2012 NLCS Preview and Predictions From WhatIfSports.com image

Wild "Cards" repeat as NL champions

Simulation engine predicts the Cardinals return to the World Series with a 4-3 series win over the Giants

By Joel Beall and Jake Westrich - WhatIfSports.com
October 14, 2012

Using our MLB simulation engine we "played" the St. Louis Cardinals versus the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 best-of-seven National League Championship Series 101 times.

In the table below, you will find each team's chances of advancing to the World Series and how often they win in 4, 5, 6 or 7 games. The most likely scenario is the Cardinals beating the Giants in seven games 20.8 percent of the time.

NLCS 101 Simulations of Best-of-7 Series
MatchupWin%4-Games%5-Games%6-Games%7-Games%
Cardinals57.45.014.916.820.8
Giants42.64.013.911.912.9

The concepts of "tradition" and "history" are tenets of baseball, ideologies the St. Louis Cardinals are well versed in. The Redbirds boast 11 World Series rings, most of any National League company. Their simple-yet-iconic jerseys were recently voted the best digs in baseball. Icons like Musial, Gibson and Smith litter the ring of retired numbers. Aside from the Red Sox-Yankees quarrel, St. Louis' squabble with the Chicago Cubs is arguably the richest rivalry in the game. Most importantly, the knowledge and fervor of the Cardinals fan base is unparalleled in the sport. In short: when conjuring an image of a "baseball town," the Gateway to the West is summoned.

Though "San Francisco" would not be on the short-list of submissions to this question, the Giants undoubtedly sit on the same side as the Cardinals on baseball's mythology spectrum. The franchise has won more games than any other team in Major League history, including 21 National League pennants and six World Series titles. Some of the greatest performers of our national pastime have worn the Giants' uniform, legends that go by the names of Mays, McCovey and Marichal. Even the ball club's modern ballpark emits such a serene and nostalgic tone that it's held as a contemporary classic.

Yet the outcome of autumn is not dictated by folklore or ghosts, but by those in the present. However, this October stage allows its headliners enshrinement in the game's enduring narrative, as the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants battle to write their names in the annals of baseball lore.

While chicks may dig the long ball, it's not a sentiment abided by San Francisco, as the Boys from the Bay launched a league-low 103 home runs on the season. Playing in a park that has bigger dimensions than Yellowstone is the obvious catalyst for this cause, though multiple extended absences from slugger Pablo Sandoval contributed to this shortcoming as well. Yet, despite this deep-threat deficiency, the Giants ranked sixth on the Senior Circuit in runs on account of a .269 team average (third-best in the NL) and .327 on-base percentage (fourth). Timely hitting also assisted in this endeavor, with only the Cards owning a better batting average with runners in scoring position than San Francisco in the league.

That the offense finds themselves in such a postseason position is testament to MVP candidate Buster Posey, who, with the team threatening to fall into a funk after a 50-game suspension to All-Star MVP Melky Cabrera, carried the unit in the second half with a .385 average, .456 OBP, 14 jacks and 60 RBI. That Posey was able to accomplish such feats without genuine protection (sorry Kung Fu Panda and Hunter Pence) further illustrates his importance to the Gyros.

Nevertheless, the Giants' fortunes lie in the fortitude of their rotation, a pitching corps held as one of baseball's best. Ace Matt Cain garnered early-season attention by posting a perfect game in June, but his excellence was on display all season, evidenced by a 2.79 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in nearly 220 innings. Though both struggled in the dog days of summer, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong combined for 30 wins and a 3.37 ERA. Embattled arm Barry Zito even got into the mix with 15 victories in 32 starts for the Giants. It's this mound magnificence that helped negate the loss of Tim Lincecum, as the two-time Cy Young winner submitted a substandard season that correlated to a move to the bullpen in the playoffs.

The Cardinals can commiserate with this pitching privation, as St. Louis was without ace Chris Carpenter and No. 3 starter Jaime Garcia for much of the regular season, and former All-Star Adam Wainwright was returning from Tommy John surgery. However, like their West Coast counterparts, the Cards were not undone by supposed rotation dearth. Instead, St. Louis was supported by unexpected success from veteran Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 211 innings) and neophyte Lance Lynn (18-7, 3.78 ERA in 176 innings), with the crafty Jake Westbrook providing a steady presence near the end of the line. And we would be remiss in failing to mention a lights-out bullpen headlined by Jason Motte (2.75 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) and Mitchell Boggs (2.21 ERA, 1.05 WHIP). Now with both Carpenter and Garcia locked and loaded, St. Louis flaunts as formidable a pitching force as any postseason roster.

On the other hand, it's in the hitting forum where the Cards own a clear advantage, with one of the deeper and more dangerous lineups on the diamond, finishing second in runs in the NL. Five players hit 20 or more dingers for the Cards, including Matt Holliday, who brandished an impressive yield of 27 homers, 102 RBI, 95 runs, a .295 average and .379 OBP. Also shining for St. Louis was Allen Craig, who came into his own with 22 homers, 92 RBI and a .307 average in only 119 contests. Yadier Molina continues to be one of the game's most underappreciated rocks, adding a new level of offensive firepower to his paramount defense, and Carlos Beltran underwent rejuvenation at 35 years old, driving in 97 runs with 32 four-baggers. From top to bottom, one would be hard-pressed to run out a better starting eight than the Cards.

So who wins this fall foray for entrance into the World Series? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com baseball simulation engine, the Cardinals come out on top 57.4 percent of the time. Beltran led the way for the Cardinals, averaging 1.5 home runs and 4.6 RBI in the simulation. Craig added 1.2 long balls and 4.2 RBI. Carpenter's 4.24 ERA led all starting pitchers.

For the Giants, the hot bat of Posey (.350 batting average, 4.1 RBI) was surpassed by Marco Scutaro (.365 batting average, 9.7 hits). Angel Pagan led the squad with 4.7 runs and Cain was the teamís top pitcher (4.25 ERA).

Remember, you can simulate the Cardinals vs. Giants NLCS as many times as you want for free using our MLB SimMatchup tool.

Game 1 Sample Box Score
TeamsRHEWIS Interactive
Cardinals5120Boxscore
Giants6120Simulate Game

Game 2 Sample Box Score
TeamsRHEWIS Interactive
Cardinals470Boxscore
Giants11170Simulate Game

Game 3 Sample Box Score
TeamsRHEWIS Interactive
Giants5140Boxscore
Cardinals490Simulate Game

Game 4 Sample Box Score
TeamsRHEWIS Interactive
Giants4110Boxscore
Cardinals6100Simulate Game

Game 5 Sample Box Score
TeamsRHEWIS Interactive
Giants490Boxscore
Cardinals6130Simulate Game

Game 6 Sample Box Score
TeamsRHEWIS Interactive
Cardinals890Boxscore
Giants2100Simulate Game

Game 7 Sample Box Score
TeamsRHEWIS Interactive
Cardinals481Boxscore
Giants380Simulate Game

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Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

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