The Dodgers four best starting pitchers, the quartet that given the choice should be making up the rotation for the playoffs are Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Hiroke Kuroda. Unfortunately that is not going to happen as Kuroda is out of the first round with a herniated disc. As it stands, it appears that Vicente Padilla will slide into that rotation slot and Jon Garland will get relegated to relief duties. Because of the way the rotation closed out the season, the order for this first round series will be Wolf, Kershaw, Padilla and if needed, Billingsley and then Wolf again.
In terms of match ups, the Cardinals present a formidable one because although the two rotations ended up about equal over the course of the 2009 season, the Cardinals is much more top-heavy with good seasons from Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Pineiro, and thus they see a bigger benefit of the shortened postseason load.
The Dodgers have an edge in the lineup, although they do not possess anything like the duo of Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols, their lineup top-to-bottom is more balanced, much like their pitching staff, but without the part where that becomes less important in the playoffs. Teams don’t get to avoid using their worst regular batter in postseason play so full depth at hitting still plays a role.
Figuring out a way to neutralize those the Pujols and Holliday will probably be a big focus on this series. Of course, baseball doesn’t actually work that way since it’s a series of individualized battles dominated by random chance over small samples. But that’s what I predict a bunch of media types to be stressing about the series.
The big mismatch in this series, for the Dodgers favor, is in the bullpen where Los Angeles was among baseball’s best, led by a dominant season from Jonathan Broxton, who much to Albert Pujols‘ dismay, is not Brad Lidge. Completely the opposite, the Cardinals were among baseball’s worst relief corps with only Ryan Franklin providing much in the way of quality innings. So in reality, the big focus of the series should probably be on how the Dodgers are going to try to work through the tough Cardinals starting pitching and into their vulnerable relief corps. Doing an effective job of running up pitch counts for the starters would really increase the favorable odds for the Dodgers.
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