The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers have played a combined 226 seasons of professional baseball. They have won 16 World Series, 38 NL pennants, and almost 20,000 games. Over 100 players and managers that have worn either uniform are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Both franchises are widely considered the crown jewels of the National League...
And come 8:07 p.m. CST Wednesday night, none of it will mean dick.
The players will step between the lines at Dodger Stadium with a singular goal of winning one game and doing whatever it takes to accomplish said goal.
Since we know both sides will be laying it all on the line, we need to know who has the most to lay.
Let's go to the scorecard and see just who comes out on top of the 2009 NLDS (Cards/Dodgers) SUPER BREAKDOWN!
C: Russell Martin versus Yadier Molina - 12 days ago this would have been a lopsided advantage to the Cardinals. Molina is in line for his second gold glove, has significantly improved his offense (enough to get an ASG nod), and is the perfect playoff hitter—rarely striking out and able to put the ball in play every AB.
BUT Russell Martin is healthy. His .250 average was the lowest of his career and he hasn't had a multi-hit game since Sept. 14, yet the Dodgers know they can count on Martin being behind the plate to call the games for his staff with the added upside that you never know when a former All-Star (07 & 08) can become an all-star again. The Cardinals are claiming Molina will be ready to go for Game 1 of the NLDS, but as recently as this past weekend, he was lifted from game action due to a deep bruise on his knee cap from a foul ball. Without seeing Molina pressing in action for two weeks, It's hard to know what to expect. EDGE: DODGERS
1B: James Loney versus Albert Pujols—Let's not waste any breath here. Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball; a proven postseason performer and pissed he ended the season with a power outage. No false pretense here. EDGE: CARDINALS
2B: Orlando Hudson versus Skip Shumaker—What do you want out of your second baseman?
I think that's the question you've got to ask yourself when you break down the second baggers in this series. If you want an offensive starter, then Skip is your guy. A .301 average, .755 OPS, and a W/K ratio of nearly one to one. He also never played second base before March of this year.
Hudson on the other hand was more than serviceable on offense this season with a .282 AVG and over 60 RBI, but can be had by good pitching. However, he's a much more defensively adept player and Shumaker could be replaced in late innings for defensive purposes. Hudson also has some pop with 9 home runs and a .417 slugging percentage. EDGE: DODGERS
SS: Rafael Furcal versus Brendan Ryan—Absolutely even. In fact, if Furcal wasn't Dominican and Ryan didn't sport a face broom, you wouldn't be able to tell these guys apart.
Light hitters with no power, mid .260 average, not big walk guys with great arms and good range. Furcal may be a bit quicker on the bases, but using that as a tie breaker is completely subjective and totally unfair. Neither team gains an advantage at SS. EDGE: EVEN
3B: Casey Blake versus Mark DeRosa—23/78/.275 or 18/79/.280?
Those are the lines for DeRosa and Blake for 2009. But let's look at the post season. Blake has a hit in 14 out of 19 postseason games in his career. DeRosa on the other hand is 14 for 21 in the last two playoff series he was involved in. Hmm...Maybe intangibles? LaRussa calls DeRosa "a pillar of leadership on the Cardinals," while Joe Torre declared Blake "A superb teammate and member of the community." Did either of these guys have a wife that won "Hottest Wife in Baseball"? Yes? EDGE: CARDINALS
LF: Manny Ramirez versus Matt Holliday—This one scares to death Cardinal Nation. On the one hand Holliday has had a MVP caliber offensive year, is extremely reliable in the field and has an excellent postseason track record. On the other? Man-Ram. One thing Man-Ram has ever, EVER done is shy away from the spotlight. He comes up big in big games and is the one player on the Dodgers that can turn this series on it's head with one swing. Please note that this caveat: I feel like this pick is severely jinxing Holliday, but fair is fair. EDGE: CARDINALS
CF: Matt Kemp versus Colby Rasmus—As with 1B, there is no need to belabor this match up. Kemp is a budding superstar and Rasmus is in the post season starting line-up by default. Rasmus is a good, young player and could be great. But right now he isn't and Kemp is. Please note that Kemp does not have a superfan, though. EDGE: DODGERS
RF: Andre Ethier versus Ryan Ludwick—Ethier had a breakout year. 31 HR. 106 RBI. Solid defense with a top-five adjusted zone rating for NL right fielders. Ludwick put up very serviceable stats in his somewhat limited playing time. But he didn't do nearly the damage Ethier did in 2009. This isn't a referendum on Ludwick as much as it's a cap tip to Ethier. EDGE: DODGERS
P1: Chris Carpenter versus Randy Wolf—If I'm a Dodger fan, I'm scared to death of Randy Wolf in Game 1. Scared. To death. EDGE: CARDINALS
P2: Adam Wainwright versus Clayton Kershaw—Again, Wainwright may just end up winning the Cy Young award. Probably not, but once again, he's in the top-three along with Carpenter. No team in the NL or AL will be able to bring such a strong starting two to the table. Kershaw is a good pitcher. Wainright is a great pitcher. EDGE: CARDINALS
P3: Joel Pinero versus Chad Billingsley—12-11/4.03 for Chad and 15-12/3.59 for Joel doesn't seem like a deep chasm. But factor in Pinero's slow start, dominance at home (sub 2.30 ERA) and his proclivity to getting ground balls and pitch down in the zone and you've got yourself a pretty convincing case why LA doesn't want to go back to STL in a hole or even. A word of caution, though, for Cardinal honks, though. Pinero looked less than dominant in his last two starts—getting tagged for multiple run innings both outings with hitters seemingly temping him to pitch up in the zone (he wouldn't). Billingsley on the other hand was pretty much average in every split throughout the season from the get go. EDGE: CARDINALS
Manager: Joe Torre versus Tony LaRussa—The ultimate laid back manager vs the ultimate tinkerer. Total opposites—both going into the HOF five years to the day after they retire. EDGE: EVEN
TOTAL = Cardinals: 6 Dodgers: 4 Even: 2
PREDICTION = Cardinals in 4
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