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NLDS Preview - Cardinals vs. Padres
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
October 1, 2006

St. Louis Cardinals: 83-78, 781 RS/762 RA
San Diego Padres: 88-74, 731 RS/679 RA

Complete 2006 Standings

Playoff Central

Has any team played worse coming down the stretch than the Cardinals? With two weeks left, the Cards only needed a couple of wins to clinch the NL Central, and they barely got them. What does this mean we should expect from them in the playoffs?

Well, there are two schools of thought on this. I have long argued that the teams that put their division away in July fare poorly in the playoffs, because it has been so long since they played an important game. This theory is justified by the number of wild card team which have won the World Series, but it doesn’t hold up as an absolute. Nevertheless, in this sense, maybe the last minute run by the Astros was just what the Cardinals team needed coming down the stretch to wake them up and get the ship righted.

The only problem with this is, the ship isn’t righted. The Cards currently have one good pitcher in Cris Carpenter, one solid pitcher in Jeff Suppan, and major question marks in Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis. The Cardinals had better hope they win Game One with Carpenter starting, or else he may not get another start. Other than the Carpenter/Jake Peavy matchup, the pitching matchups favor San Diego big time. This is true despite the fact that David Wells is slated as the Game Two starter for the Padres.

The Cardinals, of course, have a very good lineup, but it matches up less favorably against the Padres’ lineup than one might think. Obviously, first base and third base are advantage Cardinals. But I would much rather have Dave Roberts leading off than David Eckstein, just as I would much rather have Mike Piazza hitting in the catcher’s spot over Yadier Molina. Chris Duncan and Brian Giles are polar opposites – one has lots of power but doesn’t take walks, the other takes tons of walks but has no power. In the playoffs, Giles is a lot less likely to go into a slump than Duncan. In any other year, Juan Encarnacion and Mike Cameron would be a toss-up, but Cameron was surprisingly good at getting on-base this season, and had his best all around season since 2001.

The Cardinals had better hope they take Game One with Carpenter on the mound, and they had better hope Pujols and Rolen can hit big, because the Cardinals are not a team built to win in the playoffs. I don’t think they’ll even take Game One.

Last year the Cardinals swept the Padres out of the playoffs in the first round. This year, the Padres get even.

Prediction: Padres over Cardinals (3-0)

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher resides in Philadelphia, PA and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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