Which of these two will hit the big one to lead their team to a championship
The 2011 World Series has been anything but a disappointment. Baseball’s two hottest teams have found themselves in a legitimate and even fight for this year’s championship. Say what you want about whom you think should have made the World Series, or who the best team was this year cumulatively, but right now it is clear to any objective observer that we are witnessing the two best teams in baseball right now.
After 4 games, we are locked in a 2-2 tie, leaving three games to decide this year’s champion. Both teams have every reason to be confident in their ability to win it all this year, and one of those reasons is the excellent hitting that both teams boast. Much can be said about the lineups that the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and even the Brewers boasted this year, but these two teams are stacked with power and potency. The Rangers have been known for their power all year as they led the Major Leagues in hitting with a .283 average for the season and only trailed the Yankees in Home Runs this year with 210.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, are not as well noted for their potency and productivity yet they ended up with the 5th best team average in baseball, which was best in the National League this year. The Cardinals have shown throughout these playoffs that they can bang the ball out with anyone, and in prototypical LaRussa-led form, they can hit well situationally and execute well.
Going into this mini best of three series, I believe there are 10 key players that are most likely to play a large part in the pending result of this series. Both lineups are stacked, and several players are on fire. Here are the 10 most likely players that could end up using their power to become hero of this year’s World Series.
Michael Young has had a pretty solid and productive career thus far. He’s well known for his ability to hit with power. He may not have hit a ton of home runs this year, but he did produce a lot of runs, knocking in 106 runs to go along with his sparkling .338 average. In a year in which some thought he might get squeezed due to the signing of Adrian Beltre, he has come up with 3 HR and 4 RBI in the postseason. He is as big a threat as any to get the big swing in a big moment and put the Rangers over the top.
Can he get right just in time to be hero?
Matt Holliday has been pretty quiet in this series so far but it is no secret that Holliday is as scary a pure power hitter as there is in baseball. He looks like a lean, mean, muscle machine and he punishes the ball like few others in baseball. Battling injuries, he only managed to hit 22 HR after hitting 28 last year. In the postseason, he has only produced 1 HR and 5 RBI, but he is still Matt Holliday. I do not think the Rangers will take him for granted. As Albert Pujols has re-established himself as an absolute nightmare to pitch to, look for Holliday to get opportunities to make the Rangers pay for any ideas of completely avoiding confrontation with Big Al.
Does Lance have anymore magic left in his back in '11?
This year has been a special year for Lance. He was resurgent this year and one of the better stories in baseball, even on the downside of his career. Playing for a former rival, Lance has rebounded this year to hit 31 HR and drive in 94 RBI. In the postseason thus far, he has only hit 1 HR, but he has hit a solid .302 average. He has really come alive this series to hit .467 in the World Series. He is as good a threat as any to get the big fly that may be the difference in this series.
Can he get to SL's best starting pitchers early to give the Rangers an early lead?
Ian Kinsler is the biggest threat in the postseason for the leadoff home run. He has done it several times over the course of this season (7 in the regular season) and he’s always a threat to do it in any game. Although Game 3 was a slugfest, this series has shown that any game could end up being a pitcher’s duel. With both team’s aces going in Game 5, there may be no better time for a guy like Kinsler to get his team on the board first early. He hit 32 HR and had 77 RBI this year. He has only hit 1 HR this postseason, but at this stage in the game, all it takes is one.
Can he grind it out enough to be the hero when it counts the most?
Based on talent and track record, Josh belongs higher up on the list, but due to the fact that he may have a “sports hernia” and has struggled for the most part this postseason, he belongs here at 6. Hamilton managed to hit .298 with 25 HR and 94 RBI this season and had another all-star caliber season. Injuries have always been an issue for him but pitchers around the league, including those still alive in the postseason, are unlikely to want to challenge him recklessly. He did get a big RBI base hit in Game 4 in which his swing looked pretty good and effortless. The question in the remainder of the series will be how can Hamilton manage the pain and break out of his postseason slump. If he is able to find a comfort zone and get some good swings in this week, he could be the difference in this series and come through big for the Rangers.
He is due
Outside of his struggles with injuries, ranging from bad hamstring pulls to harsh foul balls that he has hit off of his own body parts, Beltre has been as dangerous as any slugger in baseball this season. Beltre had a great season of .296 with 32 HR and 105 RBI, despite being out for an extended period of time. He did not stop there. Thus far in the postseason he has hit a respectable .288 and hit 3 HRs and had 7 RBIs. That number is a bit misleading because he hit them in one game against Tampa Bay in the Division Series, but it’s safe to say that given his track record this season, and his ability to hit for power, Beltre is certainly a threat to hit a huge home run that could make a difference in this series. He is due, and I have a feeling he might be right on time for the Rangers in the backend of this series for the Rangers.
Forget the name...He's a superstar
Many baseball fans did not know a lot about David before the postseason. However, he is this year’s Cody Ross. A young, talented player that has absolutely put on a show and at times carried the Cardinals down the stretch and in the playoffs. He has amassed an impressive 4 HR and is tied for a postseason lead with Pujols for 16 RBI. He is as much a threat as anyone right now at the plate. He has not done a great deal of damage thus far in the World Series, but he hasn’t exactly shown signs of cooling off either. If he were more established, I would have him higher up on the list.
Napoli has always been a threat to hit the long ball since he started getting significant playing time in Los Angeles for the Angels. Although he never has been one to hit for average in the past, and struck out quite a bit, this year has been a bit of a breakout year for him. He managed to hit a very surprising .320 with 30 HR and 75 RBI. In a lineup full of sluggers, he has been as dangerous a bat in the lineup as any of the others. His power was on full display in Game 1 when he hit an absolute bomb off of Chris Carpenter, who had otherwise pitched a stellar game. His home runs usually are convincing and he has been pretty clutch thus far in the playoffs. Napoli, to me, has all the makings of a player that could become a hero in this series with a timely home run. Look for him to be heard from before this series is said and done.
No one is scarier in the Texas lineup...
Nelson Cruz epitomizes a pure power hitter. He is not one that is going to hit for average, he is not always going to have the best at-bats, and he certainly will strike out a lot, but when it comes down to it, there is virtually no one in the game that is more dangerous on any given at bat. Nelson Cruz showed how hot he could be when he set an ALCS records in Home Runs (6) and RBI (13). As MVP of the series, he put his stamp all over the series as he continuously smoked the ball into the stands in majestic fashion and was a tough out throughout. In this series, he only has 1 HR and 2 RBI, but again, with Cruz, at any point he can hit a back-breaking home run that strikes lasting fear into the St. Louis players, managers, and fans. I think it would be a bad idea to count Cruz out in terms of being a game changer in this series. In fact, for the Rangers, he’s their most likely candidate to be hero.
I'd bet on him...
This pick should not be very surprising. He is regarded by most as the best player in baseball, and he has not disappointed a great deal this postseason. In stretches, he has not been terribly productive, but he has always managed to get VERY hot at times. Thus far in the series, he has batted .313 with 3 HR and 6 RBI. Almost all of that production took place in his legendary Game 3 performance, in which he clubbed 3 HR in a football score blowout of the Rangers. He has hit 5 HR and 16 RBIs while hitting .390 in the postseason overall after really punishing the Brewers with an impressive display of all-around hitting. In the end, as this series nears it’s completion, as courageous and daring as Ron Washington may be, he has to be more than cautious in how he approaches Pujols in the remainder of this series. At this point, any mistake could cost the Rangers dearly and play a big part in the outcome of this series. Albert is the most dangerous slugger in this series.
He has been an unsung hero so far...I wouldn't sleep on him being a factor in the end.
Although he has been relegated to the bench in the games in St. Louis this series, and not a full time starter throughout the season, he has been a very dangerous option for the Cardinals. Whether he’s pinch hitting and completely dominating, the Rangers’ starter turned overpowering setup man Alexi Ogando, or battling starting pitching as a starter, he has been dangerous in this series. During the season, in limited at bats he batted .315 with 11 HR and 40 RBI. Do not be surprised if he plays a role in the outcome of this series as he has already thus far (especially early in the series).