World Series 2011: Rangers vs. Cardinals, Breaking Down Each Position
The World Series is here, with game one at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Texas is making its second appearance in as many years. This is St. Louis' 18th trip to the Fall Classic, they have won it 10 times.
The Rangers are favored to win by Vegas and most analysts. Let's break down each team position by position.
The Cardinals have:
Chris Carpenter: 11-9, 3.45
Jake Westbrook: 12-9, 4.55
Jamie Garcia: 13-7, 3.56
Kyle Lohse: 14-8, 3.39
C.J. Wilson: 16-7, 2.94
Colby Lewis: 14-10, 4.40
Derek Holland: 16-5, 3.95
Matt Harrison: 14-9, 3.39
Advantage: St. Louis. The pitching staffs are nearly equal, with a slight edge to Texas on raw ability. St. Louis has Dave Duncan, pitching coach wizard, and they have an extra game at home.
Both teams are strong in relief. Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa and aforementioned pitching coach Duncan created the modern bullpen strategy. However I think Texas is a little deeper and has a stronger closer in Neftali Feliz. I do think "closer" is overrated, but since we're ranking bullpens I give Texas the nod.
Texas nabbed catcher Mike Napoli from the Angels this year and he promptly hit .320 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI. These numbers have held up in the postseason: Napoli is batting .316 in October.
St. Louis has Yadier Molina. He doesn't have quite the bat that Napoli has but he did hit .305/14/65 this year. What I really like about Molina is he doesn't strike out very much: 44 times in 475 at bats this year. His defense behind the plate is legendary.
I don't want to push here, but it's pretty much dead even. What Napoli gains with the bat, Molina takes away with the glove and experience.
Advantage: Molina for postseason experience at a position where experience is magnified.
It will probably be Michael Young at first for the Rangers against Albert Pujols. Pujols is the best first baseman since Lou Gehrig, and he's probably better than him. This was the first season ever Pujols failed to bat over .300, or failed to drive in over 100 runs. He hit .299 with 99 RBI respectively. He has made up for that during the postseason by batting .419.
It's Texas' Ian Kinsler vs Skip Schumaker. Kinsler only batted .255, but did belt 32 home runs and 77 RBI. He also stole 30 bases. Schumaker is a typical Cardinals middle infielder: He's scrappy, he doesn't strike out and his numbers are about average across the board. He'll nip at your heels, lay bunts down and drive in a key run, but I was surprised at his.333 OBP.
Ordinarily this would go to Texas' Adrian Beltre who batted .296/32/105 and had a great year all around. The Cardinals bring David Freese, .297/10/55. Freese has caught fire lately, and was the NLCS MVP batting .545 with three home runs.
There's no doubt over a full season Beltre is the better player, but in a short series you go with the hot hand.
It's St. Louis' Rafael Furcal vs Elvis Andrus. Points to Furcal for veteran experience and defense, but Andrus cleans up everywhere else, even negating Furcal's speed with 37 stolen bases. Neither are hitting very well in October, but only one is named Elvis.
Texas has Daniel Murphy. St. Louis has Matt Holliday. Holliday's stat line through 124 games: .296/22/75. Murphy's: .275/11/46 in 120. Murphy is hitting .409 in October, Holliday .375.
It's Texas' Josh Hamilton vs St. Louis' John Jay. Hamilton is one of the greats. His numbers in 121 games are as follows: .298/25/94. John Jay by comparison: .297/10/37 in 159 games.
The great Berkman was Comeback Player of the Year for St. Louis, totaling .301/34/94. He faces off against some guy named Nelson Cruz, the 2011 version of Reggie Jackson. Cruz had good regular season numbers (.263/29/87), but he has gone off the map in the postseason. He was the ALCS MVP after hitting .364 with six home runs.
Benches / DH
I literally just found out Corey Patterson is playing for the Cardinals. I thought for sure he was in the Mexican league by now. The Cardinals also have Allen Craig and Ryan Theriot among others.
The Rangers have namely Mitch Moreland, Endy Chavez and Yorvit Torrealba.
Advantage: I'm going with Texas on sheer talent off the bench.
The Cardinals are led by Tony LaRussa. The Rangers have Ron Washington. I really don't want to take anything away from Washington, taking Texas to back-to-back World Series is incredible, but it's pretty hard to go against LaRussa.
LaRussa is third all-time in wins, and is a two-time World Series winning manager and one of two managers to ever win it once in both leagues. His nickname is "The Genius."
Advantage: La Russa
Honestly, I didn't plan for a tie, but I think it's indicative. This series will be close. Both teams have been here before. In high pressure games certain advantages begin to rise to the top: strong experienced starting pitching, solid at bats, conservative baseball...oh, and an extra home game.
Prediction: St. Louis in seven.