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why bad things happen to good pitchers (A: the cardinals)

maybe the most remarkable thing about this postseason is that the cardinals have faced excellent pitching and have mostly overcome the excellent pitching. that's a combination of having a truly excellent offense and a lot of luck in a pretty small sample size. let's take a look at some of the star pitchers we've faced.

zach greinke

greinke, former AL Cy Young Award winner, is an excellent pitcher, who pulled down an astonishing 2.98 FIP/2.56 xFIP this season. in the postseason, though, he's looked more human (5.49 FIP/4.02xFIP), especially against the cardinals.

10/15  5.2 IP / 5 R / 2 ER / 2 BB / 0 K / -.240 WPA

10/ 9  6.0 IP / 6 R  / 6 ER / 2 BB / 6 K / -.334 WPA

shaun marcum

for all his late season struggles, shaun put together a decent 2011, an excellent #3 pitcher in a very solid rotation (3.73 FIP/3.89 xFIP). he's looked superficially different in september (4.49 FIP/3.89 xFIP - note the identical xFIP to his season number) and actually different in the tiny post season sample size (6.49 FIP/5.08 xFIP). i'm inclined to think that his late season struggles are not likely to predict poor performance tomorrow, but if he is suffering from some kind of injury, fatigue, or dead arm, i sure wouldn't complain about us running up the score on him early. his lone game against the cardinals did not look good:

10/10 4.0 IP / 5 R / 5 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / -.277 WPA

yovani gallardo

the #2 in the brewers rotation, gallardo's 3.52 FIP/3.59 xFIP would make him the best pitcher on a lot of staffs. his postseason numbers look good (3.97 FIP/ 3.93 xFIP), but reflect two strong games against the d-backs and one weak one against STL.

10/12 5.0 IP/ 4 R / 4 ER / 5 BB / 2 K /  - .139 WPA

the only brewers pitcher who's looked any good against us is, funnily enough, randy wolf, who is treading a post season road mediocrities like jeff suppan and jeff weaver know well. however, these three top pitchers combined to throw TEN walks at the cardinals in just under 21 innings, counterbalanced by only 9 strikeouts. wolf, naturally, threw 6 K's to one walk in seven innings.

baseball is a funny game.

the story against the phillies revealed some success against great pitchers, though not quite the domination seen against the brewers.

roy halladay

in the first game against halladay, we lucked into three runs against him, then touched up the phillies pen for another 3 runs; in the second game, we managed to get a single run early on, then couldn't put bat to ball for the rest of the game. naturally, we won the second and lost the first game against halladay. in truth, halladay looked like his dominant self. we were fortunate to get some timely hits in game 5, and more fortunate to watch carpenter make the 1-0 lead stand up. halladay is quite simply one of the best pitchers around (2.20 FIP/ 2.71 xFIP). he continued his dominance in the playoffs, but we managed to steal one from him regardless.

10/7 8.0 IP/ 1 R / 1 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / .220 WPA

10/1 8.0 / 3 R / 3 ER / 1 BB /8 K / -.090 WPA

roy oswalt

oswalt is no longer at the top of his game or in the best of health (2011: 3.44 FIP / 3.95 xFIP), but still a good pitcher. edwin jackson and the cardinals offense made this win stand up, though.

10/5 6.0 IP / 5 R / 5 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / -.275 WPA

cliff lee

cliff lee is also one of the best pitchers in baseball, logging a 2.60 FIP / 2.68 xFIP over the season. of all our successes against great pitchers, this game is perhaps the most significant, because of how dominant lee is and how well we performed. we hung 12 hits on a guy who is not very hittable, 3 walks on a guy who walks almost no one (1.62 BB/9).

10/2 6.0 IP / 5 R / 5 ER / 3 BB / 9 K / -.484

cole hamels

hamels is a better pitcher than you think he is (2011 3.05 FIP/ 3.02 xFIP), and the phillies #3 would be the #1 in most rotations, and the #2 in even the stacked milwaukee rotation.

in some ways, it's hard to make sense of hamels' success over lee's loss without admitting the importance of luck. both lee and hamels had nearly identical peripherals. hamels only gave up 5 hits, but the cards were able to hang seven more on the bullpen, and STILL only managed 2 runs. sometimes the balls don't fall your way.

10/4 6.0 IP / 0 R / 0 ER / 3 BB / 8 K / .348


it's amazing to look back at this 7-headed monster of pitching talent (and randy wolf) and realize that we won 6 out of 10 against them so far. there aren't many lucky wins here, unless you count chris carpenter being a badass a matter of luck. if anything, we forced games - like the hamels game - to remain close even where luck was working against us. we've faced 6 of the top 22 pitchers in the NL (two of them twice). oswalt didn't qualify, so if you expand the numbers to starting NL pitchers with 120 IP or more, we've faced seven of the top 25 NL pitchers in that time (and randy wolf). we faced two of the top 3 pitchers in the NL, and 4 of the top 12.

okay, cliff lee had some bad luck - .600 BABIP in the postseason. but we kept up with these great pitchers in large part because we have an excellent offense that forces pitchers to throw strikes and that makes contact with good pitches. whatever happens over the next two days - even if randy wolf starts on short rest - this team can be truly proud at facing down excellent pitchers and walking away with a great record against them this postseason.