Monday, October 5, 2009

Dodgers-Cardinals Preview

A long time ago, I once wrote how I get bored of baseball during the regular season. It gets too long and especially in April and May, there are other sports on the radar. However, once the calender hits October, I'm all in for baseball. It's all the things that make you hate Yankees and Red Sox games (taking pitches, making every at-bat count, leading to four hour games), only it's fair to do this and becomes a positive. For the playoffs, I will preview each and every series throughout the playoffs, beginning with the Dodgers and the Cardinals.

Both Los Angeles and St. Louis have been in first place for the majority of the season. The Dodgers led easily in the first half, while the Cardinals opened a big lead in the second half. Both were active during the trade deadlines; Cards in July, Dodgers in August. St. Louis arguably made the biggest trade when they acquired Matt Holliday from Oakland and put him behind Albert Pujols. The Dodgers added depth by trading for Jon Garland, George Sherrill, Ronnie Belliard and Jim Thome. Let's see how these teams stack up:

1B: Albert Pujols vs. James Loney- Read that matchup again, Advantage Cards

2B: Skip Schumaker vs. Orlando Hudson- Schumaker is a nice player, but Hudson is among the top-5 underrated players in all of baseball. Advantage Dodgers

SS: Brendan Ryan/Julio Lugo vs. Rafael Furcal- I wouldn't have two players here except I think Ryan and Lugo will split time. Unfortunately, Furcal can match the production of both players and the Cardinals can't play both. Advantage Dodgers

3B: Mark DeRosa vs. Casey Blake- Honestly, both guys are great to have on a team. They're gritty, clutch and succeed on good teams. Even

LF: Matt Holliday vs. Manny Ramirez- The toughest matchup of players between both teams. Manny is someone you always want in the playoffs because he doesn't feel the pressure at the plate and tends to hit well. Holliday has done it before in the postseason and will field better than Ramirez. I would go with even, but Manny has not hit well in the second half and even if he did, Holliday will match him and be a difference maker on St. Louis. Advantage Cards

CF: Colby Rasmus vs. Matt Kemp- Rasmus isn't a bad centerfielder but he's matched with Matt Kemp, who had a career season. He's slumped lately, but I rather have him because he can be dynamic. Advantage Dodgers

RF: Ryan Ludwick vs. Andre Ethier- Ethier had his big year this season, while Ludwick had his last year. They both have similar power, Ethier has shown to be more clutch while Ludwick has played better defense. Even

Catcher: Yadier Molina vs. Russell Martin- Martin had a down year this year after an All-Star appearance, while you know what you're getting from Molina. He brings you terrific defense, above-average hitting and calls a good game. Advantage Cards

Starting pitching: The Cardinals have two Cy Young candidates in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Joel Piniero won 15 games as well as the other two and is as good a threesome of starters that anyone has. The Dodgers are behind in this one as Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley just don't match them. Advantage Cards

Bullpen: Either you have a shaky Cards bullpen with an overworked Dodger one. The main difference between the two is I'm more confident that Jonathan Broxton will close out a game than I am Ryan Franklin. Rule of thumb for closers, the ones who can strike hitters out have greater success than the ones who need to be clever and can't overpower. Advantage Dodgers

Bench: Let's see, the Dodgers can trot out Juan Pierre, Mark Loretta, Jim Thome, Ronnie Belliard and Brad Ausmus and the Cards match that with Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel. Nuff said. Advantage Dodgers

Manager: Tony La Russa vs. Joe Torre- This is the first time these two great managers have faced each other in a playoff series. It's hard to figure out an advantage between the two, except I'm not worried about La Russa making the wrong bullpen moves that we have seen from Torre for the last five years (or just overworking pitchers). Slight Advantage Cards

Intangibles: Some people think the slow second half could hurt the Dodgers, but they played a little like the '05 White Sox did as they kind of coasted into the playoffs, then turned it on losing only once. Torre can also bring up his own experience with the '00 Yankees when they lost 15 of 18 and won the World Series. Advantage Dodgers

The Dodgers will win if: Manny starts hitting like the Manny of last year; the rest of the lineup is balanced; Wolf, Kershaw and Billingsley hold their own against the Cards three starters and win at least two games; Broxton proves to be clutch as a closer; Pujols and Holliday both have series-long slumps.

The Cards will win if: Pujols and Holliday both hit very well; Carpenter and Wainwright pitch like Cy Youngs; their bullpen is a plus and Ryan Franklin can make saves; Manny continues his slump and no other Dodgers step up.

Prediction: Cards in four.Bold

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