The National League Championship Series begins tonight. The Cardinals and Giants square off in the NLCS for the first time since 2012, when the Giants eventually won the World Series. Can they get back this season? Here is my NLCS preview.
The Cardinals over the Giants in six games
Both the Cardinals and Giants play extremely well in the postseason. The Giants have won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 and the Cardinals are going to their fourth straight NLCS, winning the series in 2011. The Cardinals got to the World Series last year against the Boston Red Sox, but were eventually bested in six games. Now they have another chance to get back and I believe that they will. Let's break down their strengths and weaknesses.
The Cardinals and Giants are two very similar teams. On the offensive, the Cardinals scored 619 runs during the regular season, which ranked 23rd in the majors. While that may seem low, you cannot underestimate the Cardinals offense, which is perhaps the most "clutch" in the majors. During their series against the Dodgers, the Cardinals were losing coming into the seventh inning all four games. They successfully won three times. With an offense that includes Matt Holliday (.811 OPS), Jon Jay (.750 OPS), Matt Carpenter (.750 OPS), Matt Adams (.779 OPS), and Jhonny Peralta (.779 OPS), the Cardinals shouldn't be taken lightly. If they can score a lot of runs, this could be a quick series in their favor.
As for the Giants offense, they looked better during the regular season. The Giants finished 12th in runs scored with 665, posting a 101 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus). Other than Buster Posey, the Giants do not have many big name players in their lineup, but they have such good chemistry and get the right hits at the right time. The Giants had issues scoring against the Nationals, averaging just 2.25 runs per game (9 total runs). Posey (.854 OPS), Michael Morse (.811 OPS), Hunter Pence (.777 OPS), Brandon Belt (.755 OPS), and Pablo Sandoval (.739 OPS) round out an extremely good Giants offense.
The Giants' and Cardinals' pitching staff are nearly identical. They ranked 10th and 11th in the majors in ERA, respectively. As for the Cardinals pitching staff, they have a shutdown rotation that includes the likes of Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and John Lackey. Not to mention, they have Michael Wacha out of the bullpen if need be. Their bullpen in general is pretty good, with Pat Neshek, Seth Maness, and others, setting the game up for Trevor Rosenthal.
The Giants' pitching staff is just as good. With Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Ryan Vogelsong their pitching staff should be able to contend nicely with the Cardinals offense. Yusmero Petit came out of the bullpen in game two of the NLDS and pitched five scoreless en route to the Giants 2-1, 18 inning defeat of the Washington Nationals. Their bullpen may not be as good as the Cardinals, but with Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla at the back of the bullpen, they will be tough to hit.
The Cardinals and Giants are two very similar teams, which will likely make for a great series. Good luck to both teams, but I believe the Cardinals will take the series in six game.