By Mark Renken
Hello, dudes. Since I last wrote I’ve been wrapped up in this whole full time job thing and doing responsible things like getting to bed at decent hours and being out of bed all day. BULLSHIT if you ask me. So, in an effort to keep you loyal readers with wet palettes during this playoff race, I’ve hired an intern that the three of us know well.
Mark Renken is a St. Louisian currently living in that bummed out cesspool known as New York City. Mr. Renken loves crisp hats, white sneaks and white russians (in that order) and talking the Cards. He’s been jonesing to guest write for the Swing since we started so please give him a read. It’s informative and it’ll warm my heart.
Dr. Dre Knows Best (Cards-Dodgers NLDS preview)
Like most of you in this world, I only get my news from celebrities and pop culture. I mean, there’s more fact coming from these guys than Wikipedia. So when the Doctor of Hip-Hop tells me to enjoy something slow, I’m gonna (except choking and beating women, of which he is also an expert). Logically, this applies to most everything…bangin’, replays, and of course, the Major League Baseball Playoffs. You just never want it to end. I don’t. But unfortunately, with the solid pitching and the usually abysmal lineups the Cardinals and Dodgers possess, this one may be over quick.
When it comes to pitching, the Cards top two guys are writing the book this year. Chris Carpenter is sporting a 17-4 record, with a National League best 2.24 ERA coming into the playoffs. His boy, Adam Wainwright, and his Major League leading 19 wins, round out the superb 1-2 punch. These guys will be tougher than Clint Eastwood in, well, basically every movie he’s ever been in. The Cards third ain’t so bad either. Joel Pinero throws strikes and throws a lot of them. And when hitters make contact on his formidable sinker, they beat it into the ground so hard PETA will be protesting the death of worms at these games. The bullpen, however, is pretty much as reliable as your local cable company…not. Ryan Franklin’s ERA is something to be proud off (1.92), but his late inning fiasco’s have turned up as of late (he has allowed 27 of the last 54 batters he’s faced to reach base) and his lack of playoff experience has come into question.
The Dodgers head into the NLDS with a three-headed monster that doesn’t quite have the teeth the Cardinals do, but is still formidable. Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley, and Clayton Kershaw make up the trifecta. They all pack decent ERAs, with Kershaw’s coming in at a delectably low 2.79. However, Kershaw and Billingsley are sometimes erratic, giving out more free passes than Porky’s. That said, five good innings from any Dodger starter puts them in good shape, as they have an excellent bullpen of power arms like Jonathan Broxton plus the deception/command lefty George Sherrill.
So the strengths of these two teams is clearly the pitching, and if you couldn’t tell by the stats, watch these two teams play. The Cardinals usually play a “live by the Pujols, die by the Pujols” game with a little Matt Holliday sprinkled on top, while the Dodgers, with Man Ram in an unusual funk right now, probably due to “Manny being Tranny” taking chick pills, don’t have much gusto at all.
The Cardinals might be able to win with Pujols and Holliday carrying the offense, but getting some kind of contribution from elsewhere in the lineup would make a huge difference. Ryan Ludwick has the power, Colby Rasmus takes great at bats and has bat speed and Skip Schumaker can do some damage against a right-hander — but there’s no one in this lineup who I would call “likely” to make an impact. Especially Rick Ankiel, if Tony LaRussa is dumb enough to play him. I don’t think he could hit a ball off a tee right now, let alone one that’s moving.
Like I said earlier, even Manny Ramirez, normally the best hitter on the team, has been swinging through average fastballs right down Broadway. His best approach now seems to be going the other way, usually the last bastion of the hitter who’s losing bat speed. The Dodgers’ lineup also includes Russell Martin and James Loney, both of whom can take a pitch outside the zone but neither of whom represents much of a threat to pitchers who throw strikes, which the Cards top three pitchers do a lot of. However, look for the emerging Matt Kemp to be the combination of power and speed the Dodgers may rely on heavily in this series.
Depending on how things play out, this series could be done quickly. If the Dodgers aren’t aggressive at the plate, and get behind 0-2 in counts before they can blink, Cardinals pitching will dominate. Being passive plays right into the Cards hands and it could be three and out for the boys from LA. The Cardinals hitters, however, need to stay very patient. Sometimes the Dodger hurlers love the backstop more than the catcher’s mitt and free passes could come by the handfuls. All in all, this series will be as tight as your asshole in the slammer. I think the team that squeezes out four or five runs in each game will definitely have a huge advantage. These teams would love to keep these games short and sweet. This just proves…Dr. Dre don’t know shit.
Prediction: Cardinals in four.