The anticipation has grown since the season ended on Sunday for the NLDS matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St.Louis Cardinals.
The 2013 NLCS rematch pits two of the better teams in the National League against each other in a five-game series. The Dodgers come in with the better record and home-field advantage.
We have taken a look at the coaching, bench, stats and pitching, and now break down the last area: the starting lineups.
The Dodgers finished second in the NL in runs scored and overall team batting average. They also finished sixth in home runs and first in stolen bases. The offense led the entire MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position.
The Cardinals finished sixth in the NL in overall batting average and ninth in runs scored. They rank last in home runs and second-to-last in stolen bases in the NL. The Cardinal offense ranked sixth in batting average with runners in scoring position.
For the Cardinals, they come in with question marks at a few positions, but some positives at others. The offense is led by Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams. Holliday hit .272 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs, while Peralta had 21 home runs and drove in 75 RBIs from the shortstop position. Adams hit .288 with 68 RBIs and added 15 home runs.
Yadier Molina missed time this season with injuries, but is still a lynchpin in the offense. He provides discipline at the plate and a knack for clutch hits. Last year’s offensive MVP for the Cardinals, Matt Carpenter, regressed a bit this season. He hit just .272; however, he can still provide timely hitting. At second base, youngster Kolten Wong will get the call. He enjoyed a decent season, hitting 12 home runs and driving in 42 runs while hitting .249. Wong provides a bit of speed, stealing 20 bases during the season.
In the outfield, it will come down to who Mike Matheny decides to play on certain days. Jon Jay will most likely start in center field after he enjoyed a solid season in which he hit .303 and drove in 46 runs. It will be between Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk and Oscar Taveras in the final spot. While none tore it up at the plate this season, Bourjos provides a speed and defense element, and the others provide more of a polish at the plate.
For the Dodgers, the offense comes into the playoffs off one of their best months. Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez combined for 20 home runs and 110 RBIs after the All-Star break. The duo sits in the heart of the Dodger order and will be counted on for more of the same in the playoffs.
At the top of the order, Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig can form one of the best 1-2 punches in the league when running correctly. Gordon led the league in stolen bases, triples and infield hits, providing a spark at the top of the order. Puig seems to have broken out of his midseason slump and is ready to go. Add in Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers have one of the better top half of the lineups in recent memory. Although Ramirez did not enjoy the same success he had in 2013, his numbers are still very strong and he can catch fire at any moment.
Carl Crawford, Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis round out the lineup. Crawford rode a hot streak in the final months to get his batting average to .300 and Uribe enjoyed a solid all-around season at the hot corner. If their bats are going as well, the Dodgers have one of the deepest lineups in all of baseball. Ellis struggled mightily at the plate this season, ending with a batting average under .200, but he has had the ability to draw walks and add in some hits in the clutch.
Advantage: Dodgers (The Dodger offense comes in hot after leading the league in home runs in September and they boast an impressive top of the order, as well as strong bottom of the order. The Cardinals rely on timely hitting for their offense and will need runners on base to be effective. They cannot rely on the long ball, but don’t have the speed to play small ball.)