BASEBALLStL – It is an unfortunate reality that big name stars don’t often win play-off games, but they can sure lose them. For every Reggie Jackson/Mr. October there are several like Alex Rodriguez (the invisible man).
So even if Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay play at or slightly above their capabilities, it will not be enough to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.
Without them, the Cardinals wouldn’t have a chance, of course, but the Dodgers are better than the Cardinals in many key categories and it will take something special from three players to give the Redbirds the edge.
How much better are the Dodgers? They scored 100 more runs than the Redbirds, (718-619) while surrendering just a handful more runs. While the Dodgers won 94 games, the Cards’ Pythagorean record (via Bill James) should have been 83-79, as evidenced by their paper-thin advantage in runs scored/runs surrendered (+16).
The Birds scored four total runs in a train wreck four-game series in LA earlier this year. Since the All-Star break, they won just three of 10 road series, losing to the Padres, Phillies, Marlins, Reds and Cubs, all sub-.500 teams.
The Dodgers are not the Cubs or the Padres. So, someone(s) will have to play large if St. Louis moves on. Here are the three key players who could make the difference.
1). Jhonny Peralta. Yes, 21 bombs is nice and he played a better shortstop than expected. But, hitting in an RBI position in the batting order, he often did not produce, batting just .237 with runners on base (.239 RISP) and .176 with the bases loaded. More troubling, he whiffed 43 times with men on base. He will come up in key spots in these games. For a team that doesn’t get many chances to score, every opportunity is enormous. Peralta must produce.
2). Kolten Wong. He can make the great play and kill big innings with his glove. But unfortunately, so can he with his bat. Wong banged 12 homers this year in limited plate appearances and drove in 42, many of them in big situations. But he fanned 71 times, which is why he isn’t batting second anymore. Pitchers have learned they don’t need to throw strikes to get him out and his lack of patience at the plate doesn’t engender long at-bats. He leads the team in steals with 20 and when he is on base (as with Peter Bourjos), pitchers tend to fall apart. He needs at-bats that last more than three pitches and he must get on base twice a game, somehow.
3). Lance Lynn. He lost his last four decisions, despite never surrendering more than three earned runs and thus, remained stuck at 15 wins. That is not nearly indicative of what this big boy can do. Wainwright alone will not be enough to defeat the Dodgers and John Lackey has not been compelling. Lynn has the ability to dominate a team and did it many times this year. His number one enemy is himself but his willingness to control and channel his anger into positive results has been refreshing, if not at times downright scary. (After escaping a three-error first inning with just two runs on Sept. 6 in Milwaukee, Lynn walked off the mound after issuing a guttural scream that could be heard all the way in the press box. He won that game 5-3, his last win of the season). Lynn’s worst game of the year was against LA, when he gave up six earned runs in two innings. For some pitchers that might be concerning, but Lynn will use it to stoke the relentless fire that burns within him.