Monday, October 06, 2014

Game 3 (And A Bit More): NLDS ZIPS Preview

I found this late, but Jim Bowden and Dan Szymborski at did a preview of the Dodgers-Cardinals NLDS series before it started. Their simulations on the starting pitching matchup gave Game 1 to the Dodgers (wrong!) and Game 2 to the Dodgers (correct!). Here's what they predict for Game 3, not to mention their other ratings and scenario-based predictions for the series outcome (link insider only):

Game 3 starters: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. John Lackey. Ryu hasn't pitched since Sept. 12 because of a shoulder injury but was cleared to start Game 3 after successfully throwing a simulated game Wednesday. The lefty's two primary assets are his ability to hit the corners and his deadly down-and-away changeup that he uses most often against right-handed hitters. ... The Cardinals traded for Lackey in large part because of his playoff experience and success. Simply put, the Cardinals are hoping that Lackey pitches as well for them as he did last year against them in the World Series. Lackey finished the season with two strong starts against the Reds and Cubs, which no doubt helped him earn the Game 3 start. Between his postseason experience and Ryu's three-week layoff, the edge goes to St. Louis here. Edge: Cardinals.

Lineup: The Dodgers have a significant advantage here. Not only do they have a balanced and complete lineup, but all the key options are healthy again. Plus, they're hot, particularly Matt Kemp, who was the NL player of the month for September and looks like the hitter who was second in the NL MVP voting in 2011. ... The Cardinals were 29th in the majors in home runs and 28th in the league in stolen bases. The Cardinals need to win this series with pitching and defense, because they won't out-hit the Dodgers. Edge: Dodgers.

Bullpen: The Dodgers have the advantage at closer with Kenley Jansen, who is coming off another stellar season. The Cardinals, however, have a much deeper bullpen, including many different looks in terms of arm angles, repertoire and release points. Closer Trevor Rosenthal has a 98-99 mph fastball with a devastating changeup and an underrated curveball, Pat Neshek was one of the league's best eighth-inning relievers with his low three-quarters arm angle, Seth Maness has one of the best sinkers in the league, Randy Choate can still get lefties out and Carlos Martinez is another flamethrower. Sam Freeman came on late and also could be a factor. The rest of the Dodgers' right-handed bullpen have the names, including Brian Wilson to Chris Perez, but they have had a lot of inconsistency in terms of stuff and results this season. They are, however, strong from the left side with J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez. The Dodgers have the advantage in the ninth, but the Cardinals have the overall better bullpen. Edge: Cardinals.

Team defense: The Cardinals led the National League in runs saved and are an improved defensive team from last year. Matt Carpenter has more range than David Freese did last year, Jhonny Peralta makes routine plays better than Pete Kozma did, while both Matt Adams and Jon Jay are better than they were a year ago. The Cardinals had the fourth-fewest errors in the NL, and using the exaggerated defensive shift almost three times more than they did in 2013 has helped them. The Dodgers have an above-average defense on the right side of the infield, but they're below-average on the left side. The Dodgers' outfield has above-average range, and while Yasiel Puig is not a pure center fielder, he makes up for it with a passion to get to every ball and a rifle of an arm. The Cardinals have the best defensive catcher in baseball in Yadier Molina, but don't underestimate A.J. Ellis, who is one of the best catchers in the majors at calling a game. Edge: Cardinals.

Bowden's series prediction: Dodgers just have too much for the Cardinals; they win in five games. [...]

  • Game 3 in St. Louis (Ryu vs. Lackey): Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2. The Cardinals have a 54.1 percent chance of winning this home game.
  • Game 4 in St. Louis, if necessary (Dan Haren vs. Shelby Miller): Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4. The Cardinals have a healthy 62.8 percent chance of winning.
  • Game 5 in Los Angeles, if necessary (Wainwright vs. Kershaw): Dodgers 2, Cardinals 1. Just like in Game 1, the Dodgers have a 66.4 percent chance of winning.

Series recap: The Dodgers-Cardinals matchup projects as the most even pairing of the four divisional series entering Game 1. Adam Wainwright is a terrific pitcher, but there's literally nobody in the playoffs who's in Clayton Kershaw's class this year. The home team is favored by the projections in every game -- Hyun-Jin Ryu isn't the pitcher he was in 2013 and Dan Haren really pitches like a fourth starter -- but Kershaw and an extra home game are enough to give the Dodgers a slight edge.

ZiPS' series result percentages:

  • Dodgers in 3: 15.5 percent
  • Dodgers in 4: 15.3 percent
  • Dodgers in 5: 25.7 percent
  • Cardinals in 3: 13.0 percent
  • Cardinals in 4: 21.6 percent
  • Cardinals in 5: 9.0 percent

Overall series odds: Dodgers 56.5 percent, Cardinals 43.5 percent.