The 2012 NLCS vs The 2014 NLCS

Both the 2012 and 2014 NLCS are a showcase of two somewhat rivals, the Giants and the Cardinals. They are both well respected sports franchises, San Fran with 7 championships and St. Lou with 11. Historically, the Giants have had the Cardinals number in the regular season. And they definitely had the Cardinals number in the 2012 NLCS.

Many names are still there, such as the villainous Vogelsong, beltin' Brandon Belt, Brandon #2: Crawford, the dichotomous Angel Pagan (who is actually hurt and not in it this time, but still a Giant nonetheless), mad Madison Bumgarner (not really all that mad), The Kung Fu Panda (nuff said), bustin' Buster Posey (who is not quite his old self but still great), bullpen surgeon Sergio Romo (who is no where near as surgical as he was in '12), Timmeh Lincecum (pretty much the same dude as last time, overpaid), and Mr. Crazy Eyes Himself, Hunter Pence. So as you can see, they have a rather similar roster to 2012's championship squad.

I must admit, they are a fun team. But I cannot like them because of what they did in 2012.

Gone though are Melky Cabrera, Marco Scutaro, et al. The 2012 Giants were 30.5 by positional fWAR, but only 9 from their pitching. Matt Cain was their main dude, but he's hurt now and/or not as good. Now Madison Bumgarner is their mainman on pitching, and he has blossomed into a pretty damn good pitcher with a sub 3.0 ERA and xFIP, and a FIP just north of thereabouts. Whereas Bumgarner is improved now, Vogelsong has come back down to Earth. Hopefully the Cards will not be as confounded by him this time around.

In 2014, Brandon Crawford at SS and Buster Posey are the defensive standouts on a team that is neither impressive defensively nor notably bad at D. One difference is that Pablo Sandoval is better at defense this season. Their pitching is not even as good as 2012 by fWAR, yet their rates are pretty good overall. Beyond Bumgarner, Tim Hudson has been good for them, and Yusmeiro Petit rocked a 10.29 K/9 with impressive rate stats.

Positionally, they have fallen off quite a bit, they are just not as stacked. Not having Angel Pagan is kind of a big deal for them, in my opinion. I'm gonna go out on a limb and declare the 2014 Giants team as not as good as the 2012 one. Which of course doesn't matter in the postseason, but... it may be comforting to some.

The 2014 Cardinals are about equal to the Giants position-wise, but have a much better defense than the 2014 Giants. In addition to defense, the '14 Cards have the upper hand in pitching, looks like, at least by fWAR. However, the 2014 Cardinals pitching corps is a rather nebulous bunch, consisting of various different pitchers throughout the season. Remember when Jaime Garcia was a big part of the team? Yeah, I kinda forgot about that too. Well, he had 43.2 IP anyway, and was a starting pitcher. Also gone are Joe Kelly and Kevin Siegrist, who succumbed to injury. And now the team is questioning staff ace Adam Wainwright's effectiveness, the effectiveness of Michael Wacha, and welcoming the emergence of Marco Gonzalez at a rather weird time.

Comparing all that to the 2012 Cardinals, perhaps the first thing you may notice is that Jason Motte didn't even make the roster, Trevor Rosenthal is now the team's closer, Carlos Martinez is still a bit of a mystery, and some guy named Pat Neshek is one of the best pitchers on the team, at least he was in the regular season, and will be relied upon in high leverage situations in all likelihood in this series. Lance Lynn is now the 2nd best pitcher on the team, taking a step up with Kyle Lohse long gone. Edward Mujica is a thing of the past, and Fernando Salas went to the Angels. The most obvious difference is how hard to pin down the 2014 Cardinals pitching is when compared to 2012.

The obvious difference positionally is that the Cardinals have sacrificed some of their offensive abilities for a lot more defense. It can be said without a doubt that the 2012 Cardinals are just about completely different from the 2014 Cardinals, whereas the 2014 Giants are quite the same as the 2012 Giants, but downgraded without Pagan and Cain, as well as featuring some downturns in production from other key players like Posey.

On paper the Cardinals look to have the advantage, despite some experts seeming to pick the Giants over the Cardinals, but not by a large margin (was looking at ESPN's "experts"). One thing that has been bandied about is that how focused this particular Giants squad is, and how Hunter Pence has emerged as sort of a motivational speaker. Here he is seeming almost like a professional wrestler, here he is having visions and giving a moving anecdote about winning? and pumping up their fanbase like some kind of deranged preacher, and before all that a cheesy video about little league fielding and hitting and life lessons for youths. So I guess you could say they have a rather interesting leader?

That's ok, the Cardinals seem to be flashing some of the 2011 magic this year, have brought over the bulldog Lackey for true grittiness, and have a demonic cheerleader in A.J. Pierzynski... both appropriated from the team that defeated them in the World Series just last season. The 2014 Cardinals are not without their dark magic (they even have a warlock again!).

Having said all that, I really don't know what to make of this series and have few if any expectations about it. The Cards have already made it further than I thought. The Dodgers were a rather tough and talented team, and they beat them in 4 games. This time, it'll take a sweep to match that. Gotta do it step by step and win the first game at home, whereas they did it on the road in L.A. before. Looking at traditional stats, the Giants are scoring more runs per game but have a lower OBP, and have an identical ERA to the Cards. People are usually picking this series to go 6 or 7 games, and I tend to agree with that. My key to the series is defense, as the two teams are petty evenly matched.

While writing this, I listened to the Gone Girl soundtrack produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. If you are a fan of NIN or futuristic soundtrack music, definitely check it out. Link to the full soundtrack. My favorite track on the album is perhaps, "What Will We Do?".