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Blog Entry

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:24 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 2:17 am
 
NLCS

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- The National League Central is often overlooked or looked down upon -- but not this year, as the NL Central champs have to fight off their divisional rival with the winner headed to the World Series. What makes this matchup even more fun is that these two clubs don't like each other one bit.

There was a dust up late in the season between Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan and the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter. There was also an accusation by the Cardinals that the Brewers were using different graphics on the Miller Park scoreboards to create an advantage while the Cardinals were batting. And even Saturday, Zack Greinke got the ball rolling by making comments about Carpenter, which got Cardinals manager Tony La Russa upset.

It's a contrast in style -- if only in the surface style. The Brewers are young, brash and loud. The Cardinals sit on their porch and tell them to get off their lawn.

On the field, both teams have some impressive individual pitchers, but got to the playoffs on the strength of their bats. While the Brewers won the National League Central, the two teams split their 18-game series during the regular season. While it won't bring in the ratings like some bigger markets might, it should appeal to true baseball fans.

TEAM INFORMATION

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4, 5*)
90-72, NL wild card winner
ALDS
: Defeated Phillies in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Phillies-Cardinals
Manager
: Tony La Russa
Regular-season batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.78 ERA (8th), 1.31 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 651 plate appearances, 37 HR 99 RBI

Miwaukee Brewers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, NL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Diamondbacks in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Brewers-Diamondbacks
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Regular-season batting statistics: .261 batting average (3rd), .325 on-base percentage (5th), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.63 ERA (7th), 1.24 WHIP (3rd), 2.86 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: LF Ryan Braun -- .332/.397/.597, 629 plate appearances, 33 HR, 111 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Let's break each position down and see which team has the edge…

Catcher: Yadier Molina vs. Jonathan Lucroy
 
Perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game also hit .305/.349/.465 this season … that's Molina if you weren't sure, or weren't watching Game 5 of the NLDS when he threw out Chase Utley at second. Molina seemingly does it all. Lucroy may be best known as the "guy who can't really hit," even if he hit a pretty respectable .265/.313/.391 with 12 homers.

First base: Albert Pujols vs. Prince Fielder
 

You want to talk about a heavyweight battle? You have perhaps baseball's best player versus a guy who had an MVP-worthy season. You also have two of the offseason's premier free agents. Fielder's 27, so who knows exactly who is going to get the bigger contract between him and the 31-year-old Pujols, but there's no question as to who is the better all-around player. Pujols is not only the most feared hitter in the league, he's also a guy who can beat you with his glove and his base running in addition to his bat.

Second base: Ryan Theriot vs. Rickie Weeks
 

Theriot's a much better second baseman than he his shortstop, so the good news is that he's at second base, although he's still not exactly a Gold Glover -- of course, neither is Weeks. Both garner their value with their bats, not their gloves. When healthy, Weeks is probably the better player. But he hasn't looked healthy and he was just 1 for 18 in the NLDS against the Cardinals. At the beginning of the year, this was an easy choice. Today it is, too, but it's the other way.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal vs. Yuniesky Betancourt
 

Once the Cardinals got Furcal from the Dodgers and he returned healthy, the Cardinals were a much better team. St. Louis has gone 30-20 in games which Furcal has played. Even though his stats are a less-than-impressive .255/.316/.418 with the Cardinals, the threat he brings at the top of the lineup coupled with how much he improves the team's defense, St. Louis is better because of him. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop.

Third base: David Freese vs. Jerry Hairston Jr.
 

Freese may be one of the more underrated players the Cardinals have. While we all know about Pujols and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and even the likes of Molina and Theriot, Freese is a guy you have to watch in that lineup. He hit .297/.350/.441 this season, but injuries have been a problem in his career. When healthy, he's a vital part of the the team's offense after the big boppers. Hairston is a journeyman utility player -- and those are great to have. He's a fantastic role player that has been in some winning situations the last few years, but there's a reason he's moved around both on the field and to different clubhouses. He's always in demand, but he's no longer an everyday player.

Left field: Matt Holliday vs. Ryan Braun
 

If the first base matchup weren't so good, this one would be getting the headlines. Braun would be my choice for the MVP in the National League, and Holliday is one of the more underrated players in the game. Cardinals fans love to hate the guy because of what he hasn't done, while ignoring the production he has put up in a Cardinals uniform. The guy is an absolute monster. However, he's hurt right now -- and like the Theriot vs. Weeks argument, that looms large in this matchup.

Center field: John Jay vs. Nyjer Morgan/Chris Gomez
 

Morgan's the hot name right now for his outrageous and engaging personality. His Game 5 heroics even overshadowed the fact that he hit .188 in the NLDS. As bad as that is, it was better than Jay's .162. Morgan brings enough to the team to give Milwaukee the slight edge. 

Right field: Lance Berkman vs. Corey Hart
 

Hart's another one of those players who gets lost among all the other good players in this series. He hit .285/.356/.510 with 26 homers this season, much of it out of the leadoff spot. But as good of a season as he's had, it pales in comparison to the season Berkman put together. A year after it seemed like he had nothing left in the tank, he was refueled with premium, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers.

Starting pitching: Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse vs. Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf
 

Both teams needed to use their best playoff pitchers on Friday, meaning the Game 3 matchup in St. Louis of Carpenter-Gallardo should be a good one. Garcia's been a different pitcher on the road (the 3.33 ERA vs. 2.92 isn't so bad, but batters are hitting a robust .313 against him away from Busch Stadium and .230 in the shadow of the arch). Lohse and Wolf are wild cards, while Greinke should pitch better than he did against the Diamondbacks. Both have their solid points and their question marks. In the end, it may be too close to call.

Relief pitching: Jason Motte and co. vs. John Axford and co.
 

Give credit to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak for going out and improving the team's bullpen at the break. For much of the season, the bullpen was a weak point, but Mozeliak strengthened it during the season and the bullpen has become a strength. Milwaukee also went out and made a bold move for a setup man, picking up Francisco Rodriguez. Both teams have to feel good when their manager goes out to the mound to make a change.

Defense
 

Neither team is going to put on a clinic, but the addition of Furcal has improved St. Louis' defense to the acceptable level. Almost. With Pujols and Furcal they have players who can field the ball, so there's that. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop

PREDICTION

While these may not be the two best teams in the National Leauge, they certainly make for an intriguing matchup. No matter how many times each team says its letting bygones be bygones, they don't really like each other -- and the national spotlight could turn up the heat. The two teams split their 18-game season series, with each team going 5-4 on their home field. The way the Brewers play at home, they could be tough to beat here. In the end, I see it going the distance and the fact that four of the games are at Miller Park being the biggest difference. Brewers in 7.


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Comments
hotmeuly
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 5:10 am
This comment has been removed.

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peulouy
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 17, 2011 8:52 pm
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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 7, 2011 12:10 pm
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

Useful to getting looking around your online information site all over again, it really has been months and months for me personally.



Since: Nov 24, 2008
Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:15 pm
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

What's harder to fathom is the Cardinals beat the "BEST" team in the NL in the regular season AND the playoffs, yet somehow the Brewers are the pick in this series AND late in the season the Cards swept the Brewers in Milwaukee which is much more indicative of where the Cards were headed as a team.  But yeah, Brewers in 7.  Thanks for keeping us in the underdog role, morons.



Since: Oct 9, 2011
Posted on: October 9, 2011 4:51 am
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

This is a pretty poor breakdown.  The prediction is good (based on common perception of Milwaukee being slightly better, overall, and having homefield advantage), but the breakdown itself is really poor.  Sometimes season performance is used, sometimes playoff results are used, and sometimes even career is used.  Whichever is used, it seems to more often than not be dependant on what looks best for the Cardinals.

Catcher: While Molina is very good, Lucroy is much better and more valuable to the Brewers (see: role player, bunting, sacrifices) than given credit for here.  Should be Moderate Edge Cardinals.

1st base: Pujols given the edge based on his career, not this season, nor these playoffs.  Prince had the better season and playoff results have been similar.  Should be Even.

2nd base: Claiming that a healthy Weeks is only "probably" better than Theriot is laughable.  Due to Weeks' health issues right now though, this should be Moderate Edge Cardinals.

Shortstop: Actually analyzing the position is useful!  Betancourt's offensive season, and playoffs, are both better than Furcal's, and cancel out the defensive edge Furcal has.  Should be Even.

Third base: Freese had a stronger season (though oft injured) but Hairston (made the starting third baseman for the playoffs) has had a stronger playoffs.  Again, to me this says it should be Even.

Left field: Ryan Braun had a far better season and an infinitely better NLDS.  He is also healthy, which Holliday is not.  This is clearly Significant Edge Brewers and that it isn't is evidence enough that this is a biased review.

Center field: Looks fine.  Should be Moderate Edge Brewers.

Right field: Also looks fine.  Berkman had a better season but Hart has had the better postseason.  Moderate Edge Cardinals.

Starting pitching: I think Even is arguable, but when it comes down to it, giving the edge to the Brewers is probably the better argument.  I think most would rather try their luck with Gallardo, Greinke and Marcum, than Carpenter, Garcia and Jackson.  Should be Moderate Edge Brewers.

Relief pitching: Brewers relievers were better during the season.  Both teams' relievers have been lights out in the postseason.  Should be Moderate Edge Brewers.

Defense:  Since this should be factored into each position (and in some positions, it was), I'm not sure where there is an extra category for it.

This all leads to a summary of Cardinals (3), Brewers (4), Even (3), which supports the prediction that the Brewers will win in 7.



Since: Oct 17, 2010
Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:36 am
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

Complete uder BS. There is nothing hear based in facts. Not even close! Just another bias loser media person. Stop writing the BS and lay out the numbers instead of this opinion. Like 1st base are you kidding me. The better player is Fielder hands down. Mod edge (Brewers) 3rd is (even) Starting and relief pitching mod edge (Brewers) I got 5 to 5  A Great Series Brewers win in 6.



Since: Oct 9, 2011
Posted on: October 9, 2011 12:30 am
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

A fair and balanced review of the two teams. The prediction is hard to grasp however. There are 11 catagories you evaluate and the Cardinals have the advantage in 7 of them, they are even in two and the Brewers have the advantage in only two. I understand ignoring the facts and picking with one's heart so I'll say Cardinals in 5 or 6.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com