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NLCS Preview

San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals

We’ve seen this before. Comfortably coasting to their fourth-straight National League Championship Series with the crisis in Ferguson as a backdrop, the St. Louis Cardinals have all but donned an invisibility cloak on their way to victory. Similarly, the San Francisco Giants make what looks to be now an every-other-year thing in an equally inconspicuous way. These teams shouldn’t be here. Not against the Dodgers and Nationals. Not against MVP/Cy Young/Greatest Pitching Season Of All Time Clayton Kershaw. Not against the utter completeness that is (was) Washington. But here we are. So it (the preview) goes.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching staff is the ideal representation of the unideal state of baseball. Unlike Ben McGrath’s mock scenario in which you wouldn’t recognize Mike Trout even if he walked past, I’d be willing to bet my college tuition that the lay sports fan, nay, the self-proclaimed lay baseball fan, would falter at even naming their projected starting lineup in the NLCS. Seriously, somebody please take me up on this offer.

After a record-setting 2013 season where the Cards pitching staff threw franchise highs in strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings pitched, and fielding percentage, they merely responded with minutely fewer strikeouts, Ks-per-9, and fielding percentage, all the while giving up fewer hits than the year prior, throwing eight more team shutouts, and having a lower WHIP. The Cards are deserving of all the praise heaped upon them, but numbers don’t lie, and the San Francisco Giants match them stat-for-stat, making this pitching match-up a near wash.

From here, it’s imperative to evaluate the position players.

Catchers:

Photo via prosportsextra.com
Photo via prosportsextra.com

Buster Posey (SF) vs. Yadier Molina (STL)

Advantage: San Francisco; Posey’s good enough to out-perform the Molina clan simultaneously.

1B:

Brandon Belt (SF) vs. Matt Adams (STL)
Advantage: St. Louis; This.

2B:

Joe Panik (SF) vs. Kolten Wong (STL)
Advantage: San Francisco; Don’t panic, Giants fans, Wong is statistically the Cards’ worst player.

3B:

Pablo Sandoval (SF) vs. Matt Carpenter (STL)
Advantage: San Francisco; KUNG FU PANDA

LF:

Travis Ishikawa (SF) vs. Matt Holliday (STL)
Advantage: St. Louis; The Cards can’t go three-for-three on Matts, but two’s sufficient.

RF:

Hunter Pence (SF) vs. Randal Grichuck (STL)
Advantage: San Francisco; You can’t bet against the spirit animal.

CF:

Gregor Blanco (SF) vs. Jon Jay (STL)
Advantage: St. Louis; An ‘h’ away from sharing the name of the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he’s good for Ws, so we’ll let the letter slide.

Defense:

St. Louis by far, as the Giants are nothing short of below average this season.

Managers:

Coaching against his former team, Mike Matheny can’t match the brilliance of Bruce Bochy. San Fran takes this one.

An insanely even match-up, the one statistic that can’t be overlooked is the Cardinals’ lack of offense. Though they’ve made more than due during the postseason, their pitching staff has shown itself to be vulnerable and won’t be able to have the hitting to back it up versus a perennially-solid Giants rotation.

Continuing in their every-other-year fashion, my prediction is that the Giants take it in 5 and will storm through whoever the American League puts up. The poster below should be getting a redesign soon.

Via http://mlb.imageg.net/graphics/product_images/pMLB2-14502092dt.jpg
Via http://mlb.imageg.net/graphics/product_images/pMLB2-14502092dt.jpg
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