Who Do You Want the St. Louis Cardinals to Play in the NLDS?

Dilip Vishwanat

The Reds and Pirates face off in the National League Wild Card play-in game tomorrow. Which team do you want to see victorious?

On the eve of October, the Major League Baseball regular season is over and the St. Louis Cardinals are the best club in the National League. The Redbirds won six consecutive games to end the season with 97 wins on the year. If you're into Pythagorean record, the Cards also have the non-DH league's largest run differential.

NATIONAL LEAGUE 2013 STANDINGS

Club

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

NL GB

Run Diff.

STL

97

65

.599

-

+187

ATL

96

66

.593

1.0

+140

PIT

94

68

.580

3.0

+57

LAD

92

70

.568

5.0

+67

CIN

90

72

.556

7.0

+109

As you can see, the Cardinals had an impressive season, even when compared to their fellow NL postseason participants. What is the Cardinals' reward for finishing atop the league? They avoid the cruel Wild Card game and then have home-field advantage against the play-in game winner in the NLDS.

As of this writing, the times of the Cardinals' NLDS games had not yet been announced. However, the days of those games have been. St. Louis will host the Wild Card winner on Thursday and Friday at Busch Stadium. The Redbirds will then hit the road for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 (if necessary) on Monday. Should the NLDS require a fifth game, it would take place on Wednesday, October 9.

The Cardinals' finishing with the NL's top win total means that we will be denied an all-NL Central NLCS. El Birdos' fellow 90-win NL Central teams square off in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. In what will be the Reds' and PIrates fourth game in five days, Francisco Liriano will start against Johnny Cueto. This means neither starter--should his team advance--would likely start in the NLDS before Game 4, just as Bud Selig planned in hamstringing the Wild Card clubs entering the NLDS to face their league's top division champion.

The Reds and Pirates have both had very good seasons. They are worth postseason qualifiers. By record, the Pirates should be the NL's No. 2 seed in October. By run differential, that seed would go to the Reds. Whichever team wins the sudden-death Wild Card will be a handful.

In 2013, the Cardinals faced the Pirates and Reds 19 times each. The Redbirds went 11-8 against the Redlegs with a +25 run differential. St. Louis finished 2013 with a 9-10 head-to-head record against the Buccos and a +2 run differential. While the Cardinals may have finished somewhat comfortably ahead of their division rivals in the standings, the clubs each performed at a similarly high level in 2013.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL TEAM STATS (2013)

Stat

PIT

CIN

STL

BA

.245

.249

.269

OBP

.313

.328

.332

SLG

.395

.391

.401

ISO

.150

.142

.133

OPS

.708

.719

.733

wOBA

.311

.316

.322

wRC+

98

97

105

SP IP

920.0

998.1

983.1

SP ERA

3.52

3.42

3.42

SP FIP

3.46

3.80

3.44

SP xFIP

3.57

3.69

3.69

RP IP

541.2

466.1

467.1

RP ERA

2.87

3.30

3.50

RP FIP

3.35

3.77

3.27

RP xFIP

3.58

3.65

3.49

Aside from the stats, there is the animus (or relative lack thereof). The Cardinals and Reds have not gotten along particularly well in recent years, from allegations about a (lack of) proper ball-rubbing to a brawl that featured Johnny Cueto kicking Jason LaRue in the head and ending his career. The Pirates have been the division's doormat for so long that any ill will between them and the Cards is merely simmering at this point in time.

With all of this in mind, I put the question to the VEB community: Would you rather the Cardinals face the Pirates or Reds in the NLDS? To put it another way: Will you be cheering for the Reds or Pirates on Tuesday night? Please vote in the poll and explain your rationale in the comments section.

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