LCS Previews

Posted: 10/12/2013 by levcohen in Baseball
Tags: , , ,

Again, I’m a day late, as game one between the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals is already over. It’s still not to late, though, to preview that series and the ALCS, which is what I’ll do.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers:
The Cardinals took a 1-0 series lead at home against the Dodgers last night, and it was a great, 13 inning game that took nearly five hours to complete. None of what we saw last night changed what I was thinking before the series. A number of things we saw confirmed what we already knew:
1. Carlos Beltran, who drove in all three Cardinal runs including the walk-off in the 13th and also had an outfield assist in the 10th inning, is a great playoff player and a force to be reckoned with. His career playoff slugging percentage is now a nice .750.
2. Despite being saddled with a no decision, Zack Greinke was pretty darn good. He gave up just four hits in eight innings while striking out 10. I’m pretty confident that he can get a win in his next playoff start, in either game four or five (four if the Dodgers are facing elimination, probably five otherwise).
3. The Cardinals rely on rookie pitchers, who happen to be very good. Joe Kelly matched Greinke for six innings, giving up just two runs, and three rookie Cardinal relievers pitched nerve-wracking innings (rookies got outs 1-18 and 20-30 for the Cardinals). All in all, rookies (Kelly, Sean Maness, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal) got 29 of the 39 outs, and finished with this line: 9 and two thirds innings, seven hits, two runs, four walks, eight strikeouts. Pretty good.

The fact that this game went 13 innings is especially important given that game two is today at 4:00 Eastern. Both bullpens got a lot of work, so expect both managers to push their starters as far as possible. And given that Clayton Kershaw’s pitching, that’s advantage: Dodgers (although Michael Wacha is no slouch himself).
Believe it or not, I still like the Dodgers to win this series. I’m more confident in their hitters and their big-2 starting at least three more games in all likelihood is very encouraging and hard to argue with. The Cardinals have a sizable bullpen advantage, but the Dodgers do have an electrifying closer in Kenley Jansen (I can totally see Jansen closing out game seven of the World Series), so if Kershaw, Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu (and I’m not discounting Ryu because of one stinker he put up in the Division Series; he had a 3.00 regular season ERA, which is good enough for me) can pitch deep into games, I like the Dodgers in Seven. This game did reiterate one thing, and that is that the series is going to be super close and go down to the wire.

Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers:
I was right on three of the four LDS series. I correctly predicted the Dodgers-Cardinals showdown, and I thought the Red Sox would take part in the ALCS. But I didn’t think that the Tigers would be here, and they very nearly aren’t. In their tense, five game series, I was really only impressed with two Tigers players, but they were the two that mattered the most: Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Especially Verlander, who became the second player ever to have consecutive playoff starts with no runs allowed and 10 strikeouts. The first was Sandy Koufax. Verlander had a down year, but I guess he was just saving himself for the playoffs, and it worked. So if you assume that Verlander is back, it can be argued that their top two of he and Scherzer is the best in baseball, better even than Kershaw-Greinke. I said that Kershaw-Greinke would be tough to argue with, and Verlander-Scherzer is too. But I’m still going to do it.

I said that the Tigers aces impressed me. The rest of the team? Not so much. And I’m mostly talking about Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, and Torii Hunter. Going into this series, those were the four best hitters on the team, and Cabrera was the best player in baseball. But, before a homer in game five, he showed absolutely no power (probably due to a multitude of injuries that has him looking closer to 0% healthy than 50%, without even considering 100%). Even with the bomb, he had a .400 slugging percentage and .686 OPS in the ALDS, not even close to Miggy-esque. And the Athletics realized that. After walking 14% of the time during the regular season, he walked just once in 21 plate appearances. He isn’t the force he was in the regular season, and Detroit needs him to be. The four players I mentioned above were a combined 15 for 77, a .195 batting average. They walked just once each and had just two total extra base hits. Wrap your mind around this: The combined triple slash for the four elite Tigers hitters was… .195/.235/.247. The Red Sox pitchers have to be licking their lips.

As for the Red Sox, it was business as usual for them in the division series. They worked the count, forcing the Rays starters out early, walked 13% of the time, and outscored the Rays 26-12 in their 3-1 series victory. They had twelve extra base hits, a .390 on base percentage and a .414 slugging percentage (Detroit has eight extra base hits in one extra game with a .299 OBP and .321 SLG). And their pitching was pretty good, too, with a 3.03 ERA. The bullpen gave up two runs in 11 innings and had a 12:1 K:BB ratio.

If you couldn’t tell before, I think you can now. I’ll give Scherzer and Verlander a win each (although I think even they will be frustrated with the Red Sox tendency to force pitchers out of the game prematurely by running up the pitch counts), but the Red Sox will win this series in six games, setting up a juicy Sox-Dodgers World Series.


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