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NLCS Preview: Astros/Cardinals

Rematch! The two teams look a little bit different this time around, but I think we may have another seven game series on our hands, or atleast a six game one. Instead of a well balanced team (Houston) facing off against a juggernaut (St. Louis) we now have a team with pretty good pitching and a great lineup against a team with otherwordly pitching and an awful lineup that is somehow capable of putting up runs in bunches. If Berkman, Biggio and Ensberg are hot the Astros can beat anyone. If the lineup slumps, they will have to rely on their three (count em', three) Cy Young worthy pitchers. As prolific as the Cardinals lineup is, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt are better. If they have their A-Game in one start a piece it is going to make the Cardinals shots very slim, or at least very difficult. Let's take a look at the matchups:

Andy Pettite (2.39 ERA) versus Chris Carpenter (2.83 ERA). There stats seem pretty similar at first glance, but one thing really sticks out. Pettitte's second half versus Carpenter's second half. In the context of one game something like this might not matter that much, as Carpenter actually threw a good game against the Padres his first time out in the playoffs after a horrid September, but then again, it was the A) The Padres and B) From what I heard/saw, he did not look good so much as the Padres helped him escape his own situations, especially early on. Until Peavy's injury it looked like Carpenter would be the first one to break in that game. Funny thing, those broken ribs huh?

In Game 2 there are no scheduled starters as of yet, so I cannot really do a preview for them. Just know that Clemens (1.87 ERA) and Oswalt (2.94 ERA...slacker) will matchup against some combination of Mark Mulder (3.64 ERA), Jeff Suppan (3.57 ERA), and Matt Morris (4.11 ERA). All 8 possible starters according to Wins Above Replacement Level:

  1. Clemens 10.4
  2. Oswalt 9.5
  3. Pettitte 9.4
  4. Carpenter 7.6
  5. Mulder 5.0
  6. Suppan 4.5
  7. Backe 3.0
  8. Morris 2.8

Just for good measure, the Astros 4th starter is better than the Cardinals 4th starter by a smidge. And he can hit too (sort of).

The bullpen battle is pretty even, with the Astros showing Chad Qualls, Dan Wheeler and Brad Lidge, and the Cardinals armed with Ray King, Al Reyes and Jason Isringhausen. Update [2005-10-12 10:25:52 by Marc Normandin]: I named the wrong Reyes. I thought Anthony Reyes was the one left off of the playoff roster, not Al. My apologies.

I trust the Astros bullpen more for two reasons: I expect it to be better rested with the three horses Houston is throwing out on the mound, and I'd take Lidge anyday over Isringhausen.

And last but not least, the two teams lineups by Net Runs Above Average. Let's take a peak at how balanced the lineups are:

Oddly enough, both lineups are based off of two players with one or two complimentary guys who do a decent enough job. The difference being of course, that Pujols and Edmonds 27% and 22% of the offense figures are fractions of a much better run producer, whereas in Houston, Ensberg (26%) and Berkman (22%) are the entire offense. When Chris Burke and Mike Lamb are #3 and #4 in percentages, there is an issue that deals with relative performance. Ensberg and Berkman are excellent players this year, but just like when comparing the Cardinals very good pitchers to the Astros superb ones, there is a difference between those two and the Edmonds/Pujols tag team. It will be interesting to see who wins the struggle between a very talented lineup and an even more talented pitching staff.

By the way, which graph do you like better? I would like to know for future usage.

Also, Astros in 6.