2013 National League Championship Series Final Review

2013 NLCS Recap
Oct 18 2013 St Louis MO USA St Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams 53 scores a run past Los Angeles Dodgers catcher AJ Ellis during the fifth inning in game six of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Busch Stadium Scott Rovak USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games to advance to the World Series. It was a series full of drama, characters, controversy, and other memorable moments. Here are some final thoughts to take away from this year’s NLCS.

BEST ORGANIZATION IN BASEBALL

Back in July of this year, I made a statement about the Cardinals being the best organization in baseball when I made Adam Wainwright my mid-season pick for National League Cy Young. In a way, St. Louis advancing to the World Series validates that statement. However, it goes much deeper. After losing Albert Pujols to free agency in December of 2011, it left many wondering how they would be able to replace the big first baseman’s production. They brought in Carlos Beltran and saw Allen Craig make up some of the production lost by Pujols’ departure. And they still had players like Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina in the lineup.

Even more impressive is how they appear able to bring in any player and see them succeed once signing with the club. In 2012, players like Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn would go on to have good 2012 campaigns as starting pitchers. They lost Chris Carpenter for most of the 2012 season, but they get Wainwright back to anchor the rotation after he missed the entire 2011 campaign.

Current double play combo, Matt Carpenter and Pete Kozma were bench players that saw a combined 422 plate appearanes in 2012. This season, however, both players combined for 1,127 plate appearances. Shane Robinson only had seven at bats in the NLCS, but leads the team in OPS at 1.286.

As impressive as they are at finding replacement players to produce and they are not shy about spending the big money, ranking 11th in payroll this season,  they still have one of the richest farm systems in all of baseball. Of their top 10 prospects coming into the 2013 season, per Baseball America, six of those players have made an impact on this team. One of those players not called up this season is arguably the best prospect in all of baseball, Oscar Taveras. Fans should already be familiar with the six prospects in question:

  • Michael Wacha–Went 2-0 in the NLCS, striking out 13 in 13 innings pitched.
  • Matt Adams–Posted an OPS of .839 in the regular season and has been playing for the injured Craig.
  • Shelby Miller–Went 15-9 in the regular season, posting 169 strikeouts against only 57 walks.
  • Kolten Wong–Mostly utilized as a pinch-hitter in these playoffs.
  • Carlos Martinez–Earned four strikeouts in four NLCS relief appearances as the Cardinals’ primary setup man.
  • Trevor Rosenthal–Two saves in the NLCS and posted seven strikeouts in four relief appearances.

The last two relief pitchers amazed fans and critics alike with their 95+ mile per hour fastballs.

Smart spending on players, cultivating and harvesting talent from farm system, and an uncanny ability to turn replacement players into dependable major leaguers all adds up to another World Series appearance for the Cardinals.

YOU REMIND ME OF SOMEONE

For the XN Sports live blog of game four of the NLCS, I noted how Dodgers’ super phenom Yasiel Puig reminded me of a former slugger, Sammy Sosa. The way he runs, his free-swinging ways, and his mind lapses in the outfield all remind me of the former Chicago Cubs’ slugger.

Puig finished the season with a .975 fielding percentage, which was a similar number that Sosa posted 10 years ago (.977). Both players have similar Walks Per Strikeout (BB/K) ratios with Puig finishing his rookie season at 0.37 and Sosa finishing his career at 0.40. Puig posted an Ultimate Base Running (UBR) of -2.9. Though a relatively new statistic, Sosa was able to post a career -6.0 UBR as both players never quite utilized their speed to their full advantage, although Puig was able to fist pump his way to third base in game three. But all of their shortcomings are made up in production as one can see from their similar Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA): Puig finished his rookie season with a wOBA of .361 and Sosa posted a career mark of .370.

Although Puig has a chance to be better than Sosa (as one can see from Puig’s better On-Base Percentage than Sosa’s mark), his shaky defense is very discouraging. The unnecessary diving attempts, the poor throws from the outfield, and misplayed batted balls (best exemplified by his poor defensive performance in game six) are certainly discouraging, but here’s hoping that it’s just a simple case of immaturity that should disappear as he gains experience and does not turn into another, fundamentally-challenged Sammy Sosa.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

Without looking at win-loss records, here’s a quick look at a starting pitcher that’s had a very successful postseason so far:

  • 23 innings pithed, 28 strikeouts, seven walks, 1.09 WHIP, 3.13 ERA, and a batting average against of .209.

Very productive 23 innings. Should be good enough to lead a team to postseason glory. Unfortunately, these are the numbers of a loser that got bested by a rookie pitcher in two games of the NLCS. Those stats belong to Clayton Kershaw. The Cy Young candidate deserved a lot better. He did struggle in game six against the Cardinals, but always gave the Dodgers the best chance to win the game in his previous three starts. It’s going to be a very long winter for the southpaw, even if he takes home the National League Cy Young award.

Stats courtesy of mlb.com and fangraphs.com.

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