2011 MLB Playoffs, NLCS Preview: Cardinals vs. Brewers

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Today at 4:05pm EST, the Cardinals and Brewers will square off in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. 

The Cardinals have emerged as the giant-killers of this post-season, sending the Philadelphia Phillies and their vaunted rotation home in the first round. The Brewers, meanwhile, managed to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks on a 10th inning walk-off hit by Nyjer Morgan

Comparing these teams statistically, they are pretty similar. Both teams sport above average offenses and score runs well over the NL average. Both teams can get runners on and drive them home with power. The long-ball is not foreign to either club.

The Cardinals finished six games back of the Brewers during the regular season, but they were only expected to finish two back given their expected records. The Cards had a bit more pop offensively, while the Brewers were better at run prevention.

On the year, the Cardinals did not hit the Brewers well. They hit below the league average against them, and only hit worse against the Padres in the National League. Things didn't get much better when they played at Miller Park, managing an sOPS+ of only 84.

On the flip side, the Brewers held their own against the Cardinals' staff, posting an sOPS+ of 106 for the year. But that OPS+ was largely the result of hitting well at home. The Brewers road issues are well known, and they only managed an sOPS+ of 74 against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium this year, their second worst against an NL opponent. 

This is a tough series to pick. On the one hand, the Brewers appear to have plenty of offense and better pitching to take the series. However, their home-road splits are hard to ignore. Against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, the Brewers run differential was +9 at home and -11 in their two games on the road.

There is a part of me that really wants to pick the Cardinals here, but I think the Brewers have greater starting pitching depth and match up well against the Cardinal hitters. 

If the Brewers can hold serve at home in the first two games, they have a great shot at heading to the World Series. If the Cardinals grab one game, I think the advantage quickly swings to St. Louis given the Brewers problems on the road.

My prediction: The Brewers starting pitching gets them out to a 2-0 lead in the first two games, Brewers hold on to win in seven games.

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Graphic Guide: League average is scaled to 100. Scores higher than 100 indicate performance better than league average, less than 100 indicates performance worse than league average regardless of the statistic. For example, if a team has a FIP of 110% on the graph their actual FIP is 10% better than league average.

Statistics have not been park adjusted, but are adjusted for each team's respective league.

Offense

RS/G: Runs Scored per Game

wOBA: Weighted On-base Average

OBP: On-base Percentage

SLG: Slugging

BABIP: Batting Average on Balls in Play

LD%: Line-drive Percentage

HR/FB: Home run to Fly Ball Ratio

Defense

RA/G: Runs Against per Game

FIP: Fielding Independent Pitching

tERA: True Runs Allowed

SIERA: Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average (FanGraphs' version)

BABIP: Batting Average on Balls in Play

K/BB: Strikeouts to Walk Ratio

HR/FB: Home run to Fly Ball Ratio

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