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2012 NLCS: Cardinals/Giants Series Preview

A long, sort-of preview of the St. Louis Cardinals for your perusal. It turns out they're a good team. Did Brandon Crawford kick Jon Jay in the face in that picture? Probably. Also, here's a link to Will Clark fighting off four Cardinals before Candy Maldonado collapses Ozzie Smith like a hamper.

Dilip Vishwanat - Getty Images

After a year of not having big, important opinions on the Cardinals, now we don't have a choice. David Freese, for most of the year, is just another way to laugh at the Padres, who traded him for 90 awful at-bats of Jim Edmonds. Now he's someone we have to look at with a mixture of fear, respect, and contempt several times every day for the next week. There's no time to prepare. Just dive right in.

If you came here for actual analysis, that's adorable! I suppose I could put together some charts and graphs with the Cardinals' wOBA compared to the Giants' or whatever … but that doesn't tell you anything about a best-of-seven series. There's nothing that tells you how a best-of-seven series is going to go. We just have to guess and watch. Until then, here's a list of the things I know about the Cardinals:

Holy crap, do they have a lot of good hitters
It's disgusting. I'll just highlight one of the homegrown ones so you can see what I mean: Allen Craig was an eighth-rounder out of Cal. He moved slowly, going a level at a time, and he was always a touch old for his league. He showed good power in Triple-A, but he had trouble with his plate discipline, striking out twice as much as he walked.

Put it like this: When Pablo Sandoval was 24, he had 32 walks and 63 strikeouts in 426 major-league at-bats. He was chided for being undisciplined. When Allen Craig was 24, he had 37 walks and 95 strikeouts in 472 Triple-A at-bats.

So the Cardinals brought Allen Craig to the majors, and he hit just as well there as he did in the minors.

Which makes no sense.

But the Cardinals do this all the time -- Jon Jay, Matt Carpenter, Freese … heck, even Skip Schumaker. They have a way of bringing players along slowly and easing them in, and there's almost no adjustment between their minor-league numbers and what they produce in the majors. Schumaker's minor-league OPS is .740, and his major-league OPS is .722. Jon Jay: .803 in the minors, .773 in the majors. Craig: .888 in the minors, 863 in the majors. All of them came up when they were at least 25.

It's almost a cliché to suggest that Brandon Belt would be a world-beater if he were in the Cardinals' organization, but I wonder what the Cardinals could have done with Brett Pill or Conor Gillaspie. They have something they aren't telling anyone.

John Mozeliak: Here, chew this.

Cardinals prospect: What is this?

Mozeliak: Just chew it.

Prospect: Well, I'm not going to unless I know what it is.

Mozeliak: Fine, it's Stan Musial's adrenal gland.

Prospect: What? But doesn't he need that?

Stan Musial: I grew another one.

Prospect: That doesn't …


Look at Yadier Molina's career some time. The guy moved from Whiteside to Bengie to Buster in a nice, linear fashion after being rushed to the majors. They develop and nurture hitters like no other organization in the game, and then you add a Matt Holliday into the lineup. It's almost unfair.

Pete Kozma, rookie sensation, is secretly awful
Pete Kozma! Rookie sensation! This 24-year-old former first-round pick is lighting the National League ablaze! He hit .333/.383/.569 after getting called up, and he hit .250/.455/.500 in the NLDS, including getting the series-winning hit!

Pete Kozma! Rookie sensation! He's the Cardinals' secret weapon, and he's taking the country by storm!

Pete Kozma! Rookie sensation! Here are his Triple-A numbers compared to Emmanuel Burriss':

AAA (2 seasons) 948 77 165 .223 .286 .324 .610

AAA (5 seasons) 772 57 70 .281 .343 .357 .699

Which is which? Kozma's line is the one with the lower slugging percentage. But he's awesome now. Oh.

Pete Kozma: You want me to do what with this pile of Rogers Hornsby's ashes?

Pete Kozma: I mean, I want to hit as much as the next guy, but ...

Pete Kozma: ...

Pete Kozma: Okay.

The Cardinals like to use their bullpen early in playoff games
For most of the season, the Cardinals' late-inning relief was good, but their middle relief was shaky, so it looked like the strategy they used last year in the playoffs wasn't going to be tenable this year. Surprise! Trevor Rosenthal throws 100 m.p.h. with command! Let's see what Baseball America had to say about him before the season, when he was the Cardinals' #11 prospect:

Last season, he added zip to his stuff, sitting regularly at 91-95 m.p.h. with a heavy sinker.

Surprise! But what's another five to nine miles per hour between friends? The Cardinals did this last year with Lance Lynn, and this is why they're annoying.

Kyle Lohse is annoying and good, as are the rest of the Cardinals' starting pitchers
The secret word of the day is "annoying." But it's meant as a compliment, really. And by definition, all good sinkerballers are annoying if they aren't on your team. There's nothing worse than watching dead at-bat after dead at-bat, with hitters pounding pitches into the dirt. Lohse is a sinkerballer, as are Jake Westbrook, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia. By definition, when they're going right, they're frustrating to watch.

Westbrook and Garcia are hurt, though, so the Cardinals will rely on Lance Lynn in the rotation, and they'll also have Adam Wainwright. Both of them get hitters out the normal way, dang it. Strikeouts and well-placed pitches, like real men. Not that it's any less frustrating to watch a team get shut out like that, but it feels like the guy who developed the sinker was a really big soccer fan. I can't explain it, but there's some sort of connection.

Also, Chris Carpenter had the same surgery that Noah Lowry had, and he returned a couple months later. That's totally fair.

Carlos Beltran will get booed, which doesn't make any sense
He was good for the Giants. I mean, I guess if you're booing his very existence being the reason the Giants don't have Zack Wheeler anymore, I can kind of see that. But the dude came over and hit, and he was open to staying, but the Giants had other plans. Don't pick on the guy for that.

Besides, if Beltran re-signed, the Giants wouldn't have had Melky Cabrera! Which seems a lot less meaningful right now. But when the Giants re-sign Melky for two years, $8 million and a whole bunch of performance clauses, the gift of not re-signing Beltran will have finally paid off. Cough.

Mike Matheny tried to kill me once
I was in the bleachers, section 138, a little tipsy, and I was loudly proclaiming that Mike Matheny was a lousy hitter. This was when he was on the Giants, and I wasn't a fan of his offensive contributions. Within five seconds of my last obnoxious comment, he hit a home run that missed my face by 10 inches. I stopped making fun of Mike Matheny.

And it's weird, I kind of like Matheny now. Maybe he rewired my brain with fear. That doesn't seem right.

If this all seems like doom and gloom and ooooh nooooo the Cardinals are going to get us, it's not meant to be. The other side didn't watch the bad stretches from our starting pitchers, just like we haven't seen what an Allen Craig or David Freese slump looks like. Beltran and Holliday actually slumped to end the season, too. When Cards fans look at Madison Bumgarner, they don't see the guy who finished the season looking tired. Same thing with Vogelsong and his August/early September. Those guys still look tough to an opposing team.

As well they should, dang it. The Cardinals are a good team, but so are the Giants. I propose that the Giants hit the Cardinals' pitchers, while the Giants' pitchers limit the hits from the Cardinals' hitters. Also, the Giants should catch the damned ball, while the Cardinals should not. This is a foolproof plan, and I've already sent copies of this in triplicate to various people in the offices of 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

I got texts and e-mails last might from people who were happy the Nationals were out. That's a little weird. I'm happy about an extra potential home game. That's about it.