Guest Blogger: Baseball Musings’ David Pinto predicts the National League postseason

Each day this week, The Baseball Zealot has been featuring special guest bloggers who have been giving their predictions on the 2009 MLB end-of year-awards and postseason matchups.  To wrap up the series, we are fortunate to have David Pinto bring out his crystal ball and post his thoughts on how the National League postseason is shaping up.

david David Pinto, for those who few baseball fans who haven’t heard of him, is the god-blogger of baseball updates.  For 10 years, Pinto served as chief researcher for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.  Now, he spends his time editing his very popular Baseball Musings blog.  Baseball Musings was one of the very first baseball blogs I followed on a regular basis (and still do to this day). 

You’ll also find Pinto’s analysis in his Sporting News weekly column

NL Predictions

The National League playoff picture looks set.  The Cardinals hold a huge lead in the NL Central.  The Phillies lead the Marlins and Braves by a healthy amount, but as the last two years taught us, there is no such thing as a safe lead in the NL East.  While the Dodgers are looking stronger for an NL West win, and the Rockies built a big enough lead in the Wild Card race that they probably make the playoffs.

The seeding then becomes important in determining which team eventually wins the NL pennant.  Right now, the Dodgers own the best record in the National League.  Their remaining schedule points to the team staying at the top of the league.  Los Angeles plays teams still competing for the playoffs six times, while the rest of their games are against the weakest teams in the league, including the Pirates and the Nationals.

The Cardinals and Phillies are very close (the Phillies hold the tie breaker).  The Cardinals schedule is a little easier than the Phillies, as they play the Marlins and Braves, who are still trying to chase them down.  It looks to me like the Cardinals should sneak by the Phillies for the second seed in the NL playoffs.  That would give us the Dodgers hosting the Phillies, since they can’t play a wild card from their own division, and the Cardinals hosting the Rockies.


Rockies vs. Cardinals

This really looks like a pitching series.  The Rockies lead the majors in quality starts, but the Cardinals on average produce better results from their starters.  That’s due to a quality of the St. Louis staff versus the quantity of the Rockies starters.  With Carpenter and Wainwright, the Cardinals throw two pitchers who rank in the top five in the National League.  Joel Pineiro comes in as one of the better third starters in the league.  There’s a fall off in pitching after that.

The Rockies have a fine ace in Ubaldo Jimenez, but their 2-5 starters are interchangeable.  Unless there are injuries, however, starting pitching depth doesn’t count for much in the playoffs, especially with two off days in the series allowing the possibility of using just three starters.  The edge in pitching goes to the Cardinals.

The quality versus quantity argument shifts when examining the offense.  Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday both hit better than anyone on the Rockies.  There is a fairly wide gap between those two and the rest of the hitters on the team.  With the Rockies, they send out four high quality hitters; Helton, Smith, Hawpe and Tulowitzki.  All four get on base and hit for power, but not at the level of Pujols and Holliday.  In a way, the Rockies pitchers will have an easier time.  They need to get around two batters, and any of the Rockies starters are good enough to handle the rest of the lineup.  Without facing Holliday, the Rockies posted a 2.25 ERA against the Cardinals in four games this year, the team going 4-0.  The offense favors the Rockies.

Colorado does not play as well on the road, as so three games in St. Louis might make the difference.  The offense just doesn’t hit as well out of the thin air and the big outfield.  I suspect Carpenter and Wainwright will take full advantage of that in games 1 & 2, and one of them can try to do it again in game five if needed.  I believe it will be a close series, but better front line pitching and home field wins out for St. Louis.

Phillies vs. Dodgers

This is one series that is tough to call due to the state of flux in the two starting staffs.  The Phillies added Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez and both came on like gangbusters (although Lee slowed down lately).  The Dodgers staff struggled with injuries, causing them to add Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla, both of whom improved ERAs compared to the time spent with their former teams.  With Kershaw hurt and Billingsley pitching like the Verducci effect is catching up to him, the Phillies come into this series with a better starting staff.  Hamels is pitching well again, Happ has time to recover from his injury and Lee and Martinez showed great control since joining the team.

Offensively, this series pits the Dodgers ability to get on base against the Phillies superior power. The Dodgers hold the best OBP in the National League, the Phillies the best slugging percentage.  The Dodgers score runs by keeping the bases full of batters.  The Phillies strike with big blows. This may be Philadelphia’s great advantage.  The Phillies pitching staff, especially the starters likely to pitch in the series, walks few batters.  Take away the Dodgers walks, and they’re going to need to hit a lot of singles to score runs.  The Dodgers pitchers do a good job of limiting home runs, but the Phillies may only need to hit one mistake out of the park to make the difference in the game.

I like the Phillies power against the Dodgers ability to get on base in this series.  Los Angeles will need to keep the games close so their superior bullpen might win out, but I favor the Phillies to go on to the NLCS.


Phillies vs. Cardinals

This should be an exciting series.  The starting staffs for both teams are excellent, with the Cardinals better at the top of the rotation, the Phillies better at the back.  The offenses are more evenly matched that it seems at first glance, since Busch Stadium depresses offense, while Citizen’s Bank Park helps offense.

The Phillies own two advantages, however.  The Cardinals hit poorly against left-handed pitching, and with Hamels and Lee Philadelphia can throw two good ones against St. Louis.  The other is depth of offense.  Pujols and Holliday are as good if not better than anyone on the Phillies.  Backing up Utley and Howard, however, are Victorino, Werth and Ibanez.  The two through five slots in the Philadelphia lineup give the Cardinals starters little respite.  The top talent on the Cardinals is close enough to the front line talent of the Phillies that the Phillies depth should win out.

Much thanks to David Pinto for his great insight! 

That wraps up The Baseball Zealot’s week of special guests analyzing the end-of-year awards and postseason races.  I hope you have enjoyed them. 

I want to thank all of the good folks who have taken the time to write some fantastic articles for TBZ this week.  They all have been really excellent.  If you haven’t already, take some time to read the others:


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