If you strongly favor statistical analysis, then your stance on RISP numbers is that it is not a predictive value. So while the St. Louis Cardinals have an amazing .330 average with runners in scoring position, going forward they should be expected to be closer to their .269 average overall.
It’s not a surprise that previews from people who think this way are picking the Pirates over the Cardinals in the NLDS.
Rany Jazayerli has a great preview on Grantland, and predicts that the Pirates will win in four games. Jazayerli sums up the impact of the RISP numbers, and the Pirates defensive shifts, here:
The Cardinals’ offense is also highly dependent on balls in play to succeed. The Cardinals were second in the NL in singles and first in doubles, but were just 13th in home runs. The Pirates, who have a sensational defense (third in the major leagues in Defensive Runs Saved) and who aggressively use defensive shifts to gain an edge, are a poor matchup for them.
He also makes a lot of points that I made in First Pitch last night. The Pirates have an improved offense compared to their season numbers, thanks to the addition of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau. The Cardinals will be weak off the bench with no Matt Adams. And the Pirates starters match up well with the Cardinals, with the game two (Gerrit Cole vs Lance Lynn) and game three (Francisco Liriano vs Joe Kelly) matchups looking to be in favor of the Pirates.
Eno Sarris of ESPN Insider predicts that the Pirates will win in five games. He also points to the key matchup being the Pirates’ defense vs the Cardinals’ hitters. He points out that the shift works better on pull hitters, and that no playoff team pulls less than the Cardinals. So while the shift worked wonders against teams like the Reds this year, it might not be as effective against the Cardinals.
Jon Morosi of Fox Sports only looked at the first two games, and says that the Pirates will win one of those games. He says that their lineup is underrated, due to the additions of Byrd and Morneau.