Analysis

Which NL team should you root for this fall?

39212-cubsThe Phillies won’t be in the postseason, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore baseball’s month-long deathmatch to determine its ultimate champion. Oh contraire. There are many reasons you should embrace the postseason.

But since our beloved Phils won’t be in the dance, maybe there’s a team you’d like to put your rooting interests behind. Here’s where I can help; I’ve created a non-scientific formula (from -10 up to 10 for each category) guaranteed to help you – discerning Phillies fan – choose the right team to endorse in this year’s pennant chase.

Let’s begin with the National League. Tomorrow I’ll tackle the American League.

Washington Nationals

Rival / History: -10.0
This metric measures how much me, a Phillies fan, can really root for another team. Here, anything less (or more, or whatever) would be uncivilized.

Been There Before: -7.5
This measures how often a team is in the postseason, which means you’re seeing them repeatedly, which isn’t fun after a while. (Or maybe you like tradition, but whatever, man.) It’s not that the Nationals have been there before a lot, because they haven’t. In fact, the franchise itself (including as the Expos) has only reached the postseason three times. No, it’s not that. It’s that the Nationals and their fans were so cocksure that they’d be in the postseason, that it would be handed to them. So here. Here’s your prize. A negative 7.5.

Fandom and Raucousness: -6.6
This measures the ability of a fanbase to be a lot of fun to watch. Nationals Park … raucous? Hold on, I have to grab something into which I can laugh hysterically.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 4.9
This obviously measures if said team will hit home runs, pitch well, and be generally fun to watch. The Nationals have an above-average offense thanks almost entirely to Bryce Harper. The pitching staff that was supposed to be the greatest ever is merely average, backed by a bullpen that has played lackluster lately. Then there’s the manager … ooh boy …

Star Power: 7.7
Bryce Harper is the best player in baseball this season. Max Scherzer and his fellow pitchers are stars or near-stars. Jonathan Papelbon is a star. Jayson Werth is a star.

Former Phillie Cachet: 6.1
Werth still gets my love. Papelbon, while great as a Phillie, didn’t quite endear himself to the city, right? Probably a negative point or two. Also don’t forget former Phillie farmhand Gio Gonzalez.

Final Score: -5.4
Yeah, we’re rooting against you guys.

St. Louis Cardinals

Rivalry / History: -4.3
We all remember that dumb, stupid, no good, terrible, ridiculous 2011 NLDS, in which Cliff Lee blew a lead, the offense forgot how to hit, and a squirrel ruined everything else. Also the Cardinals have old-school NL East history with the Phillies.

Been There Before: -7.2
The Cardinals, oh they’ve been there before. They’ve always been there before. Seriously, how do they keep being there before? What do they put in the water in that holiest of baseball holy places?

Fandom And Raucousness: -1.1
I don’t know. Cardinals fans are beloved by Cardinals fans, and hated by most everyone else. I feel indifferent to them. I never remember Busch Stadium to be rocking like Citizens Bank Park. Meh. A little under zero here.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 6.5
Let’s be honest, the Cardinals do baseball well. The offense is average – if not slightly below average – but the pitching is quite good. They’re tops in the NL in ERA, fifth in strikeouts, and of course, always have that neverending bullpen that mows everyone away starting in the seventh inning. Stupid Cardinals.

Star Power: 3.3
Future Phillie Jason Heyward is awesome and Matt Holliday is one of the league’s more underappreciated stars. Yadier Molina is Yadier Molina, one of the better catchers in baseball. Kolten Wong has had a pretty decent rookie season, and Matt Carpenter broke out this year, but you can’t pick them out of a lineup.

Former Phillie Cachet: 0.3
This version of the Cards is low on former Phillies. They do have Brandon Moss, who tore up AAA Lehigh Valley but wasn’t good enough for Philly. Then he went to Oakland and hit 76 home runs in three seasons. Yup, great stuff. That’s worth 0.3.

Final Score: -2.5
Sorry St. Louis, it’s just that … you know … you’ve been there before.

San Francisco Giants

Rival / History: -4.2
Ugh, the Giants. I don’t want to talk about that dumb 2010 National League Championship Series.

Been There Before: -9.3
Not only have the Giants been there before, but they find ways – despite otherwise mediocre teams – to vulture world championships from better, more deserving teams. Like last year. And in 2012. And I don’t want to talk about that dumb 2010 National League Championship Series.

Fandom and Raucousness: 3.2
To be fair, AT&T Park during the postseason is nuts. But I will not praise further. No sir.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 6.1
The Giants might have the best offense in the National League. Their pitching staff is solid. Buster Posey is having another elite season, and rookie Matt Duffy has been tremendous.

Star Power: 4.9
Posey is one of the game’s top stars. Hunter Pence remains one of baseball’s most marketable players, though he’s out potentially for the season. And everyone loves Madison Bumgarner. Good star power here.

Former Phillie Cachet: 4.7
Pence and Marlon Byrd are on this team, and while I was never a big Pence fan, many people were. I’ll surrender.

Final Score: 5.4
Yikes. That’s a higher score than I had thought. Look for this formula to get a Version 2 update for next year.

New York Mets

Rivalry / History: -10.0
Automatic lowest score here. Look, we don’t like you, and you don’t like us. Understood.

Been There Before: 4.5
But here’s the thing: the Mets are as tortured as we are in our darkest days. These guys deserve a chance. We had our fun against them from 2007-11; now they get an opportunity to win, something they haven’t done since 2006. I’m cool with that.

Fandom and Raucousness: 4.4
Citi Field can be deceiving, but it has played well as the Mets have improved. The fans are hungry, too. They’re New Yorkers. It would be fun to watch.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 5.0
A terrible first-half offense but outstanding second-half display, so the Mets trend upwards here. And they can certainly pitch, led by Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom … and … well, hmmm … we’ll see … Point is, they stay in games and then come up big late. I love that kind of baseball.

Star Power: 2.7
David Wright, of course. Yoenis Cespedes is a joy to watch when he’s on point. Michael Conforto’s a rookie but acclimating himself well. Syndergaard and deGrom are becoming stars. Then there’s … yeah … hmmm … we’ll see …

Former Phillie Cachet: -0.7
So John Mayberry Jr. is off the roster, which means the closest we have is Travis d’Arnaud, possibly the best prospect the Phillies have traded recently. He’s good. Sigh. I’m upset about this. But he did give us Roy. Yay! But sigh.

Final Score: 5.9
Oh boy. Yeah. You actually may have to root for the Mets this postseason.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Rivalry / History: -6.3
It seems whenever the Phillies have been really good, the Dodgers have also been really good. They were the Phils’ main adversaries during the First Golden Age of 1976-83, and they laid down to the Phillies of the Second Golden Age of 2007-11. Plus I think Tommy Lasorda still has a hit out on the Phillie Phanatic.

Been There Before: -5.9
The Dodgers aren’t quite the Cardinals, but they’re close, reaching the playoffs a handful of times since 2004. Plus they have all that money and act as if they should be there, right? Yeah.

Fandom and Raucousness: -3.3
Are we measuring raucousness from innings 1-9, or just 7-9? Look, they fill the place when it matters, but you can’t tell me Chavez Ravine is the loudest place on Earth come playoff time.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 7.1
They hit home runs and get on base. They strike guys out and limit runs. This is a good baseball team, all the way through.

Star Power: 6.8
Adrian Gonzalez. Joc Pederson. Yasiel Puig (if he returns for the postseason, which is doubtful). Clayton Kershaw. Clayton Kershaw. Zack Greinke. Clayton Kershaw.

Former Phillie Cachet: 10.0
No explanation needed. I think I’d be okay with seeing Jimmy and Chase win another ring.

Final Score: 8.4
Phew, I thought for a second we’d have to root for the Mets. The Dodgers are good, they’re fun, and they have Jimmy and Chase. Sold.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Rivalry / History: -3.6
One sad development with the splitting of divisions in 1994 was the loss of the Phillies vs. Pirates rivalry, which struck some high notes in the 1970s and ‘80s. Since, there has only been a cosmetic intra-state rivalry. Plus the Pirates don’t elicit the same anger as the Penguins, or even the Steelers.

Been There Before: -1.3
This is weird. A few years ago this would get the highest score of 10.0, but now the Pirates are veterans of the postseason, and will likely reach October play for the third-consecutive year. Sorry, Buccos.

Fandom and Raucousness: 2.7
PNC Park doesn’t get to Wrigley Field levels, but it’s certainly a fun place to watch October baseball on TV. Fans have been hungry for a championship.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 5.8
Offensively the Pirates might be the most small-ball team among contenders. They do have a strong pitching staff, highlighted by Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and the Artist Formerly Known as J.A. Happ. And the bullpen is very good.

Star Power: 0.9
One bonafide star in Andrew McCutchen, and one rising stud in Cole. Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Starling Marte are all fine players.

Former Phillie Cachet: 9.3
The Pirates basically have collected all the third-tier Phillies starters of the Second Golden Era: The Artist Formerly Known as JA Happ! Vance Worley! Joe Blanton! Plus Antonio Bastardo! And remember the time we had AJ Burnett?

Final Score: 13.8
Hey, not shabby! Buccos!

Chicago Cubs

Rivalry / History: -0.8
This is a weird one. The Cubs were in the NL East before the 1994 division splitting, but even then the Phils and Cubs weren’t necessarily heated rivals. No real rivalry here anymore.

Been There Before: 0.2
Recently the Cubs weren’t good. But not long before that, they were good. And now you see this weird quandary.

Fandom and Raucousness: 6.4
Cubs fans are crazy. I would love to see Wrigley going insane during the NLCS.

Will Play Baseball Goodicity: 5.9
Just about an average offense here – maybe a nudge better than average – with very solid pitching (tops in strikeouts, gives up few hits). Also it’s a good young team constructed very well by Theo Epstein and associates, and manager Joe Maddon is the manager we all want.

Star Power: 5.0
A ton of young talent, from Anthony Rizzo to Addison Russell to Kris Bryant to Jorge Soler to Kyle Schwarber. Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young candidate; Jon Lester always seems to turn it on come playoff time. Few veteran stars, but people are getting to know this team.

Former Phillie Cachet: 0.1
Look! Way down the active roster … Quintin Berry! He was a prospect once!

Final Score: 16.8
The Cubs and their fans are tortured. So tortured. We get that. Go Cubbies!

*****

There you have it. Root for whoever wins that likely wild card game between the Cubs and Pirates to beat the Cardinals, then root for the Dodgers over the Mets. Easy!

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