Evaluating the National League Playoff Contenders
As we head into the playoffs, letís take a quick look at the contenders to represent the National League in the World Series. Weíll start with each teamís 2004 regular season offensive statistics. (In parentheses is the teamís ranking for the applicable category among the 16 NL teams.)
The Cardinals are an offensive machine! But how in the world do they have
such a powerful lineup yet still have so many stolen bases? They do everything
possible to score runs.
The Dodgersí offense ranks last in several categories. Quite a contrast
from the Cardinals, their first-round opponent. Their mediocre percentages can
be partly explained by their ballpark. But how does that explain observation #3?
The Dodgers, lowest among the playoff teams in average, on-base, slug,
and the most important of all, runs scored, still hit over 200 homeruns! That
surely isnít apparent in their slugging percentage. In comparison to the rest
of the categories, that seems to be a very odd stat.
Itís a bit difficult to distinguish Houston from Atlanta, first-round
opponents. Though slightly behind the Braves in hitting and on-base, Houstonís
leap over Atlanta in slugging percentage could likely be due to their ballpark.
interesting aspect of the sacrifice bunt statistic is the great disparity
between the Astros and the rest:
Astros to see if this becomes a factor in their series.
Letís turn our focus to pitching.
It takes a good pitching staff to make it through 162 games. Of the 12
non-playoff teams in the NL, only two had an ERA comparable with the playoff
#2: Slugging percentage must
play a significant role in scoring runs. Otherwise, how else would Atlantaís
ERA hold up as best in the league when they allow baserunners at an ordinary
St. Louis is not just a good offensive ballclub. The lineup gets all the
pub, but the ptiching staff is for real.
#4: Explaining away the
Dodgersí hitting vulnerabilities because of their ballpark does not do their
pitching staff any favors. There has to be more to the Dodgersí hitting woes
than simply the ballpark.
According to these numbers, Houstonís pitching staff appears to be the
most consistently mediocre.
break it down between starting pitchers and relievers.
#1: The Cardinals bullpen is
top notch! If their starters are steady enough, they may not blow any late
#2: Houstonís starters
compare more favorably to the others than their bullpen does. The Astrosí
bullpen numbers fail to show how dominate Brad Lidge has been in the closer
role. The other three bullpens have the top three bullpen ERAs in the NL.
#3: The Braves consistently
allow a high batting average though, as shown by the overall pitching numbers,
they shine most by not allowing many extra-base hits.
#4: The Dodgersí numbers
remain difficult to forecast. The startersí numbers are tainted by Hideo Nomo
who had a horrible season and most surely will not be on the playoff roster. The
bullpen looks to be a strength, second only St. Louis, but do these numbers
reflect the loss of Guillermo Mota?
makes all the plays in the field?
#1: The Houston-Atlanta
series might be a bit more sloppy than the St. Louis-Los Angeles series.
#2: The Dodgers stand tall
above the rest in defensive performance.
Putting it all together, St. Louis certainly appears to be the most complete of
the teams. The Cardinalsí weakest area is in the starting pitching, which has
been solid all year yet without an ace. With a high-powered offense and a
lights-out bullpen, all the starters should have to do is be adequate for six