And this is the league I like!
St. Louis Cardinals versus New York Mets
Yesterday the Cardinals made it official, dispatching the Padres in 4 games with a 6-2 spanking under the helm of Chris(t) Carpenter.
So with 3 of my favourite 4 teams being in the NL (Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners, Astros) and two of the next four (Twins, Brewers, Angels, Rockies), its disappointing that two of my least favourite, the Cardinals and the Mets, are onto the championship series. From what little I really notice of these teams, I'll try to piece together something. I'm still choked about the Dodgers getting swept though.
St. Louis have an excellent starting lineup, with Carpenter and Marquis on top, and Weaver and Suppan and solid pitchers in their own righ...oh, wait, this isn't the 2005 season. This year, Suppan and Carpenter have been excellent, and Marquis and Weaver have stunk like week-old raw hamburger. On the relief side, Looper hasn't accumulated any saves from his middle relief position, but has secured nine wins in his own right. Jason Isringhausen has had a rough season: 33 saves, but a 4-8 record and a 1.36 K/BB ratio. Not bad until you remember two years ago that was 47 saves, a 4-2 record, an ERA almost 0.70 lower than this season, and a masterful 3.08 K/BB. The offensive positions feature a Molina brother (the well-rounded one) catching, with a temporarily uninjured Scott Rolen at 3rd, Juan Encarnación (a name its always a joy to hear Vin Scully say), the old man Edmonds (barely born in the 70s) in centre field, and a pair of 1975ers (Eckstein, Belliard) in the middle infield. So So Taguchi is a backup fielder, and some Poo-Joals guy I've never heard of before playing first base. Okay, that's a solid lineup. Not much of a running game, but when you've got a 137 RBI man and a 95 RBI man in your lineup (and when both were injured and on pace for 155/108 in 162 games) I guess that's an optional gameplay. Taguchi got 11 stolen bases, so I suppose that's a somewhat credible thr...aw, who am I kidding. Keep the ball on the ground, and the Cardinals are defenseless. Pujols alone grounded into double plays 20 times (in 143 games), and 4 other Cardinals also hit the double digits. On the bright side, one Cardinal (Looper) once had a 1.000 season swinging the bat (1 hit in 1 at-bat).
As for the Mets, pitching is definitely not their weak point. Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel, and Orlando Hernandez may not sound too assuming, until you realize I've just listed the three Mets pitchers who have a better record than Pedro Martinez. 15-7 for Glavine, 15-8 for Trachsel, and 9-7 for Hernandez (Pedro is at 9-8 this season). Meanwhile John Maine, who only has 6 wins in 16 starts, has the lowest ERA in the starters at 3.60 (Trachsel is highest at 4.97, which is more than a little worrisome). Billy Wagner (who I traded away in fantasy baseball in June) is a 40 save holder with a 2.24 ERA. Aaron Heilman is the only member of the Mets bullpen with an ERA above 3 (and still below 4). Pedro Feliciano (the "other Pedro", as it were) actually has 7 wins and 2 losses with an ERA of 2.09. Three Mets are legitimately 100+ RBI guys this year, two are in the 20+ homer club, and Delgado almost hit 40 (and Reyes/Valentin almost hit 20). Speaking of Jose Reyes, he's stolen a base or two this season; and by two, I mean 64. David Wright (20), Carlos Beltran (18), and former Edmonton Trapper Endy Chavez (12) round out the double digit basestealers for the Mets. In other words, New York has a powerful ally in its arsenal that the Cardinals are lacking. Molina can throw a guy out (77 assists this year), but he can't get Reyes every time, and his team can't throw a couple Reyes at you. Taguchi is their sole double-digit basestealer, and he has 2 home runs and a 0.351 slugging percentage. The Mets have Delgado alone who can be a lineup nuisance (ie. the player Frank Thomas is on the A's this year), nevermind Reyes and Valentin and Wright. Cliff Floyd has a couple stolen bases and a dozen homers as well, Paul Lo Duca had a 0.355 OBP this year, and even Xavier Nady is pushing a 0.500 slugging percentage.
Advantage here naturally has to go to the Mets. St. Louis is going to have to bring their "A" game to the plate every single day. Carpenter is going to have to shut down this Mets offense, and he's more of a ground ball pitcher to a power pitcher. The Cardinals infield is going to have to stay alert. Reyes and Valentin can outrun the throws that 99% of the time make an easy out at the plate. A strong defense can shut the Mets down, and St. Louis has
the offense one guy who can overwhelm any pitcher. The secret is in the hurler: Astros successfully used pitching to take the pennant last season, and the Mets have far more offensive power than the Astros did. This one's gonna be interesting.
And this is the league I like!