Reasons To Be Happy About Facing St. Louis

Yes, we’d have preferred to see the Phillies.

Yes, the idea of facing Chris Carpenter & Adam Wainwright on the mound and inhuman cyborg Albert Pujols & Matt Holliday at the plate is pretty daunting.

Yes, I still hate that you can’t face teams in your own division in the first round, because the Dodgers have owned Colorado and of the three NL teams, St. Louis is by far the one I’d wanted to avoid the most.

But despite what all of the so-called “experts” might think, there are actually good reasons to be happy about seeing the Cardinals coming in to town for the NLDS, some with a slight helping of Dodger-blue optimism. Follow me! To freedom!

ankielstrikesout.jpg1) The Cardinals are an absolute joke against left-handed pitching.

It sounds crazy to say that when you’ve got righty sluggers like Pujols and Holliday on your team, but it’s true. Believe it or not, the Cardinals are actually the worst team in baseball hitting against left-handed pitchers. Their horrible team line of .234/.312/.365 adds up to just a .677 OPS, tied with San Diego for dead last behind two punchless teams landing just ahead of them – San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

And, hey! Guess what! Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw are going to start Games 1 and 2! And they’re lefties!

This doesn’t really impact Pujols and Holliday, because they kill everyone. Mark DeRosa’s fine against lefties, too (.824 OPS), but everyone else is a total disaster. Khalil Greene, Rick Ankiel, Colby Rasmus and Skip Schumacher all have OPS’s under .600, which is just horrible. The other likely Cardinal starters – Yadier Molina, Brendan Ryan, Ryan Ludwick, and Julio Lugo – range from “mediocre” to “decent at best”. Advantage: Dodgers.

2) The three Dodger pitchers who’ve seen Pujols the most – Randy Wolf, Jonathan Broxton, and Chad Billingsley – have done a good job of containing him.

Those three have seen Pujols 47 times. They’ve allowed him just 8 hits,
and only two of those were doubles – no homers. Broxton in particular
has been effective against Pujols, allowing just one hit and two walks
in twelve plate appearances. (The bad news is, Holliday’s destroyed
both Wolf and Billingsley; but this is supposed to be a “good news”
column.)

Pujols is awesome, so you know he’s going to get his at some point. The idea is just to make sure that he doesn’t single-handedly win the series, and we can at least point to three big cogs of the pitching machine who’ve shown they might just have a chance of doing exactly that.

3) The Dodgers have a great history of hitting Adam Wainwright.

Six Dodgers have had eleven or more at-bats in their careers against Wainwright, and five have had great success – and the one who hasn’t is Brad Ausmus, who won’t be facing him anyway.

dodgersstatsvswainwright.jpgLook at those OPS numbers! What will be really interesting will be the second base decision in that game; as you can see, Ron Belliard has done very well against Wainwright, but Orlando Hudson, who would have been next on this list, has just one hit in ten at-bats against him. 

4) The Cardinals have a very unbalanced lineup.

Pujols is, of course, a beast. He’s the best player in baseball, and Holliday’s been excellent since coming in a midseason trade. But other than them? No one’s that consistent. I’ve been a huge DeRosa fan for years, but he hit just .193 in September and has an injured wrist, so he’s hardly to be counted on. Meanwhile, when the Dodgers are right, they have a lineup where anyone 1-8 can hurt you.

Look at the top 10 in VORP for each team on offense. Two things should jump out at you; one is that the Cardinals have so many hitters in negatives for VORP that pitcher Adam Wainwright actually makes the cut. The second? Look how much of their offense is dependent on Pujols and Holliday.
2009cardinalsVORP.jpg

Meanwhile, look at the same chart for the Dodgers:
2009dodgersVORP.jpgAmong each team’s top 10, the Cardinals have just two guys who contributed more than 10% – you know who. The Dodgers have five. The point is, if you can neutralize Pujols and Holliday – no easy feat, of course – then the rest of the Cardinal lineup isn’t that scary. You can’t really say the same for the Dodgers, because there’s quite a few guys who can hurt you.

5) Those jerks owe us for 2004 – and especially 1985.

Up until last season, the Dodgers’ 2004 playoff appearance was mostly known for Jose Lima’s complete game shutout in Game 3 of the NLDS, the Dodgers first playoff victory since winning it all in 1988. I mostly remember it as yet another playoff embarrassment. So there’s that. However, 2004 was nothing compared to the only other time these two teams met, in the 1985 NLCS, which might be the most crushing loss in Dodger playoff history. As we all remember, the Dodgers were up 2-0 before Tom Niedenfuer gave up game-winning homers in the 9th to Ozzie Smith in Game 5 and then Jack Clark in Game 6.

The Dodgers have never beaten St. Louis in the playoffs. I’d say it’s our turn.

I think – no, I know – that all of the national media are going to write off the Dodgers. “They don’t have Chris Carpenter. They don’t have Adam Wainwright. They don’t have Albert Pujols. Manny Ramirez is a cheater who can’t hit anymore.” Hey, maybe they’re right. But let’s not forget there’s some pretty compelling reasons to actually let the games be played.

Coming tomorrow! The playoff roster predictions I’ve been holding onto for weeks for fear of enlarging the already epic jinx this team looked to have been playing under.