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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

National League Playoff Preview


There’s little doubt this season that the National League is the better of the two leagues this year. The three best teams in baseball—the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs—all hail from the same division. Coupled with the dominant pitching of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the scrappiness of the New York Mets, the National League playoffs look exciting. Here’s how I figure they’ll play out.


Usually, it’s difficult to predict who will win one game. However, the Cubs have a huge ace up their sleeve—literally. Jake Arrieta has been on a torrid pitching streak, winning 21 games this season, while posting an earned run average of only 1.82. Since the All-Star break in mid-July, that’s been down to a minuscule 0.85. In his last start against the Pirates, on September 27, he gave up only one hit in seven innings, while striking out nine batters. Pittsburgh doesn’t look to have much of a prayer if Arrieta is on-point in this game.


Outside of Arrieta, the Dodgers possess the two best pitchers in baseball. Clayton Kershaw, the 2014 National League MVP, has been having another terrific season, going 16-7, while striking out an unbelievable 294 batters. He helped the Dodgers clinch the National League West on Tuesday night, pitching a complete-game, one-hit shutout. Zack Greinke, meanwhile, has been just as good, posting an 18-3 record, while having a ridiculously low earned run average of 1.68.
The Mets offense has been hot in the second half of the season, leading the league in runs scored since the July 31 trade deadline. They, too, have great pitching, with likely game one starter Jacob deGrom who has a very commanding 14-8 record and a 2.60 ERA. However, there is some cause for concern, as his ERA has been an unsightly 4.69 in his last seven starts. Noah Syndergaard, the likely game two pitcher, has been good overall this season (9-7, with a 3.34 ERA), but has trouble pitching on the road. If the Mets have home-field advantage, and can play games one and two at home, Syndergaard has a big edge. Otherwise, the Mets may be in trouble.

While it’s true that the offense has been much improved lately—including a combination of acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and the return of team captain and third baseman David Wright—the Mets will be at a big disadvantage against the mighty Dodgers pitching. The series will be close, but ultimately, L.A. has the overall advantage.


Despite the lack of any superstars, on either the pitching or hitting fronts, the St. Louis Cardinals have unquestionably been the best team in the major leagues. They’ve won 99 games as of this writing, on pace for over 100 wins, and went 11-8 against the Cubs in head-to-head play this year.
The Cubs’ main concern is that, beyond Arrieta, their starting pitching is not great. Their likely game one starter in the NLDS, Jon Lester, has not pitched like an ace all season, with an unsightly 10-12 record, and a 3.43 ERA. He has been improving recently, with a 2.96 ERA in his last seven starts, but he’s far from the pitcher that Chicago expected when they signed him in the offseason. Their game two man, Jason Hammel, has been a train-wreck recently. They don’t match up very well against Michael Wacha and John Lackey, the two Cardinal aces who have been steadily good all year. The Cubs may be a nice feel-good story, but St. Louis has been the better team all season, and they’ll prove it in the playoffs.


This is going to be a very close series, and one that could wind up going either way. On paper, the series may be a bit of a mismatch. Not only were the Cardinals the vastly superior team in the regular season, they won the season series against them, five games to two. Furthermore, the Cardinals and Dodgers matched up against each other in the 2013 NLCS, and the Cardinals walked away as winners in six games.
However, in 2013 the Cardinals did not have to face Kershaw and Greinke at their all-time peaks, as they will have to here in 2015. Still, outside of those two, Los Angeles does not have a lot of pitching depth, with Mike Bolsinger and Brett Anderson—not the greatest of pitchers–figuring to get some starts in this series for the Dodgers. Their closer, Kenley Jansen, has a respectable 34 saves this year, but that pales in comparison to Trevor Rosenthal and his 48 saves for the Cardinals.
In terms of offense, the Dodgers are not quite what they once were, with star Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig likely out for the postseason with hamstring issues. The infield is respectable, with slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, potential stud rookie shortstop Corey Seager and the quietly excellent third baseman Justin Turner. The Cardinals do not have anyone really impressive on paper. They don’t have .300 hitters or thirty-home-run threats. However, Matt Carpenter, with 27 home runs, is one of the best-slugging third basemen in baseball. Catcher Yadier Molina has long been known as one of the best back-stops in the game. Matt Holliday and Jason Heyward have been pacing the team in batting average, both hitting above .280 while manning the corner outfield positions.
Overall, while the Dodgers are a strong, solid team, but the Cardinals have more depth at each position. Expect a third National League pennant in five years for them the boys from St. Louis.

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National League Playoff Preview