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Diamond Mining: 2014 National League Division Series – Cardinals vs Dodgers

Felipe Melecio

Felipe Melecio was the managing editor for the blog Pathological Hate. He believes that math is your friend and numbers can be fun, especially when it comes to baseball. Keep tabs on all his knee-jerk reactions on Twitter:

In a rematch of the 2013 National League Championship Series, the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers square off a round earlier. Last year, the Cardinals came into the series with a better roster, with more depth and talent and plenty of experience. In 2014, the Dodgers came into the season with a lot of hype surrounding them and have lived up to most, if not all, expectations this season.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES

(5) Saint Louis Cardinals vs (1) Los Angeles Dodgers (6:30 PM ET, on FS1)

For the fourth consecutive season, the Cardinals have clinched a playoff berth. As a matter of fact, since 2000, the Cards have made it to 10 postseasons. Even more remarkable, during that stretch, their only losing season was in 2007. They made it to the World Series in 2013, only to lose to the Boston Red Sox. The Dodgers make their second consecutive playoff appearance and have finished with winning seasons under Don Mattingly as manager. The Dodgers have not made it to the World Series since 1988.

OFFENSE

OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION
Team AVG OBP SLG wOBA BsR BB:K
Cardinals 0.253 0.320 0.369 0.308 -10.8 0.42
Dodgers 0.265 0.333 0.406 0.327 1.5 0.42

The Dodgers do a little bit of everything when it comes to their offense. They beat out the Cardinals in every category here. Although Yasiel Puig is probably the Dodgers’ most talented and gifted hitter, it was Justin Turner who led the team (min. 250 plate appearances) in Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA). Also helping L.A. on offense was Matt Kemp‘s bounce-back season and Dee Gordon stealing 64 stolen bases. Matt Holliday led the Cardinals in wOBA, but would only be the fifth best mark on the Dodgers’ roster.

OFFENSIVE BATTED BALLS

Both teams are sort of similar as they tend to hit plenty of line drives and ground balls. The Dodgers, however, do a better job of lifting fly balls into the seats, despite finishing 29th in terms of Fly Ball Rate (FB%).

OFFENSIVE PLATE DISCIPLINE

The Cardinals are the more patient team here, finishing middle of the pack in this category. More impressive, they finished with a low Swinging Strike Percentage, helping them keep their strikeouts in check. The Dodgers are the more aggressive club, but finished in the top 10 in Walk Rate (BB%).

ADVANTAGE: DODGERS

STARTING PITCHING

STARTING PITCHING
Team K% BB% WHIP FIP SIERA BABIP
Cardinals 19.5% 7.6% 1.24 3.67 3.89 0.286
Dodgers 22.8% 5.6% 1.15 3.40 3.24 0.292

One look at the stat line, and it’s not even close, the Dodgers are the clearly superior pitching staff, in terms of starting rotation. Adam Wainwright is still among the best pitchers in the league, but the rest of the staff is full of question marks. On the other side, the Dodgers have Cy Young consensus winner Clayton Kershaw leading their staff. Simply put, he is the best pitcher in baseball. But unlike St. Louis, the Dodgers have more depth with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke being part of the rotation.

SP BATTED BALLS

Both clubs did a good job keeping their Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP–per fangraphs.com“measures how often a ball in play goes for a hit”) under control. However, the Cards did have a higher Line Drive Rate (LD%) than the Dodgers and against L.A., this might prove to be a big problem. The Dodgers are a ground ball team and do a better job at keeping the ball in the park in relation to the fly balls they give up. Both teams have high pop up rates.

SP PLATE DISCIPLINE

The Dodgers induce more swings for strikes and have one of the lowest Contact Rates in the league.

ADVANTAGE: DODGERS

BULLPEN

RELIEF PITCHING
Team K% BB% WHIP FIP SIERA BABIP
Cardinals 21.3% 8.0% 1.22 3.61 3.33 0.286
Dodgers 22.3% 9.9% 1.31 3.64 3.41 0.293

The bullpen is a mixed bag of inconsistency. Both teams struggle to strikeout hitters and their Advanced ERAs (FIP and SIERA) were among the worst in the league. However, the Cardinals did finished with the ninth lowest Walk Rate (BB%).

RP BATTED BALLS

Both teams do a good job inducing ground balls, but the Cardinals do a good job limiting their line drives and do a great job forcing pop ups.

RP PLATE DISCIPLINE

Both teams allow a high amount of contact against them. In terms of inducing swings, the Cardinals did a better job in baiting hitters to swing, finishing in the top 10 in that category. The Dodgers, on the other hand, finished in the bottom 10 in Swing Percentage.

ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

FIELDING

Both teams do a good job at stopping the run, though it doesn’t look very promising for Yadier Molina and the Cardinals as they try to contain Gordon and Carl Crawford on the base paths. Both teams do well in turning the double-play. Just like last season, the Cardinals return with some of the weakest arms in the outfield. Conversely, the Dodgers are among the best, thanks in large part to Puig’s efforts. At any rate, the Cardinals get credit for sporting more range than L.A.

ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

INTANGIBLES

  • Dodgers have revenge on their mind as they try to avenge last year’s defeat in the NLCS
  • Cardinals trying to cement the legacy of some of their players
  • Juan Uribe has made a name for himself in the postseason and will look to continue his playoff success
  • The Cardinals will be trying to keep the Dodgers in check and also enforce all of baseball’s unwritten rules

CONCLUSION

In what’s looking like a similar preview as the one published for the Detroit Tigers-Baltimore Orioles’ series, the Dodgers have the big names in their lineup and rotation, but the big name talent did not make their way to the bullpen and defense. Still, the Dodgers have been one of the better teams this year and have lived up to lofty expectations. Plus this feels like it’s Kershaw’s season. He might win both NL MVP and Cy Young. A shot at playing for the World Series would seem almost too appropriate.