Russell Martin .250/.351/.330 82 OPS+
Yadier Molina .293/.366/.383 99 OPS+
Russell has been an All-Star in the past but 2009 is not his year.
Yadier Molina has always been a strong defensive catcher and is slowly but surely becoming at least an average player at the plate. Plus Molina is in his own stratosphere defensively.
James Loney .281/.358/.400 100 OPS+
Albert Pujols .331/.446/.667 191 OPS+
Loney has had some success in the post-season (specifically crushing the Cubs hopes in '08) but he's definitely a pretty light hitter, for a first-baseman.
Pujols has (for better or worse) had the MVP lined up for him since about mid-season.
Orlando Hudson .283/.357/.417 104 OPS+
Skip Schumaker .301/.363/.391 100 OPS+
Hudson, has been one of better free agent pick-ups this year has been steady at second and picked up his second all-star appearance.
Schumaker has had a nice season in St. Louis. He doesn't have as much power but he's pretty good at getting on base.
This is the first close positional match-up. Both of these players will be making their post-season debut. Hudson gets the nod here since he's had to wait longer to make the post-season and this will give him that extra bit of motivation.
Rafael Furcal .269/.334/.375 87 OPS+
Brendan Ryan .291/.340/.395 95 OPS+
Another pretty close match-up. If you based it on talent Furcal would win this match-up in a rout but he's had one his worst seasons in '09.
Brendan Ryan strikes me as another run of the mill light-hitting middle infielder.
While Furcal hasn't been the greatest post-season hitter...he does have plenty of post-season experience and has the potential to quickly make people forget about his uninspiring season.
Casey Blake .278/.362/.468 117 OPS+
Mark DeRosa .226/.291/.409 83 OPS+ (St. Louis) .252/.320/.436 96 OPS+ (Overall)
Casey Blake has a solid veteran contributor since being traded from Triple-A Cleveland last summer.
Mark DeRosa was the Cardinals first attempt to get some significant protection behind Albert Pujols in the line-up. Things haven't quite worked as expected as DeRosa has battled injuries and struggled at the plate since he's been in St. Louis. Like Furcal, DeRosa has the talent to make people forget about his struggles with a really good series. However, in this case it isn't enough to get the nod
Manny Ramirez .290/.419/.534 150 OPS+
Matt Holliday .352/.410/.604 165 OPS+ (St. Louis) .313/.392/.514 142 OPS+ (Overall)
Manny Ramirez may have not been the wrecking-ball that he was in late '08 but he's still one of the games greatest hitters who strikes fear in opposing pitching staffs.
Matt Holliday was the Cardinals second attempt at acquiring protection for Pujols in the line-up. This attempt worked out much better than DeRosa. He has been a beast in the line-up ever since coming over from Oakland. This match-up is pretty close but Holliday has made a deeper impact on his team by being the X factor that allowed the Cardinals to run away with the NL Central.
Matt Kemp .299/.354/.493 121 OPS+
Colby Rasmus .254/.309/.412 90 OPS+
Matt Kemp has made another move towards becoming an elite-center field both at the bat and on the field.
Colby Rasmus has had a promising rookie season but still has a ways to becoming a great player.
Andre Ethier .273/.360/.510 127 OPS+
Ryan Ludwick .267/.329/.451 105 OPS+
Ethier has further solidified himself as one of the better right-fielders, even if not many people know who he is.
Ryan Ludwick has been solid this year but has regressed a bit from his career-year last year. Ethier gets the nod in this match-up
Jon Garland/Vicente Padilla
This one isn't even close. Randy Wolf has been described as the de-facto ace for the Dodgers......definitely not buying it....Kershaw is likely to be one of the elite pitchers within a few years but tends to get wild from time to time....not too much else about the Dodgers rotation is inspiring
The Cardinals on the other hand, have two pitchers in Wainwright and Carpenter who have solid cases for winning the Cy Young Award and a third pitcher Piniero who is in the midst of a career-year.
When the game's on the line, these are the pitchers you are likely to see:
Broxton has been steady all year in the closers role. Troncoso and Belisario have been solid and under-rated in their late-inning roles.
Franklin has been okay in the second half but he has definitely cooled-off from his unstoppable performance in the first-half. McClellan and Motte haven't been as unstoppable in their roles and that's why the Dodgers get the nod here.
The Dodgers are weak in this area. They did get hold on to win the NL West and they were never in danger of missing the playoffs but they weren't the same team in the Second Half as they were in the first half. They played well when Manny Ramirez was suspended and looked unstoppable for half of the season. However, they seem to have rested on their laurels and when you almost blew your division lead to a team that was 15 1/2 out at one point...your mojo has been lost.
The Cardinals have been on the opposite course. They were in contention in the first-half but appeared to be beatable and stoppable. Until late July..the NL Central was open for the taking. However, once they acquired Matt Holliday that all changed. With a 1-2 combo of Holliday and Pujols, the Cardinals went on a tear and turned the NL Central into a one team race.
Final Tally: Dodgers 6 Cardinals 5
The Cardinals do have a lot going for them but are dependent on about 4 players (Pujols, Holliday, Carpenter and Wainwright)...considering it's a short 5-game series anything can happen.
The Dodgers, despite their second-half struggles seem to have a more balanced team and more players that could win the game (or series) for them on any given day
Prediction: Dodgers in 5