Wild Card Race 2012: Dodgers vs. Cardinals Slump-Off!

May 19, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman James Loney (7) is caught in a run down by Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney (7) and shortstop Justin Sellers (12) in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers start a four-game series today. The clubs occupy the second and third places in the National League Wild Card standings with the Cardinals leading the Dodgers by just one game in the standings. Nineteen games remain in the season for both clubs. Postseason aspirations hang in the balance. Looking at the standings, this should be a great series. The problem is that neither club is playing good baseball at the moment.

Both clubs were swept in their previous series. The Cardinals went down 0-3 against the Padres in Petco Park, losing the last two games of the series with Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse as the starters. The Dodgers lost 0-2 to the Diamondbacks and are also losers of three straight if we go back to Sunday's game against the Giants. The clubs' respective struggles don't just go back three games, though.

In their last ten games, the Cardinals are 3-7; the Dodgers are 4-6. Over the previous twenty games, the Cards are 8-12; the Dodgers, 7-13. In the the thirty games leading up this series, St. Louis is 14-16 and L.A. is 13-17. The clubs are both limping into the series, with the Brewers and Phillies gaining ground quickly.

Given their respective records of late, it isn't surprising that both the Cardinals and Dodgers are struggling to score runs and that the Cardinals are struggling to prevent them.

Earlier today, tom s had a great post deconstructing the slump Carlos Beltran has been in recently. The problem for the Cardinals is that it hasn't just been Beltran that has struggled. Many of us are still in what I'm going to call the "first half mindset" regarding the offense, even as we grow more and more frustrated with the club's scuffling. Likely due to a combination of injury, bad luck, inevitable streakiness, and regression, the Cardinals' offense as a whole has faded like a ghost of summer's end.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS OFFENSE

SPLIT

RUNS

RPG

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

1st Half

426

4.95

.275

.340

.434

.775

.159

2nd Half

253

4.40

.269

.331

.409

.740

.140

Last 30*

116

4.14

.261

.315

.382

.697

.122

Last 14*

47

3.62

.242

.307

.361

.668

.120

Last 7*

21

3.50

.230

.305

.360

.665

.130

*The "Last 30," "Last 14," and "Last 7" rows are calculated using Fangraphs' splits, which operate by calendar days and not games played.

Unlike the Cardinals, the Dodgers have not been very good at scoring runs all season. Their in-season trades for such nicknamed brands as HanRam, A-Gone, and the Flyin' Hawaiian have helped in the second half. After all, it would've been nigh impossible for trades not to have helped their anemic hitting. Even with the upgrades via trade, the group is still struggling mightily to scrape together some runs in recent weeks. The Dodgers are not as good offensively as the Cardinals; consequently, their offensive slump is even uglier as compared to the team's season as whole than that of the Redbirds.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS OFFENSE

SPLIT

RUNS

RPG

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

1st Half

332

3.82

.250

.321

.364

.686

.114

2nd Half

227

4.05

.249

.308

.372

.680

.123

Last 30

108

4.00

.251

.309

.383

.692

.132

Last 14

27

2.25

.217

.282

.312

.594

.095

Last 7

7

1.40

.184

.256

.270

.526

.086


Despite Chris Carpenter not throwing a pitch in a non-simulated game this season and Jaime Garcia suffering an injury to his shoulder, the Cardinals have gotten very good production from their starting rotation. However, the starters have slumped in concert with the hitters, combining to make the recent stretch of Cardinals baseball particularly frustrating to watch. The St. Louis rotation has given up more hits, walks, and--consequently--runs. This has led to starters not lasting as deeply into games. It's been a rough stretch.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS STARTERS

SPLIT

IP/GS

K/9

BB/9

HR%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

2012

6.10

6.99

2.52

9.3%

3.73

3.50

3.73

Last 30

5.68

7.25

2.89

11.9%

4.53

3.87

3.82

Last 14

5.41

7.55

3.20

12.2%

5.25

4.19

4.08

Last 7

5.39

8.35

4.18

7.1%

4.18

3.44

3.91


The primary reason the Dodgers find themselves one game out of the second Wild Card spot is their starting pitching. The last thirty days have been a bit of a roller coaster for the Dodgers rotation that has also featured a gradual increase in walks. Over the last 30 days, the Dodgers starters haven't pitched as well, though they've improved recently.

SPLIT

IP/GS

K/9

BB/9

HR%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

2012

6.17

7.50

2.99

8.6%

3.52

3.64

4.01

Last 30

6.23

7.54

2.89

11.0%

4.01

3.89

3.93

Last 14

6.06

7.31

3.59

9.7%

3.47

3.97

4.17

Last 7

6.27

5.17

4.31

3.6%

3.73

3.80

4.70

The stage is set. The series will featuring the slumping Cardinals offense against the stellar Dodgers pitching staff and the slumping Cardinals starting rotation (with a cameo from the struggling starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter-again Lance Lynn) against the slumping Dodgers offense. The series for the second Wild Card berth is a s slump-off. The thing about slumps is they typically end. This series could very well be decided by which club breaks out of its slump.

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