well well well. I must admit after the last series vs the Brewers the rivalry matchup didn't seem to be over. For a year or so, the Reds wrestled the mantle away from the Brewers (who have overshadowed any worries cast by the Cubs in recent memory). Of course, expecting the rivalry and subplots to continue in the year 2012. But in true dramatic fashion, the 2011 Cardinals are still playing ball.
The Cardinals have been impressive vs the Brewcrew lately taking 6 of 7 from them. This perhaps has caused Nyjer Morgan to taunt the Cardinals' players and fanbase. Because of the existing visible animosity between him and Cardinals most overt mouthpiece Chris Carpenter, this has only just become more heated up chemistry wise. This could effect both ballclub' play in the NLCS to some non-quantifiable extent. Prior to the offseason both team's star hitters were hit by the pitch. Both teams have been very competitive vs each other in the last decade or so, and both teams will be trying harder than ever to win.
Both teams were projected to be among the best in the NL (even without Adam Wainwright). The upper hand goes to the Brewers, but it may not be as indicative of the win-loss record we saw in the regular season. Milwaukee was obviously better in the regular season... and they were one of the elite teams in MLB. Before getting into team stats, I wanted to know what the record of the Cardinals is vs the Brewers within this rivalry.
As far as that goes, it appears the Cardinals had a definite upper hand at one point a decade ago, but have been getting increasingly more ineffective vs Milwaukee (2005 was the last time this was a winning rivalry for StL) up until this year. We steamrolled them after the newfound energy that we all saw in September. This was a big part of the reason that the Cardinals made the playoffs and both teams know it. So the rivalry has come full circle just in time for postseason hardball.
On the surface the Cardinals pitching seems to be inferior to the Brewers. Which it is, but maybe but not by as much as one would think. Looking at total WAR the Brewers are much better. But by FIP the Cardinals are 7th in the NL to the Brewers 4th (3rd/6th by xFIP). As an interesting aside, the Brewers' BABIP is exactly the same as the Braves at .288. The Brewers HR/FB and GB% are nearly identical to the Cardinals by the way. The main difference however is the amount of strikeouts (the Cards are just not good at striking people out this year as a whole).
Even more interesting is that the Cardinals starters' FIP is basically the same as the Brewers' much vaunted starting corps. Using fangraphs.com splits, it is even more dramatic when looking at Sept/Oct... the Cardinals have the #1 FIP even while sustaining the third highest BABIP against (only the Braves and Pirates were more "unlucky"). The Brewers however have had 4.20 FIP in Sept/Oct while having a pretty normal BABIP compared to the Cards'.
What truly sets the teams apart is in relief the Brewers have had a far superior bullpen in both the short term and long term. On the bright side the Cardinals bullpen has not been a huge liability, other than it seems that they gave up too many home runs. Another little silver lining is that the Cards strike out more people in bullpen situations (which is ironic since defensive replacements are already in place in many games).
Enough about pitching though.... Hitting-wise, we are about to see the #1 and #2 offensive team in the NL face off against each other. The Cards distanced themselves from the rest of the league with a .332 wOBA in '11. The Brewers at 2nd were .327. Looking further into the statistics say that what puts the two teams apart are on base skills and power. The Cardinals have much better OBP and the Brewers had the highest ISO in the NL (going with the most home runs). As Cards fans we have seen this lately be of benefit: a lot of the runs scored vs the Phillies weren't because of dingers, but because people got on base. (oddly enough the two teams SLG was equal).
If one wants to ignore the season stats and look at Sept/Oct, the same holds true. http://www.fangraphs.com/teams.aspx?pos=all&lg=nl&stats=bat&type=1&season=2011&month=9&season1=2011 One area where the Cardinals have improved though is in fangraphs Spd stat. That stat rates the team higher over the last month and the Brewers faster over the season.
Another stat to hang your hat on is by WPA and Clutch http://www.fangraphs.com/teams.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=nl&type=3&season=2011&month=9&season1=2011
Which doesn't mean all that much really. I honestly don't know what to expect from this series other than I think I will join the people saying it will go 7 games. Hopefully we can get to the Brewcrew at home in Milwaukee and steal at least one of those games. They sure do like their Miller Park. I couldn't be much more excited about the series and I hope we see lots more plays like we saw last night... but with more offense. I am sure they will be relieved to not have to face the Phillies pitching staff any longer.