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Big League Stew

10 numbers for the NLDS: Cards vs. Nats

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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With the 2012 postseason underway,  Alex Remington takes  a look at the statistics that might make a difference in each of the four first-round series. Next up is the NLDS featuring the NL East champion Washington Nationals against the NL wild card champion St. Louis Cardinals. The first two games will be held at Busch Stadium and the first pitch of Game 1 is scheduled for 3:07 ET on Sunday afternoon.

3.45 The combined ERA of every Nationals starter not named Stephen Strasburg, who had a 3.16 ERA himself in 28 starts. The Nationals had a 3.52 team ERA after shutting down Stephen Strasburg, versus a 3.30 team ERA from April until his final start on September 7. Losing Strasburg didn't help the Nationals, but it hardly crippled them.

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21.3 Allen Craig's at bats per home run, 15th-best in the national league. Craig is far from a household name, but the former eigth-round draft pick has serious pop. In 238 career games, the 28-year old has 37 homers and an .863 OPS. The Cardinals are used to slightly higher-profile first basemen, but Craig provides a serious power source for the lineup, which also received at least 20 home runs from catcher Yadier Molina, third baseman David Freese, left fielder Matt Holliday, and right fielder Carlos Beltran.

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1.043 Bryce Harper's September OPS. No, Harper's rookie season wasn't quite as good as Mike Trout's, but Harper has put the finishing touches on one of the best seasons by a teenager in baseball history — and he won't turn 20 until October 16. Trout is 15 months older than Harper, so don't be surprised if Harper is a MVP candidate by the time he's Trout's age.

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4.72 The average number of runs the Cardinals scored per game, fifth in the majors and second to the Yankees among the remaining playoff teams. The Cardinals have a seriously high-powered offense, which is all the more amazing considering that they lost two of their three best hitters from 2011: Albert Pujols left via free agency, and Lance Berkman was injured almost the entire 2012 season. Their balanced attack picked up the slack, as Craig, Freese, and Molina all had career years.

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10 The number of years between managerial stints for Davey Johnson, the oldest manager in baseball, who is also the manager of the winningest team in baseball. Davey is one of only seven World Series-winning managers in history to have to go a decade between gigs, a list that includes Ed Barrow, Bill Carrigan, Rogers Hornsby, Billy Southworth, Fred Haney, and most recently Cito Gaston. And you know what? Davey's still got it.

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3.94 Adam Wainwright's ERA in 2012, the highest of his career. A lot of people, including yours truly, wrote off the Cardinals after they lost Wainwright for the 2011 season, but of course they went on to win the World Series. This year he was back, and though the results weren't quite as good as they were in years past, a lot of that was bad luck: his FIP was 3.10, and his strikeout rate and walk rate were both actually better than his career averages. The Cardinals didn't give Wainwright the start in their wild card game on Friday, but that move paid off when Kyle Lohse earned the win over Atlanta. Now Wainwright gets to match up against Washington ace Gio Gonzalez in Game 1.

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189 The number of times that Danny Espinosa struck out this year. It was the most in the National League, though it wasn't within shouting distance of Adam Dunn's AL-leading 222, which came one whiff shy of Mark Reynolds's all-time record of 223. The Nationals struck out 1,325 times as a team, most among National League playoff teams. They're fourth in baseball overall, behind the MLB-leading Athletics and just ahead of the fifth-place Rays. With Espinosa, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals have an entire infield of players who struck out more than 110 times.

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.952 Pete Kozma's OPS in 26 games at the end of the season, filling in for the oft-injured Rafael Furcal. Considering that Pete was in the middle of the disputed infield fly call that helped end the Atlanta Braves' season, if Janis Joplin had been a Braves fan, she might have said, "I Got Dem Ol' Kozma Blues Again Mama." (Please forgive me for that pun.) Kozma was never a top prospect — his career minor league OPS, in more than 2,700 plate appearances, is .652 — so he might be due for a fall.

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61 Pinch hits by the Nationals bench, most among playoff teams. The Nats really spread out their pinch hit appearances, giving more than 20 pinch-hitting appearances each to LH Chad Tracy, switch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi, LH Roger Bernadina, RH Mark DeRosa, and RH Tyler Moore. Suffice to say that Davey Johnson has situational options and he knows how to use them.

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15 The number of pitches that Jon Jay was hit by in 2012, third-most in the NL. Jay is a decent but not great leadoff hitter — scrappy, a bit of speed, below-average walk rate, not much power, doesn't strike out much. This year he was a whole lot better, because his on-base percentage was massively boosted by all those HBPs. He still doesn't walk much, so if the Nationals can avoid putting one on his jersey they may be able to keep him off the bases.

Are you ready for the postseason?
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