Scouting report: Pirates-Cardinals
After reaching its first postseason in two decades, can Pittsburgh advance?
The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates will square off in the NLDS this year. The Cardinals led the NL Central for a majority of the season, but their division foe Pirates -- who will play in their first postseason in more than two decades -- have been strong down the stretch.
Here's what to watch, who will win and why.
Key matchup: The Pirates' defense against the Cardinals' hitters
Among postseason teams, only the Rays shifted their defense more than the Pirates this year. Pittsburgh shifted fourth-most in the big leagues, according to Inside Edge, helping its pitchers finish with the fifth-lowest batting average on balls in play in the big leagues this year. But, as Joey Votto of the just-vanquished Reds will tell you, shifts work better on pull hitters.
Unfortunately, no playoff team pulls less than the Cardinals. St. Louis went to the opposite field sixth-most during the season, with Jon Jay, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter among the league leaders in that category. You may see a shift for Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams, who were among the hitters who pulled the ball the most this year, but the shift may lose effectiveness in this series.