Though the Dodgers had the National League's best record and thus enjoy home-field advantage, the Cardinals won the season series, 5-2. All seven of those games were played in the second half of the season -- after the Cardinals traded for
The teams' nearly identical starting pitching lines (L.A.: 3.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP; St. Louis: 3.66, 1.28) are deceiving. The Cardinals' starters typically go deeper into games, averaging 6 1/3 innings per start to the Dodgers' 5 2/3 innings, and have eight complete games and one shutout, to the Dodgers' one of each.
There has been no better 1-2 punch in baseball than the Cardinals'
Add in the surprisingly dependable
The Dodgers, however, are so unsure of their rotation that they've only announced their first two starters, lefties
"To me Kershaw is the key to the whole series," the scout says. "If he gets hot, the Dodgers are capable of winning. I don't think he'll do all that well, personally. He's a kid. We'll see what happens on the big stage with him."
After that? Take your pick.
The top two relieving corps in the NL reside in Los Angeles (3.14 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) and St. Louis (3.55, 1.30). The Dodgers have actually converted fewer save opportunities -- 63 percent, compared to St. Louis' 74 percent -- but the NL scout thinks L.A.'s power arms are better suited for the postseason. "The Dodgers have the better bullpen," he says, "so if they can survive their starters, they'll be better in the late innings."
Neither team has much closing experience at the back of the 'pen, even though both closers were All-Stars this year.
A star player getting hot in October can tip a series (see
L.A. can overcome a slumping Manny thanks to its lineup full of starters with on-base percentages above the league average, combining young stars (
The Dodgers unquestionably had the better offense in the first half of the season, but since Holliday debuted in a Cardinals uniform on July 24, the Redbirds and Dodgers have each scored 302 runs. When it comes to offenses, this matchup is pretty much even.
These are two teams that have been moving in opposite directions. The Dodgers successfully weathered Ramirez's 50-game suspension and on July 22 were 61-34 (.642), the best record in baseball by 3 1/2 games. Since then, however, they've barely been above .500, going just 34-33 down the stretch. Conversely, the Cardinals were only 51-46 on that date but went an NL-best 40-25 (.615) to finish the season, including a torrid 20-6 August.
While the Dodgers acquired top lefty Sherrill, back-end starters Garland and Padilla, to-date unsuccessful pinch-hitter Jim Thome and infielder
The Dodgers are better defensively than the Cardinals by either sabermetrically inclined stat: Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (2.59 to -0.16) and cumulative Ultimate Zone Rating (4.4 to -8.0), the latter signifying that L.A. has saved more than four runs than an average defense this season, while the Cardinals have allowed eight more runs than an average group of fielders. PADE suggests a wider gap in defensive prowess, but either way, L.A. comes out on top.