FEATURE
2034 Playoff Breakdowns: Cincinnati - St. Louis
The depth of the Reds will get them to the next round.
by CAVE DAMERON

Starting Lineup

In 2031, David Veloz set a record 11.5 WAR while Miguel Pena looked to be declining fast. It’s strange how some things work out. The trajectories have reversed and Miguel Pena has put up his best numbers (.332 with 46 home runs) as a member of the Reds. Meanwhile Veloz has been slipping and has suffered a drop in AVG (down to .256) like many other contact hitters this year. St. Louis will have its best shot of winning if Veloz can shake off the rust and reinvigorate himself now that he is back in the playoffs. Because the Reds have more depth in hitters (Pena, Barragan, Yi, Ackland) and were better than St. Louis in every single offensive category this season. Now this isn’t to say the Cards have no hitting. They have a good collection of outfielders in Lopez, Hu, and Chi, but without a good showing from Veloz they may come up short.

Advantage: Cincinnati

Rotation

St. Louis ranked 16th this season in starters ERA, even after adding last year’s MVP Ivan Torres. Torres has struggled a bit since his trade to the Cardinals, posting a league-average 100 ERA+ in that time. If Torres can get back to his old form, the Cardinals have a legitimate ace. Unfortunately, he pitched yesterday and most likely won’t be available until Game 3. In fact, almost all of St. Louis’ rotation is still tired from pitching recently, with only Tim Watson being rested. That’s definitely something to keep an eye out for in this series. The Cardinals will start three lefties in the series, which isn’t ideal with Herman Ackland and Miguel Pena destroying lefties for the Reds.

Cincinnati’s rotation always seems to overperform. They’re never rated well by OSA and yet somehow all four of them have posted above-average seasons. They won’t get too many strikeouts, but they won't walk many batters, either. They, too, start three different lefties, which might kill David Veloz and the left-handed batters of the Cardinals. As long as the Reds keep pitching the way they have this season, they’ve clearly got the upper hand over Torres and the tired Cardinals.

Advantage: Cincinnati

Bullpen

The Cardinals have a bad bullpen. They rank 16th in bullpen ERA, which is 2nd-worst of all playoff teams. Their “best” reliever is probably Oscar Martinez, although he hasn’t made the transition to the bullpen as well as the Cardinals hoped. Steve Jackson, acquired near the trade deadline to start, has also been moved to the pen where has struggled. Marco Velazquez has been fine in the closer role, although he’s blown six saves this season.

The Reds have one of the best bullpens in the game, with their bullpen ERA of 3.06 ranking 2nd in the TNBL. Bert Licon can absolutely shut down even the best of lineups, and newly-acquired Wan-ling Sun has been lights out in the closer role. The Reds just don’t have a weak link coming out of the bullpen, and will never give up easy runs.

Advantage: Cincinnati

Final Prediction

St. Louis went all-in this season, trading away top prospect Rafael Cavazos for last year’s MVP Ivan Torres. If Torres can push the Cardinals over the top and help them win this series, that move could end up being worth it. I just don’t think the Cardinals have enough hitting or pitching depth to compete with the Reds. Cincinnati won the season series 5-2, and I don’t see this series going differently.

Pick: Cincinnati in 6