Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

NLDS first look: Breaking down the Cardinals


The arc of the NL playoffs points to Hyun-Jin Ryu making a start in St. Louis.

By Jon Weisman

Well, the opponent sure looks familiar, but things aren’t quite the same.

Starting Friday, the Dodgers will have a second consecutive postseason showdown against the St. Louis Cardinals. Here’s a quick first look at how the Cardinals shape up against the Dodgers heading into the 2014 National League Division Series:

Cardinal offense

Statistics through Saturday:

  • Yadier Molina, C: Molina was sidelined from July 10 through August 29, but still managed to deliver a .333 on-base percentage in 445 plate appearances, a slight decline from his .359 OBP in 2013. His power took a steeper drop, from a .477 slugging percentage last year to .386 in 2014.
  • Matt Adams, 1B: This is really Adams’ first full-time season, and he had a .321 on-base percentage while slugging .455 in 525 plate appearances. But he had a serious platoon split: .851 OPS vs. righties, .528 OPS vs. lefties. Allen Craig, Adams’ main alternative, was sent to Boston in the John Lackey trade.
  • Kolten Wong, 2B: Wong, who turns 24 on October 10, managed a .294 OBP in 430 plate appearances. Former Dodger Mark Ellis was the primary backup, but the 37-year-old struggled to a .253 OBP and .213 slugging in 202 plate appearances.
  • Jhonny Peralta, SS: Imported from Detroit, Peralta had a .336 OBP and .443 slugging with 21 home runs and 38 doubles. He was adequate against righties (.751 OPS) and strong against lefties (.879 OPS).
  • Matt Carpenter, 3B: Truly a thorn in the Dodgers’ side since 2013. Remember that endless 11-pitch at-bat in Game 6 of the NLCS that precipitated Clayton Kershaw’s downfall? It was no fluke — Carpenter led the NL this year in pitches per plate appearance (4.37), as well as walks (95). Moving from second base to third base for St. Louis this year, Carpenter’s power went down (from an MLB-leading 55 doubles in 2013 to 33 this year), but he remains a tough out.
  • Matt Holliday, LF: A veteran of the Dodger-Cardinal playoff battles, Holliday had a .370 OBP while leading St. Louis in OPS (.811). In the second half of the season, his OPS was .882.
  • John Jay, CF: Like Carpenter and Holliday, Jay boasts a .370-plus OBP, boosted not insignificantly by an NL-high 20 hit-by-pitches. Also grabbing playing time in center is defensive standout Peter Bourjos, who only had a .297 on-base percentage but hit a game-tying, two-run home run off Clayton Kershaw on July 20.
  • Randal Grichuk, RF: Right field has been a bit of a grab bag for St. Louis since the Craig trade, though Craig himself was hardly lighting it up. Jay sometimes moves over to right when Bourjos is in center. Grichuk, 23, is OBP-challenged but has shown some power with 10 extra-base hits in 106 at bats. He appears to have supplanted 22-year-old Oscar Taveras, who with a .598 OPS hasn’t been much of an answer.
  • Daniel Descalso, UT: What appears to be a fairly meek Cardinals bench is led by Descalso, who has a .333 OBP while slugging .310. He reached base 16 times as a pinch-hitter, but that was in 54 plate appearances (.302 OBP).

Summary: St. Louis does get on base at a decent rate (.321 OBP, fourth in the NL), but the Cardinals are 10th in the league in slugging percentage and 15th in home runs. Carpenter, Holliday and Peralta lead an offense that doesn’t appear that strong top to bottom, but its peskiness remains a threat.

Cardinal pitching

  • Adam Wainwright, RHP: The 2014 NL All-Star starter had an uncharacteristic 5.17 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in August, but then came back with a 1.38 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in September. He might finish second or third to Kershaw in the NL Cy Young balloting, but other than Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto, there might not be a tougher Game 1 opponent.
  • Lance Lynn, RHP: Something was clearly wrong with Lynn on June 28 when the Dodgers battered him for a six-run, 45-pitch second inning. Outside of that, Lynn was pretty outstanding, finishing 2014 with a 2.74 ERA and 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings. His ERA in the second half of 2014 was 2.22.
  • Shelby Miller, RHP: Still only 23 (until October 10), Miller had a 3.74 ERA in 183 innings. His K/9 has dropped from 8.8 last year to 6.2 in 2014. But he’s picked things up at the right time: a 1.48 ERA in 30 1/3 September innings with five walks and 26 strikeouts.
  • John Lackey, RHP: Lackey has been a mixed bag since arriving from Boston, with a 4.30 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. For what it’s worth, he has a career postseason ERA of 3.03 in 19 games (16 starts).
  • Michael Wacha, RHP: The kid who stole Kershaw’s thunder last October with 13 2/3 shutout innings in the NLCS, Wacha is working his way back from shoulder issues. On September 17, he allowed two runs in five innings and 98 pitches, his longest outing since June 17. Overall in 2014, he had a 3.20 ERA in 107 innings, allowing 133 baserunners while striking out 94.
  • Trevor Rosenthal, RHP: Another young gun at age 24, the Cardinal closer strikes out 11.1 batters per nine innings, but also walks 5.4. In two years of postseason play, Rosenthal has thrown 20 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing 11 baserunners while striking out 33.
  • Pat Neshek, RHP: Made it to the All-Star Game this year and finished 2014 with a 1.87 ERA and 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
  • Seth Maness, RHP: Had a 2.91 ERA, showing fine control (1.2 walks per nine innings), but lefties had an .852 OPS against him.
  • Carlos Martinez, RHP: An occasional starter who has a 3.83 ERA in 56 1/3 relief innings with 50 strikeouts.
  • Randy Choate, LHP: Scott Van Slyke, take note — lefties are few and far between on St. Louis. Choate did his Choate thing this year, stretching 36 innings across 61 games. His ERA jumped from 2.29 in 2013 to 4.50 this season, but his WHIP was barely budged from 1.05 to 1.11.

Summary: Nearly 83 percent of the Cardinals’ innings in 2014 were thrown by right-handed pitchers, a ratio that might only increase in the postseason — and the Dodgers led the NL in OBP against righties. St. Louis is strong at the front of the rotation and has options for the No. 3 and (if necessary) No. 4 slots, but also question marks.

Cardinal fielding

Fangraphs ranks St. Louis second in the NL in defense and the Dodgers 13th. Peralta, Molina, Bourjos, Jay (who did not look good in last year’s playoffs), Carpenter and Wong all rank above average. This, as much as anything, is where the Cardinals might have an edge on the Dodgers.


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  1. oldbrooklynfan

    It’s going to be a tough series, as usual, but the Dodgers can handle them.

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