World Series 2011: 6 Players That Are Flying Under the Radar
Well, the 2011 World Series starts Wednesday, with most stories focusing on only a handful of people, such as Rangers' big bat Nelson Cruz (who isn't as clutch as we thought, according to this) and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols.
This article isn't about them, however. This article is about three Cardinals and three Rangers who people aren't taking about but could make the difference in the Fall Classic.
In the Beltre-and-Cruz big-bats showdown, the Rangers' catcher/DH seems to have been lost in the shuffle. It's too bad, as Napoli's bat can make the difference in this series.
Napoli has hit .316 so far in the postseason, led the Rangers in postseason runs and hits and drove in five. He also had a solid regular season, where he had a 1.045 OPS in only 113 games.
Napoli can bat anywhere in the potent Rangers lineup and can play at three different positions. Considering that Texas will be without a DH for the first two games, he will probably play all three of them in the Fall Classic.
One of the story lines of the Cardinals' win over the Brewers was the solid outings of their bullpen. Much of that credit has gone to catcher-turned-unofficial-closer Jason Motte, but another man who deserves laurels is the Cardinals' rookie long reliever, Lance Lynn.
Lynn (along with Motte) is one of two Cardinals with all zeros in the ERA column for the postseason. Lynn had an 0.94 postseason WHIP, in addition to being solid in the regular season with a 1.04 WHIP and 10.38 strikeouts per nine innings.
The Cardinals will be relying on Lynn delivering in extra-inning or long-relief situations in the Fall Classic.
Prior to this season's offensive explosion, conventional wisdom said that you needed two or three solid pitchers to put together a postseason run. Considering that every play starts with a pitch, it seems kind of wrong to me that people aren't really talking about any starters except C.J. Wilson and Chris Carpenter, which is too bad.
Harrison had the second-best ERA and third-best WHIP of the Rangers' five-man rotation. With a 14-9 record, he was also second in quality starts and third in victories.
In the postseason, his strikeouts per nine and WHIP have been better than "ace" C.J. Wilson, and his ERA has been immensely better (4.22 against 8.04). Solid play by Rangers starters Harrison, Lewis and Holland against St. Louis' potent lineup could really help the Rangers' chances at the trophy.
The reason St. Louis is here is because of their fielding. They got past Milwaukee largely due to the fact that they committed fewer errors. They also have the most assists of the four teams in the AL and NLCS.
That's one of the reasons Nick Punto—who is getting starts at second due to Skip Schumaker's injury—makes my list. Punto was third in range factor among Cardinals who played at least 40 regular season games (after Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina), and first among Cardinals who played those games at the crucial positions of second base, third base or shortstop. He was also perfect in the postseason at fielding.
Don’t count out Punto’s bat either. In the regular season, he batted .278 with an .802 OPS and 20 RBI in just 133 ABs.
Even though Punto has been one of the coldest bats in the Card’s postseason, that means he’s probably due for an offensive explosion.
Mike Adams' trade from the San Diego Padres to the Rangers made headlines. Since then, no one's seemed to care.
They should start caring again.
Adams has the fourth-most innings pitched in the Rangers' bullpen, after long men Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman and closer Neftali Feliz. In just over four innings stretched over five outings in the Championship series, Adams has recorded a win in relief and a hold while fanning four and notching a 2.08 ERA.
Adams pitched crucial extra-inning outings in the ALCS, and his ability to keep the score low until Cruz's bat heated up is what got the Rangers here. Adams also had holds in each of the Rangers' three division series victories. In the regular season, Adams led all Rangers pitchers in ERA (2.10) and was second in WHIP (0.90).
Although I acknowledge that Feldman and Ogando's relief has been at least as important as Adams', they've been getting all the buzz that needs to be shared with him.
The lamestream media is doing little to acknowledge that Matt Holliday is in the Fall Classic, which is just plain wrong.
Holliday has been one of the 15 or 20 best bats in the last 10 years. In eight seasons, he has a triple hash of .315/.388/.541, with 202 dingers, 308 doubles and 770 driven in. He was limited by injuries this season to 124 games, where he “only” hit .296/.388/.525 with 22 dingers and 75 driven in.
Matt Holliday has received almost no credit for being a big bat in the postseason either. The man batted .375 in the postseason with a .976 OPS and five driven in.
Matt Holliday…the future Hall of Famer on the Cards who isn’t Albert Pujols.