MLB

NLDS: Cardinals vs. Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals

Based on a recommendation from a friend I started reading a book about 19th century baseball, “The Summer of Beer and Whiskey.” The main protagonist is St. Louis Brown Stockings owner Charles von der Ahe and his drive to make the American Association rival the established National League circa 1882.

Long story short, those Brown Stockings are now the Cardinals. Another American Association team that later jumped to the National League was the Pittsburgh Alleganys, now the Pirates. Today, these two longstanding franchises will meet in the postseason for the first time, at least in the modern era.

Pittsburgh won the season series 10-9. The Cardinals will be without Allen Craig for the series. Matt Adams should fill in for him.

Your starters this afternoon for Game 1 in the shadows at Busch Stadium are A.J. Burnett against Adam Wainwright, who is a very good dancer.

adam-wainright-dancing

Narrative Storyline:

Do yo even have to guess here? It’s all about the feel-good Pirates, back in the playoffs after a 21-year drought.

They’re even dressing up newborns in Pirates gear. (Sadly sans old-school pillbox hats.) Somebody dial up Dave Parker or Kent Tekulve for an interview!

Analytical Storyline:

This series pits the top two National League players for Offensive WAR against each other in Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen (7.5) and St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter (6.7). (Carlos Gomez and Clayton Kershaw tied for overall WAR in the NL at 8.4)

When you factor in the name recognition, the “feel-good” Pirates story, McCutchen is probably going to get the award from the BWAA, edging out Kershaw, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt. The vote ought to be closer since the two players posted very similar offensive seasons. McCutchen’s final regular season line went .317/.404/.508, while Carpenter finished .318/.392/.481. Carpeneter however led the National League in runs (126), hits (199) and doubles (55).

Carpenter will lose votes to teammate Yadier Molina, whom many Cardinals fans consider the club’s most important player every season. Either way, the 27-year-old Carpenter deserves a lot more publicity since he’s basically an unknown on the national level.

One other bonus stat: Carlos Beltran is the all-time leader in postseason slugging percentage at .782.

Player to Watch:

Burnett, who is now being re-cast as an elder statesman and leader for the Pirates. The 36-year-old Little Rock, Ark. native made six starts vs. the Cardinals in the regular season, holding them to a .213 batting average over those starts. If Burnett is focused and throwing his no-hit type stuff, the Pirates will battle for the series. If he comes out and resembles the pitcher he was during during his three-year stint with the Yankees — twice finishing with an ERA over five  – this will be a quick series for the Cardinals.

Burnett, at $16.5 million, is by far the Buccos highest paid player. They need him to perform like it in the NLDS.

Something you didn’t see on TBS the other night:

McCutchen’s mother, Petrina, sang the National Anthem before the Pirates/Reds game.

This how you build it:

Starting pitcher wins might not amount to much other than in the box score, but the Cardinals got 44 Ws from homegrown players Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha in 2013. Lynn, Miller and Wacha were the club’s first round draft picks in 2008, 2009 and 2012 respectively. Kelly was a third-rounder in 2009.

Most important? St. Louis is paying that quarter under $2 million combined in 2013.

Related: Yankees: More Questions than Answers Heading into Offseason
Related: Baseball’s Current Wild Card Format is Far From Perfect

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