Regal Blue

Playoffs! Carpenter v. Wolf

Posted in Uncategorized by gklarsen on October 6, 2009

Well it’s the post season and once again the Dodgers are representing the NL West.  There’s a ton to say about it not just from the Dodgers’ perspective but from all over.  Most blogs take the three day lull between the last game of the season and the first of the playoffs to predict the rosters.  While that’s an interesting line of discussion, it has been done by blogs a thousand times better than me, including MSTI, Memories of Kevin Malone and True Blue LA.  Aside from a few differences in some probably-inconsequential players, we all kind of know what’s going to happen.  No big surprises here.

So instead I choose to focus on the series itself.  First up are the Cardinals.  Everyone in mainstream baseball have written the Blue off.  Can’t compete with that two-headed monster Adchris Carpenwright.  Alien cyborg Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are too damn good.  On the flip side, LA doesn’t have the pitching and Manny apparently sucks now.   Furthermore, the Dodgers don’t play the game the right way.  Instead, they play a shockingly violent and disrespectful variation of field hockey and just call it baseball.

Of course we know better than to trust in mainstream baseball media and their collective hard on for consistent narratives.  After all, the Cardinals only won 91 games playing in the surprisingly weak NL central and according to Sean Forman of the NYT bat blog, had a significantly easier schedule overall than the Dodgers.*

*Jon Weisman provides more analysis here.

All of this is to say that there is still reason to be optimistic.  Don’t get me wrong, even if the Dodgers were an awful team who limped into the playoffs with nothing but luck and a god awful division I’d still believe.*  Objectivity, however, is much more interesting, though let us never forget that the playoffs, as always, are a horrible heart crushing crapshoot.

*And for good reason it turns out.  Baseball Prospectus features a study today demonstrating that a team’s record going into the playoffs is virtually irrelevant to post-season success.  In fact, a successful record for a team heading deep into the playoffs may be a very slight statistical detriment.  Regardless, there’s almost no correlation one way or the other.

The opening match up features Chris Carpenter and Randy Wolf.  There’s not much to say about Chris Carpenter.  He’s just been awesome.  There isn’t anything fluke-y about it.  In 192.2 innings pitched, he’s struck out 144, allowed .3 HR/9, and put up a FIP of 2.78.  He’s walking batters at the solid rate of 1.78/9.  Batters are hitting .223 off him.  There’s very little luck involved in that either, as his BABIP is .273 which is low for his career but not anything too striking either especially considering over 55% of the balls put in play are ground balls.

So yeah okay there’s reason to be worried there.  But Randy Wolf is putting up a solid year of his own.  The 3.23 ERA doesn’t exactly tell the whole story.  His FIP is a less-remarkable 3.96.  He won’t strike out more than six per nine and relies on a lot of flyball outs.  A .257 BABIP means he’s gotten pretty lucky this year.  The biggest thing working in his favor is that he hasn’t really walked any this year.  Only 2.44 BB/9 have played a big part in his glowing 1.10 WHIP.  So we’re looking at a pitcher who absolutely has to throw strikes and he’s done so.  That will be a big factor on Wednesday.  If he puts men on base, eventually he’ll get smoked when Holliday or Pujols comes around.

But there is something far more interesting working in Wolf’s favor:  He’s left handed.  As MSTI pointed out, the Cardinals are a different offensive team against left handed pitching.

Their horrible team line of .234/.312/.365 adds up to just a .677 OPS, tied with San Diego for dead last behind two punchless teams landing just ahead of them – San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

MSTI adds, however, that Pujols and Holliday (and to a lesser extent the strangely successful Mark DeRosa) are just fine around lefties.

These two points, that Wolf has been adept at keeping men off base and that the Cards kinda blow against left handed pitching, lead to a pretty obvious conclusion.  If Wolf can continue what he’s been doing all year, this game will end up being quite close.  Pujols and Holliday are going to screw us.  No question.  It’s gonna happen.  But if the rest of the line-up can be kept at bay, there’s not a whole ton to worry about.  A team that employs Khalil Greene and gives him playing time ain’t exactly murderer’s row.

If Randy Wolf continues to avoid the walk so successfully and the Cardinals line-up lives up to their reputation, I sorta like our chances.  Chris Carpenter is going to strike out a ton of batters and walk no one so our window is going to be pretty small.  But I have faith that Wolf will keep us within striking distance.  Say a 7.0 IP 4k 2BB, 3 ER performance.

Of course there’s always the possibility that the Dodgers forget their bats like they’ve done virtually all week against god awful pitching, but we’re all praying that doesn’t happen…

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