OPS
Williams - .289/.341/.465, 806 OPS
Suppan - .296/.368/.496, 864 OPS

Dodgers

Gagne - .169/.246/.237, 484 OPS
Ishii - .174/.333/.290, 623 OPS
Alvarez - .216/.283/.353, 636 OPS
Sanchez - .250/.313/.339, 652 OPS
Venafro - .286/.333/.333, 667 OPS
Carrarra - .274/.338/.419, 757 OPS
Brazoban - .267/.370/.417, 787 OPS

Perez - .244/.287/.435, 722 OPS
Lima - .283/.307/.483, 790 OPS
Weaver - .325/.370/.585, 955 OPS

The Cardinal bullpen has been more dominant down the stretch, but not by a large margin. Calero has actually been tougher on hitters than Gagne, while King and Izzy would be the 2nd best option out of the pen in LA. Of course, the Dodger pen is still solid, assuming Ishii is effective in a relief role. 5 bullpen pitchers that can be counted on should be plenty to get the job done.

Rotation wise, none of the Cardinal starters have been very good in September - except for Matt Morris? Talk about a fluke of small sample size. According to OPS allowed, Morris was the most dominant starter for either team down the stretch. Jeff Weaver was knocked around a lot in September, to the tune of a .325 average allowed. If this series does in fact go 5 games, the advantage would have to be heavily in the favor of St. Louis getting to Weaver on short rest.

If we look at the pitching match-ups and OPS allowed in September, we see this:

Game 1 - Perez (722) vs Williams (806)
Game 2 - Weaver (955) vs Marquis (698)
Game 3 - Lima (790) vs Morris (698)

The Cardinals appear to have the advantage in Games 2 and 3, with the Dodgers having the edge in Game 1.

Overall

Finally, look at the overall offense and pitching numbers for September for each team.

Offense

Cardinals - .269/.339/.434, 773 OPS
Dodgers - .246/.321/.405, 726 OPS

Pitching

Cardinals - .259/.312/.401, 713 OPS
Dodgers - .272/.340/.449, 790 OPS

The Cardinals had 47 more points of OPS on the month, and allowed 77 points less. The other great thing about the Cardinals offensive numbers is that they posted a 773 OPS, even though (as far as I can tell) they only had their regular lineup together for 1 game the entire month. Looking at those numbers, it's hard to imagine that the Dodgers were only one game worse than the Cardinals in September (St. Louis went 16-12, Los Angeles 15-13).

Conclusion

These teams enter the post-season in a very similar fashion. Neither had a great finish, although the Cardinals had more of an excuse. Both teams have great defenses, great bullpens, and average rotations. Both teams also are missing a great starting pitcher to a nerve injury in their throwing arms.

The difference, in my opinion, is the offense. Adrian Beltre is a stud, no doubt about it. However, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds are all (as far as I'm concerned) just as good or better than Beltre. While the Cardinals can pick and choose how to deal with Beltre, the Dodgers not only have to pitch to the three headed monster, but they also have to deal with Larry Walker, Reggie Sanders, and the rest of the Cardinal offense.

This appears to be a good match-up for the Cardinals. If you want me to wrap this up with a prediction, here it is - Cardinals in 4.

1 Comments:

At 5:15 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Good to see Marlon Anderson had a decent month, since you KNOW Tony is going to give him a key pinch hitting appearance.

 

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