The San Francisco Giants won 94 games this season compared to the 88 games won by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Giants clinched the NL West early, while the Cardinals had to play a one-game playoff just to get into the divisional round. So, the Giants should be clear favorites in the NLCS, right?
Well, not exactly. The Cardinals really underachieved during the regular season given their talent level. They finished fifth in wins despite having the second-best run differential (+117). They just took down the 98-win Washington Nationals in five games, showing just how good they really are.
The Cardinals finished first in the NL in on-base percentage, second in runs scored and batting average, third in OPS and fourth in slugging percentage and walks.
They were sixth in the league with a 3.71 ERA. Their starters finished third with a 3.62 ERA despite missing ace pitcher Chris Carpenter for all but three starts and number two starter Jaime Garcia for nearly half of the season.
The Giants vaunted starting rotation, which made all but two starts this season, actually finished with a slightly worse ERA at 3.68 despite playing in a pitcher-friendly park.
Offensively, the Giants don't have the same firepower up and down the lineup as the Cardinals do. They finished third in the NL in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, sixth in runs, eighth in slugging, seventh in OPS and last in home runs.
On paper, the Cardinals have the more talented overall roster. However, the Giants have the advantage in four key areas which combine to make them the prohibitive favorites to advance to the World Series.