AccuScore: Starters give Cardinals edge

AccuScore uses performance statistics to predict how players perform under different environmental, match-up, and game-situation conditions. Using projected starting lineups AccuScore simulates every MLB playoff game one pitch at a time. By repeating the simulation 10,000 to 20,000 times per game AccuScore calculates the precise probability each team has of winning each game and advancing to the next series. Here is the AccuScore.com analysis of the 2009 NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers. Visit AccuScore.com for daily updates. All game forecasts updated daily.

I’ve seen many people discounting the Dodgers and already penciling in the Cardinals into the World Series. Doing so does a disservice to the rest of the National League. The Dodgers have home-field as a result of the league’s best record, and have the best run differential (plus-169, or 79 more than St. Louis). The love for the Cardinals stems from their two Cy Young caliber starters in Adam Wainwright(notes) and Chris Carpenter(notes), and the best hitter in the game Albert Pujols(notes).

CARDINALS vs DODGERS WIN SERIES GAME1 GAME2 GAME3 GAME4 GAME5
St. Louis Cardinals 56% 53% 55% 55% 49% 53%
Los Angeles Dodgers 44% 47% 45% 45% 51% 47%

The simulations are based on the following pitching match-ups:

Game 1: Carpenter vs. Wolf
Game 2: Wainwright vs. Kershaw
Game 3: Piniero vs. Padilla
Game 4: Lohse vs. Billingsley
Game 5: Carpenter vs. Wolf

The projections for this series actually Back up the general belief that the Cardinals are the big favorites, but there are a few extenuating circumstances. L.A. was dealt a huge blow when it was learned that Hiroki Kuroda(notes) would not be available (possibly for the entire playoffs) to pitch Game 3. His presence compared to Padilla in St. Louis actually would have swung Game 3 11 percent, with the Dodgers winning 56 percent of the time.

What stands out the most in the projections is the advantage provided by Carpenter and Wainwright on the road (1, 2, and 5). Carpenter gives the Cardinals a 6 percent edge in both Games 1 and 5 against Wolf. Wainwright provides a big edge against Kershaw in Game 2, but Kershaw does have the talent to match zeros with him on the scoreboard. I see that second outing as the pivotal game. Chad Billingsley(notes) has had his share of problems late in the season, but he should provide the Dodgers an edge over either Lohse or Smoltz for the Cardinals. The use of Vicente Padilla(notes) in the third contest is questionable, and magnifies the loss of Kuroda even further.

Another issue to pay attention to is the management, or mis-management, of the bullpen and lineups. It has already been announced that Ronnie Belliard(notes) will start at 2B for the Dodgers in Game 1. While Belliard has been hot at the plate over the past few weeks, his underlying stats indicate he is an inferior hitter as well as fielder to Orlando Hudson(notes). Joe Torre is not maximizing his talent by playing Belliard.

The Cardinals will have to deal with questions in the rotation and bullpen. Either Lohse or Smoltz will likely start Game 4. Both players will be available out of the bullpen in Los Angeles. Their presence as relievers could be beneficial because closer Ryan Franklin(notes) has struggled after benefiting from good luck in the first half. The other middle relievers are unproven and the veteran Smoltz could be key.