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Morning Mound Visit: NL Wild Card Preview

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The Cardinals don’t stand a chance, but really, neither do the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The 2021 Dodgers might be the best team ever assembled. Three of their starters deserve Cy Young consideration, and their bullpen is led by one of the most dominant closers in history at the top of his game. From top to bottom, their lineup features dangerous, patient hitters plus Cody Bellinger. It’s no small wonder they won 106 games. It’s a great wonder how they lost their division and now have to beat the Cardinals in a winner-take-all contest or else go home.

On paper, the Dodgers shouldn’t have any trouble beating St. Louis and rendering the whole Wild Card game pointless. Here’s how the two teams stack up in leaguewide rankings.

Dodgers vs Cardinals

Stat Dodgers Cardinals
Stat Dodgers Cardinals
wRC+ 7 15
DRS 12 1
FIP 1 18
Position Player fWAR 5 7
Pitcher fWAR 2 21

The only area the Cardinals have the advantage is on defense. St. Louis’s defense is the best in the majors thanks to Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, and an all-around solid infield. The Cardinals’ offense and pitching. however, rank in the middle third of baseball.

Much has been made of the Cardinals’ hot finish and their 17-game winning streak, but since the All-Star break, there was no better team than the Dodgers. Los Angeles went 50-21 in the second half, and the only reason they missed winning the West is that the Giants went 50-23 and held onto their two-game lead at the break. Meanwhile, the Cardinals mostly feasted on bad teams; they went only 32-36 against teams over .500.

The Cardinals have their ace on the mound in Adam Wainwright, but the Dodgers are throwing out Max Scherzer, who is simply better. Wainwright just had his best season since 2015, earning himself a one-year extension, but that still pales in comparison to what Max Scherzer has done since putting on a Dodger uniform. Since the trade, Scherzer has a 1.95 FIP in 11 starts, striking out 89 batters in 68 13 innings.

Scherzer vs. Wainwright

Stat Scherzer Wainwright
Stat Scherzer Wainwright
IP 179.1 206.1
ERA 2.46 3.05
FIP 2.97 3.66
K% 34.1 21
BB% 5.2 6
SwStr% 15.9 8.1
CSW% 31.6 29.6
fWAR 5.4 3.8

When both starters are out of the game, the Dodgers once again have the advantage. Kenley Jansen has been unhittable the last few months. Blake Treinen might not be tryin’ to get a vaccine anytime soon, but he regained his breakout stuff. Joe Kelly is good again (wolf howl). If that’s not all, the Dodgers have Julio Urías to use in emergencies.

The Dodgers are the better hitting team and the better pitching team. The Cardinals’ stellar defense might not matter when Corey Seager and Trea Turner are hitting balls into the bleachers. Simply put, there’s no way the Cardinals come out on top.

Prediction

Cardinals win 12-1. Adam Wainwright hits a bases-clearing double.

Other Reading

Bill Lang | Purple Row: The Rockies are getting the band back together for another 74-win season. Antonio Senzatela signed a five-year(!), $50.5 million extension, and CJ Cron signed a two-year, $14.5 million deal.

Patrick Reddington | Federal Baseball: Alcides Escobar signed a one-year, $1 million deal to return to the Washington Nationals. Escobar hit .288/.340/.404 in 349 plate appearances with the Nationals.