Mets. Cardinals. Roster comparison. It's go time.
The final rosters haven't been set for the NLCS, but we can at least look at the principles and see who comes out ahead. I'll use a somewhat flawed albeit objective means for comparison. For batters, VORP per 100 plate appearances. For starting pitchers, support neutral lineup-adjusted value added above replacement (SNLVAR) per 100 innings pitched. For relievers, expected wins added (WXRL) per 100 innings pitched (note: these are all Baseball Prospectus inventions, so head on over to their glossary for more information.
Here is the starting lineup breakdown. I'll be back later in the day with the starting rotation and closer.
CATCHER => Edge: METS
Paul Lo Duca: 4.81 VORP100
Yadier Molina: -4.19 VORP100
It's not even really close here. VORP doesn't take defense into consideration, so to some extent Molina is a bit misrepresented. He has one of the strongest, most accurate arms in the game, while Lo Duca is one of the poorer throwing backstops in the league. Hitting is more important than defense, and Duke just blows the youngest Molina brother out of the water.
FIRST BASE => Edge: CARDINALS
Albert Pujols: 13.66 VORP100
Carlos Delgado: 5.57 VORP100
Delgado has had a nice season with the bat, but there's just no touching Pujols, who continues to be the best hitter in the league. The Cards have the edge at first base against every team in baseball.
SECOND BASE => Edge: METS
Jose Valentin: 5.35 VORP100
Ronnie Belliard: 2.31 VORP100 (STL and CLE combined)
Belliard's mark is skewed somewhat because he was pretty decent with the Indians (4.33 VORP100) but has been dreadful since coming back to the National League (-1.33 VORP100). Valentin struggled down the stretch and didn't really get things going in the LDS, but he definitely had the superior season.
THIRD BASE => Edge: METS
David Wright: 8.06 VORP100
Scott Rolen: 6.30 VORP100
Rolen had a nice bounce back season after missing most of 2005 on the disabled list, but he's no match offensively for the Mets' wunderkind. Rolen may still be the better defender, but Wright is improving by the day and is already better with the stick.
SHORTSTOP => Edge: METS
Jose Reyes: 8.21 VORP100
David Eckstein: 1.67 VORP100
As Larry Borowsky pointed out yesterday, Eckstein has been terrible at the plate since sustaining a concussion on June 15th. Prior to that he got on base at a respectable clip but has never hit for much power. Reyes is the best hitting shortstop in the league, and he is gaining in value on his AL counterparts.
LEFT FIELD => Edge: CARDINALS
Cliff Floyd: 0.24 VORP100
Chris Duncan: 8.06 VORP100
The Mets may very well have Endy Chavez playing in left field to start the series, but I'd still say the Cardinals have the edge here. Duncan, son of Cards' pitching coach Dave Duncan, hit .293/.363/.589 in 314 plate appearances this season, emerging as a future offensive star in St. Louis.
CENTER FIELD => Edge: METS
Carlos Beltran: 10.96 VORP100
Jim Edmonds: 5.05 VORP100
Edmonds can still hit when he's not in traction, but he's coming to the end of his rope, career-wise, while Beltran is gliding through his prime as one of the best all-around players in baseball. No contest.
RIGHT FIELD: => Edge: PUSH
Shawn Green: 1.60 VORP100
Juan Encarnacion: 1.61 VORP100
Endy Chavez: 3.79 VORP100
Green vs Encarnacion, this matchup is a dead heat: both guys stink. If Floyd were healthy and the Mets could play Endy in right field they would have the clear edge. That's apparently not going to be the case.
FINAL TALLY: METS 5, CARDINALS 2, PUSH 1.