MLB NLCS-ALCS Preview
The leaves are falling. Kids are back in school. The pennant games are about to start. It is autumn and all is right in the world. Three new teams join the Cardinals in the year’s League Championship series games – Dodgers, Red Sox, and Tigers. We’re guaranteed a new champion and some exciting games.
Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals
Game 1: Friday 8:37 pm EST on TBS
The strengths for both teams are well-known. The Dodgers’ pricey all-star club is finally healthy at the same time (minus Matt Kemp), led by the NL’s best 1-2 punch in Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke. The Cardinals are the well-run machine led by a smart manager, a lights-out ace in Adam Wainwright and a line-up that takes advantage of opportunities.
Honestly, will anyone be surprised if either team wins? Nope. Even the most die-hard fans will have to admit the other team is great. It will come down to the team whose weakness trips them up.
For the Cardinals, their strengths might end up being a weakness in a Malcolm Gladwell sort of way. Those amazing young pitchers have defied conventional wisdom and haven’t faltered down the stretch nor wilted in the spotlight. Joe Kelly, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller have performed well above reasonable expectations. If they shut down the Dodgers’ hot bats, they will be heralded for years.
On the flip side, the Cardinals have had an insanely high average with runners in scoring positions (RISP). Their .330 average was the highest in over 40 years! Six of the top ten in the majors wore Cardinal red! Much like BABIP, it is a stat that reverts back to the norm over time. Can the Cards’ really maintain that level for eight more wins?
The Cardinals also don’t have much of a bench. As great as Matt Adams has been filling in for Allen Craig, I’m sure Mike Matheny would rather have Adams pitch hitting (or Craig in the outfield). With both teams pretty close, there is a good chance of extra innings.
The Dodgers’ weakness are more glaring. Beyond Kershaw and Greinke are question marks. While lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu looks good on paper against the Cardinals, who haven’t been great this year against lefties, Ryu was also the guy who couldn’t go three quality innings against the Braves. No one trusts Ricky Nolasco, not even Don Mattingly. Heck, I doubt Nolasco trusts Nolasco.
Speaking of Mattingly, can he avoid making bad decisions with the World Series on the line? While Juan Uribe’s dramatic homer was nice, the idea to have him try to sacrifice bunt was dramatically bad. Speaking of bad decisions, can Yasiel Puig keep his head in the game? At least, will his bad decisions be overshadowed by amazing plays?
Advantage – Dodgers
All things being equal, I’m going with the team that hasn’t relied on rally squirrels, high RISP, questionable infield fly rules and general all-around wild card magic over the years. Maybe it sounds like the geek saying the handsome jock dating a model will finally have a bad break, but … yeah, I’m saying the Dodgers win because the Cardinals are due to lose.
Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox
Game 1: Saturday 8:00 pm EST on TBS
Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are great symbols of the rest of the team. They aren’t superstars in the traditional sense. They do a little bit of everything pretty good, but not a master of any. The Red Sox are an all-around good team. No player put up mega numbers in 2013 and no one is a glaring weakness. Their starters keep their teams in games; their bullpen was surprisingly one of the best in the majors.
The Tigers are the exact opposite. Detroit is an all or nothing built team.
They have a few superstars and a bunch of scrubs on both sides. While the starters are filled with Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, their bullpen gives Jim Leyland heartaches. Beyond Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson there are gaps in the lineup.
As the ALDS showed, the Tigers scored in bunches and are de-clawed with an injured Cabrera.
Advantage – Red Sox
The A’s got so close but fell just a bit short … then hit a ‘not on my watch’ Verlander. If the Red Sox avoid the big innings and get to Detroit’s bullpen, then they can win in five games.
WORLD SERIES – advantage National League
Cardinals. Dodgers. Doesn’t matter. Both teams are better stacked top to bottom, man to man, than the Red Sox (or the Tigers).
Brian Reddoch is a CraveOnline reporter and rabid fan of all teams Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter @ReddReddoch or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.