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Giants and Cardinals NLCS Position Battle: Who has the advantage?

By Jacob Fagan
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Oh man, who remembers that creepy picture from the 2012 NLCS? 

Well, here we are again. With the Giants and Cardinals starting the NLCS less than 30 hours from now (THAT’S SO FAR AWAY), it is time to see who has the advantage position by position. Let’s start with pitching:

Starting Rotation (STL):

Adam Wainwright RHP (2.38 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 227 IP)

Lance Lynn RHP (2.74 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 60.2 IP w/ STL, 3.60 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 137.1 IP w/ BOS)

John Lackey RHP (4.30 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 198 IP)

Shelby Miller RHP (3.74 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 183 IP)

Starting Rotation (SF):

Madison Bumgarner RHP (2.98 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 217.1 IP)

Jake Peavy RHP (2.17 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 78.2 IP w/ SF, 4.72 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 124 IP w/BOS)

Tim Hudson RHP (3.57 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 189.1 IP)

Ryan Vogelsong RHP (4.00 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 184.2 IP)

The Giants’ rotation in the NLDS combined for 26.1 innings pitched with a 1.38 ERA. The Cardinals’ rotation in the NLDS combined for 23 innings pitched with a 4.30 ERA. In the regular season those four Cardinals’ had a combined 10.6 fWAR and the Giants had a 9.4 fWAR. With the recent success from the Giants against the Nationals and the uneasiness with Wainwright’s elbow. Advantage: Giants

Bullpen:

This postseason, the Giants have a 1.88 ERA in 19.1 IP and the Cardinals have a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings. In the regular season, the Giants bullpen had a 3.01 ERA, 75.1 LOB% while the Cardinals had a 3.62 ERA with a 73.3 LOB%. Advantage: Giants

Catchers:

Yadier Molina vs. Buster Posey. Again.

Molina had a rough year at the plate and being sidelined for over 50 games didn’t help. He had a slash of .282/.333/.386/.719 in 110 games with a 102 wRC+ (100 is average). He is still probably the best defensive catcher, but struggled in the NLDS all-around. Posey had a great year, again, hitting for a slash of .311/.364/.490/.854 with 22 home runs, and a 144 wRC+ in 147 games. He has played well in this year’s postseason hitting for a .440 OBP, 139 wRC+. Advantage: Giants

First Base:

This was a tough one. Brandon Belt vs. Matt Adams.

Belt missed 100 games due to a broken hand and multiple concussions, but played well in the 60 games he was healthy. He had 12 home runs, slugged .449 and had a 116 wRC+. In his career, he has been better than Adams per fWAR, wRC+, OPS, and defensive value. Adams did play the entire year though hitting for a slash of .288/.321/.457/.779 with 15 home runs, 116 wRC+ in 142 games. They have similar power as Adams has a .181 ISO and Belt has a .179 ISO. Belt has played better in the postseason, but both had clutch home runs. Since Belt has had more success in his playoff career and regular season career I’ll give advantage: Giants

Second Base:

Yet another tough matchup. Joe Panik vs. Kolten Wong.

Panik, in 287 PAs, had a slash of .305/.343/.368/.711 with a 107 wRC+ and a 1.6 fWAR. Wong had a line of .249/.292/.388/.680 with 12 home runs, 90 wRC+, and a 2.0 fWAR in 433 PAs. In the postseason, they’ve meant the same to their respective teams. Wong hit a huge two-run homer in game three to push St. Louis past the Dodgers. Panik has played good defense in the postseason, has hit 7 singles, and drew a huge walk in game two that led to Pablo Sandoval tying the game up in the ninth. Advantage: Giants

Third Base:

Seems obvious for this one. Pablo Sandoval vs. Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter had a slash of .272/.375/.375/.750 with a 117 wRC+ and a 3.8 fWAR. He also had a crazy NLDS hitting for a .375/.412/1.125 slash with 4 home runs, and a 326 wRC+. Sandoval had a 3.0 fWAR, 111 wRC+ season and had a huge game two hit, but that’s about it. Advantage: Cardinals

Shortstop:

This one isn’t close either. Jhonny Peralta vs. Brandon Crawford.

Peralta was the best shortstop this season hitting for a slash of .263/.336/.443/.779 with 21 home runs, 120 wRC+, and had a 5.4 fWAR. He was better defensively than Crawford this season according to defensive value on FanGraphs. Peralta had an 18 defensive value while raw ford had a 7.5 value.. Crawford hit a huge grand slam in the wild card game, but the rest of his season was so-so. 102 wRC+ and a 2.7 fWAR. Advantage: Cardinals

Left Field:

Travis Ishikawa/Michael Morse vs. Matt Holliday.

Who ever it is for the Giants, it doesn’t matter. Holliday had a good regular season hitting for a slash of .272/.370/.441/.811 with 20 home runs, 132 wRC+, and a 3.8 fWAR. Morse, coming off an oblique injury, had a 133 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR, 16 home runs in 131 games. Ishikawa will likely play most of the field who had a 110 wRC+ in 81 PAs when he was acquired by San Francisco, but that’s not good enough. Advantage: Cardinals

Center Field:

Gregor Blanco vs. Jon Jay

Had similar seasons, but Jay was a tad better. He hit for a 115 wRC+, .750 OPS, 2.5 fWAR in 140 games while Blanco had a 107 wRC+, .707 OPS, 2.0 fWAR in 146 games. Also, Jay has a 1.026 OPS in 15 PAs this postseason. Advantage: Cardinals

Right Field:

Hunter Pence vs. Randal Grichuk. Pretty obvious one here.

Pence had a great season hitting 20 home runs, .777 OPS, 123 wRC+ with a 4.7 fWAR. Grickuk had a .400 slugging in 116 PAs with a 90 wRC+, and a 0.6 fWAR. Weak spot for the Cardinals here. Advantage: Giants

Bench:

Just more experience and talent on the Cardinals’ bench with Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, Peter Bourjos, Oscar Taveras, Tony Cruz, and A. J. Pierzynski. Advantage: Cardinals

Giants: 6

Cardinals: 5

So since the Giants have the positional advantage, the Cardinals will likely win the series!

If only it was the simple. Game one of the NLCS is Saturday 5:07 PST. Bumgarner vs. Wainwright.

Oct 7, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (left) celebrates after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in game four of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game and advancing to the NLCS at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

October 7, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) celebrates in the clubhouse after defeating the Washington Nationals 3-2 in game four of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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