World Series 2011: The Best Players at Each Position

Jack ButlerContributor IIIOctober 17, 2011

World Series 2011: The Best Players at Each Position

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    Cardinals-Rangers.

    It may not be the big market matchup MLB wanted, but baseball fans should appreciate this World Series.

    The Rangers fell to the Giants in last year's fall classic.  After Cliff Lee bolted for Philly, many believed Texas would have a hard time repeating as American League Champions.  

    General Manager Jon Daniels deserves a ton of credit.  

    He brought in Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, both of whom have played a big role in the Rangers' playoff run.  Not to mention the deadline moves he made to fortify their bullpen.

    On August 24, the Cardinals were 10.5 games behind the Braves.  From that point on, they went 22-9, and thanks to some terrible play by the Braves, won the Wild Card on the final day of the season.

    Their offense has exploded, their bullpen has stepped up, and they now find themselves on baseball's biggest stage.

    There really hasn't been a great World Series since the Angels beat the Giants in seven games back in 2002.  Hopefully, this one gives us some overdue excitement.

    Here is a position breakdown of the upcoming series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals.

Left Field: David Murphy vs. Matt Holliday

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    Here's a fun fact about David Murphy.  He was a first round draft pick back in 2003, 17th overall by the Red Sox.  He was dealt to Texas in 2007 in a trade that brought Eric Gagne to Bean Town.  

    Murphy has had some success with the Rangers, but I wouldn't say he's lived up to his first round-caliber potential.  He did, however, hit .412 in the ALCS and had a .500 OBP.  

    Matt Holliday has been an offensive force in the league for a while now, and he too had a big NLCS.  He drove in five runs while hitting .435.

    I don't know if Murphy's playoff success will carry over into the World Series, and I'd definitely put money on Holliday having a bigger impact in the series.

     

    Advantage: St. Louis Cardinals

Center Field: Josh Hamilton vs. Jon Jay

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    I actually really like Jon Jay.  He's a good defender, and I think he can develop into a pretty good gap-to-gap hitter.  He is still just 26 and is far from finished.  

    He hasn't reached his full offensive potential quite yet and has hit just .216 in his first career postseason.

    There really isn't much that needs to be said about Josh Hamilton.  

    He's an inspirational guy who can flat out hit.  His defense, in my opinion, is overlooked, and he'll also spend some time in left field.

    Hamilton's bat can be a real difference maker in this series.

     

    Advantage: Texas Rangers

Right Field: Nelson Cruz vs. Lance Berkman

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    Lance Berkman had a great season and deservedly won the NL Comeback player of the year.  He served as great protection for Albert Pujols this year and quietly hit 31 home runs.

    After having a rough time at the plate in the Division Series against the Phillies, he heated up against Milwaukee.

    While Berkman is a great player, this really isn't much of a contest.  

    Nelson Cruz had a record-breaking ALCS, belting six home runs in as many games.  The guy clearly knows how to perform his best when it matters most.  

     

    Advantage: Texas Rangers

Third Base: Adrian Beltre vs. David Freese

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    This one is a pretty tough call.

    David Freese seems to have broken out of his shell in the playoffs.  He won the NLCS MVP on a team full of big-time hitters.  When you hit .545 in a series, your odds of winning that award are pretty good.

    I've always admired the way Adrian Beltre plays the game.  He's a solid all around player and has made a real difference on this Rangers team.  

    Beltre had that big three-homer game in Tampa Bay in the ALDS, but outside that, really hasn't done too much in the playoffs.  If you take away that game, he's hitting just .184 with three RBIs this postseason.  

    I know Beltre is an established hitter, and he can surely turn it on in the World Series.  But in the playoffs, momentum is so important.  

    I don't see why Freese's success won't carry over.

     

    Advantage: St. Louis Cardinals

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus vs. Rafael Furcal

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    Here we have a battle of an established veteran and a promising young stud.

    Neither player has hit much, but they both know how to flash the leather.  Defense often gets overlooked in baseball, but it will be very important in this series.  

    Both offenses come in hot, so the ball will be put in play.  

    Furcal hits leadoff, and if he continues to struggle at the plate, it will hurt the Cardinals big time.  They need to have guys get on base ahead of their big bats in the middle.  

    A lack of hitting from him will affect the Cardinals more than a lack of hitting from Andrus will affect the Rangers.  

    Because of that, I'll give Texas a slight edge.

     

    Advantage: Texas Rangers

Second Base: Ian Kinsler vs. Nick Punto

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    Nick Punto has always been a light hitter, and he isn't really a crucial part of the Cardinals' offense.  If I was Tony LaRussa, I'd think about playing Ryan Theriot over Punto, even against a right handed starter.

    With the Rangers' three lefty starters of Wilson, Holland, and Harrison, we might be seeing more of Theriot anyways.

    Kinsler is a leader on this Rangers team, and his impact goes beyond his play on the field.  No matter who plays second base for St. Louis, Texas certainly has the advantage.

     

    Advantage: Texas Rangers

First Base: Michael Young vs. Albert Pujols

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    Michael Young has always been a a fan favorite in Texas and has played multiple positions in his time there.  He had a great offensive regular season, but he hasn't put up great numbers in October.

    As good as Young is, this one really isn't close.

    Pujols always puts up MVP-caliber numbers and is going to make a ton of money this offseason.  He drove in nine runs while hitting .478 in the NLCS.  

    If it wasn't for Freese's freakishly good series, he would have been the NLCS MVP.  

     

    Advantage: St. Louis Cardinals

Catcher: Mike Napoli vs. Yadier Molina

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    Mike Napoli has quietly been a consistent force at the plate in the AL.  He hit 30 home runs in just 113 games during his first year as a Ranger.  This came after three straight 20+ home run seasons with the Angels.

    Molina is a veteran and has spent his entire career in St. Louis.  He's a solid hitter, but he is even better defensively.  He has great relationships with his pitchers and knows how to call a good game.  

    Pitching may be the difference in this series, and those kind of intangibles are always important in the World Series.

    As a Mets fan, I'll never forget Molina's ninth inning home run in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.  I won't hold it against him, though.  I have a lot of respect for him and appreciate what he brings to the table.  

    I think St. Louis has a slight advantage behind the plate.

     

    Advantage: St. Louis Cardinals

Starting Pitching

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    Chris Carpenter can't start every game, and the rest of the Cardinals' rotation really hasn't stepped up in the postseason.  

    The Rangers, on the other hand, have a really deep starting rotation.  

    CJ Wilson has gotten a lot of attention because of his upcoming free agency, and rightly so.  He's struggled quite a bit in the playoffs, but I interpret this as him being due for a good stretch.  

    And it's not like he has to carry the staff.  

    Harrison and Holland will take a lot of pressure off him, and don't forget about Colby Lewis.  Every Texas starter has the potential to dominate, and I don't see the same from the Cards.

     

    Advantage: Texas Rangers

Bullpen

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    The Cardinals' starters struggled against the Brewers, and their bullpen was a huge reason for them winning that series.  Lance Lynn hasn't allowed an earned run in 5.1 playoff innings, and Jason Motte has been lights out at the end of games.

    With that said, the Rangers bullpen has to be considered better.  

    Their bullpen was a question mark up until July, but Jon Daniels brought in Mike Adams and Koji Uehara at the deadline.  Those moves gave them some depth.

    Ron Washington has a lot of weapons to work with out in their pen.  Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver can come in to get lefties out, and Alexi Ogando is the X-factor.  He can pitch multiple innings in long relief if a starter struggles or can just come in to get an out when it's needed.

    His versatility is matched by none, and Neftali Feliz has become about as automatic as you can get as a closer.

     

    Advantage: Texas Rangers

Designated Hitter

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    The Rangers really don't have a set DH, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Michael Young has spent some time there, along with Mitch Moreland and other position players on this team.

    I think this benefits Texas, because they'll be able to keep guys fresh and create the matchups they want.

    I'm not sure what St. Louis will do regarding the DH.

    Allen Craig should see some more playing time.  They might send him out to right field and have Berkman bat as DH.  

    Regardless of what they do, I think the Rangers' depth gives them the edge here.

     

    Advantage: Texas Rangers

Bench

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    Unlikely heroes often emerge in October, so the bench is an important aspect of a team.

    Allen Craig put up some good numbers this year in limited playing time, and I mentioned before that Ryan Theriot should see some time at second base in this series.  

    But outside of them, St. Louis' bench isn't that deep.

    Most of the time, one would assume that an NL team would have a better bench, as they're used to pinch hitting and double switching for pitchers.  

    I, however, think the Rangers are an overall deeper team and versatile team as well.  

    Michael Young can play anywhere in the infield, Mike Napoli can play some first base, and Ron Washington is used to shuffling things around a bit.  

    They have some solid hitters on their bench like Mitch Moreland and Yorvit Torrealba.  Endy Chavez also brings some speed if they need a pinch runner or a defensive replacement late in games.  

    He could be like what Dave Roberts was to the Red Sox back in 2004. 

    This Texas team is built kind of like a National League team.  They're loaded with role players, and that can make a major difference in close games.

     

    Advantage: Texas Rangers

Overall: Rangers 8, Cardinals 4

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    It seems like the Rangers have the advantage, and they are considered pretty heavy favorites.

    But if there's one thing I've learned about baseball, it's that anything can happen.  

    Who actually thought the Cardinals had a chance to beat the Phillies, let alone make it to the World Series?  Six weeks ago, nobody thought they would be in the playoffs.

    The most talented team doesn't always win it all.  Ask the Phillies and Yankees about that.

    This will be a close, highly contested series.  I really hope it goes to seven games, because there isn't anything in sports that compares to a Game 7.  

    Here's to an entertaining series.