Mike Freire - NLCS Preview and Prediction

Good Afternoon, Mets' fans!

In a previous article, I posted the 2019 MLB playoff field and I also explained how I prefer to break the different matchups down (refer to the same if you have any questions about what the factors listed below mean).  I will continue to do so as the playoffs move along, while also predicting who I think will ultimately win each series the rest of the way.

Before we get to the League Championship series, I wanted to take a quick look on how my "picks" have fared.  I managed to get both Wild Card picks right (2-0), even though the games didn't unfold according to the "plan", if you will.  Moving on to the Division Series, I didn't fare as well. OK, I flat out stunk!  I picked the Dodgers and Braves in the National League, so naturally, the Nationals and Cardinals moved on to the NLCS.  I also (stupidly) picked the Twins and Astros to move on in the American League. Instead the Twins basically swapped bodies with this year's Tigers once the playoffs began which led to them getting swept by the Yankees.  At least the Astros  (barely) held up their end of the bargain, although it was not without a HUGE scare from a very scrappy Rays team so I am 3-3 so far, with three series left.

Let's get started by taking a look at the National League Championship Series, first.

Friday, October 11th @ 808 PM (Busch Stadium, St Louis - Best of Seven)

Washington (97-71) against St Louis (94-72)
Anibal Sanchez                    Miles Mikolas

1. LAST 30 - Washington (19-11), St Louis (19-11)

2. RUN DIFF - Washington (-3), St Louis (-1)


 a. DEFENSE - Washington (.985%, 84 E), St Louis (.989%, 66 E)

 b. BASERUNNING - Washington (111 SB, 86 SBA), St Louis (115 SB, 33 SBA)

 c. BULLPEN - Washington (40/69 SV = 58%), St Louis (52/73 SV = 71%)

4. ROAD % - Washington (46-39), St Louis (43-41)

5.  HEAD 2 HEAD - St Louis won five of the seven matchups with Washington during
the regular season.   That included taking three out of four in Washington towards the end of April, as well as taking two out of three in St Louis in the middle of September.

ANALYSIS/PICK - So, how many of you picked a Nationals/Cardinals NLCS?  I suppose it shouldn't be a huge surprise since the Nationals are very talented and were likely the best team in the NL East (especially if you take away their horrible 19-31 start to the year). The Cardinals are simply a fundamentally sound squad that refuses to quit, which usually helps in the high profile atmosphere of playoff baseball (sorry Atlanta....OK, not really).

We can hash out all of the little details in this series and probably talk ourselves into favoring one squad over the other, only to change our mind when we look at a different data set.  What is telling is that the Cardinals had some success (5-2) against the Nationals in the regular season, so will that carry over?  Both teams are coming off emotional Game 5's on the road, although you could argue the Cardinals had an easier time of it after a ten run first inning in Atlanta.  Will the extended series and the emotional toll that it took on each team play a role in this series?

Both teams are very sound defensively and both teams can create offense with their running games ("small ball", if you will).  Both team have average bullpens (although I would be a bit worried about the Cardinals closer moving forward) that don't get as much work as other teams due to deep and talented starting pitching depth.  So, what will separate these two squads? Game One is my answer.

IF the Nationals can take the first game in St Louis with Anibal Sanchez on the hill, they would take over home field advantage in the series AND they can follow up with some combination of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin in the next three games.  As much as I like the Cardinals starting pitching, that scenario would be VERY difficult to overcome.  I would almost rate the first game as a must win situation for the Cardinals, as crazy as that sounds.

I think this will be another back and forth affair, much like the rest of the 2019 playoffs to date. When all is said and done, I am picking the Nationals to win the NLCS in six games.

***Even though I loathe to see a divisional opponent have any sort of success, this would be worth it because it will be WITHOUT Bryce Harper!  Couldn't happen to a "nicer" guy.


Tom Brennan said...

Using the head, I'd say Nats...but I pick Cards in 7.

So if you are a betting man....bet on the Nats since my track record is not good LOL

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