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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sportaholic World Series Preview: St.Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals will do battle in the 2011 World Series. If you thought this would be your championship match-up raise your hand…… Yeah, that’s what I thought. Going in to this season the notion of thinking was that Philadelphia and Boston were 1 and 1A, but after the Red Sox monumental collapse thanks to beer, fried chicken and video games that didn’t even make it to the playoffs. The Phillies with their four aces of Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt and Lee rolled through the regular season obtaining the best record in the major leagues at 102-60 only to get ousted in the opening round by a Cardinal team that needed Atlanta to basically disintegrate before our eyes and give up a 9 game lead to allow the Cards to play in October. This has been a unpredictable year as evident by the teams who made the playoffs.

I know its all about when your team gets hot but the Cardinals have took it to another level after barely making it in. St. Louis does a lot of things well and you have to if your managed by the legendary Tony La Russa. This team had plenty of chances to cave in but they stuck to their guns and the results could be all that they asked for. They had so many setbacks with the Adam Wainwright injury to start the season and the elephant in the room known as the Albert Pujols contract negotiation. This is a team of resolve as they have proved all season that when you think their done, then they become their best.

The Rangers on the other hand probably have been the most consistent team in baseball all year. Led by their sluggers of Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz they are have been dominant at teams especially in this post-season run. Cruz has been red hot as he belted a ALCS record 6 homers and 15 RBIs. He carried the Rangers past Detroit but he is but one of Texas’s big bats in that lineup. The Rangers go about seven deep in their lineup with Ian Kinsler, Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Cruz, Elvis Andrus, and David Murphy. This is the Rangers second straight trip to the World Series. Last year the Giants were the team that got hot at the right time and were able to take down the Rangers big bats with superior pitching. Is that an omen for them this year, guess we will have to find out.

Now lets take a look at who has the advantages in the major categories of pitching, offense, defense, coaching and intangibles

Pitching: St .Louis ace Chris Carpenter has been a mixed bag in the post-season so far. He pitched a gem going 9 innings while giving up no runs in the NLDS against good friend and perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Hallady to get the Cards past the Phillies. He didn’t fare as well in last start against Milwaukee as he gave up 3 runs in just five innings against the Brewers. If he is on his game, he can be the difference maker in this series as he is one of the best pitchers in the game when he is on. The rest of St.Louis’ staff consists of decent starters in Jamie Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, and Jake Westbrook. None of these guys have the shut down capability that Carpenter does which makes so important to the Cardinals. The bullpen struggled for most of the season until they seemed to settle in their roles. Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel were added at the trade deadline and have stabilized the pen. Mark Rzepczynski also deserves credit but the biggest difference was when Jason Motte was promoted to closer. He throws hard and has no fear so of course he is perfect for the closer role.

Texas has had its share of problems with their starting pitching but has been able to overcome them all year for the most part. C.J. Wilson is this staff’s ace but he has struggled in the playoffs this year. He has a 8+ ERA in the postseason and seems to have gotten worse each start. He gave up three homers and six earned in just five innings in game 1 of the ALDS against the Rays. Wilson has to be the counter to the Cardinals ace Carpenter for the Rangers to at least challenge for game 1. Behind Wilson the Rangers have young but sometimes wild Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison. The Rangers just like the Cards shore up their bullpen at the trading deadline. They added Mike Adams from San Diego and Koji Uehara from Baltimore and both have more than pulled their own weight. Alexi Ogando is another interesting relief pitcher who was a starter in the regular season but moved back to the pen in the playoffs. He can go extended innings if needed. Netfali Feliz is as good as they come at closer and has a number of filthy pitches to throw.

Edge: Cardinals. The Cards have the best pitcher in this series with Chris Carpenter and their bullpen is just as good if not even better than the Rangers. The most intriguing thing about Texas’s rotation is that none of their starting pitchers won a game in the ALCS. Think about that one for a second

Hitting: St. Louis has arguably the best hitter in the game with three-time MVP Albert “The Machine” Pujols who of course will be the star of their lineup but a few other players have emerged as well for the red birds. David Freese was named NLCS MVP after hitting for a .545 average with three home runs, three double and nine RBIs. Lance Berkman is always a threat with his power and switch hitting ability. Matt Holliday is one of the better hitters as well in the national league but he hasn’t been hot so far this postseason.

The Rangers counter with a loaded lineup from top to bottom. There are no easy outs with these guys. They will bash you from 1-9 with reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, and most notably this postseason Nelson Cruz. The thing about this team is that they also can hit for average and do the little things that make their hitting even that much more effective. Any of their guys can get hot at any moment and with all the good hitters they have, they are always protected.

Edge: Rangers. While both of these teams are great hitting clubs, (The Rangers had the best average in baseball at .283, were second in hits (1,599) and were third in runs (855).St. Louis, with a pitcher at the bottom of every lineup, was fifth in baseball in batting average (.273), runs (762) and hits (1,513). Those numbers led the NL.While the Rangers were second in the majors in homers (210) and the Cardinals (162) were 13th, the Rangers' second-best slugging percentage (.460) was only four spots ahead of St. Louis (.425).) you have to with Texas with the way they have just been obliterating balls here of late. They absolutely crushed the Tigers pitching staff and I don’t see them getting cold all of a sudden.

Defense: Both of these teams play decent defense. St. Louis is led by perennial gold glover Albert Pujols who has lost a step at first base but can still get the job done. Matt Holliday is an underrated defender outfielder and David Freese has gotten better each year at his position of third base.

The Rangers have a lot of depth in the outfield led by Josh Hamilton. He has good range and a good arm. Elvis Andrus proved this year that he is one of the best at shortstop and should dominate that positon defensively for years to come. Nelson Cruz just like Matt Holliday for the Cards is an underrated defender.

Edge: Push. Both teams are above average defensive teams but neither really has an advantage in this department.

Series Prediction: This should be a well played neck and neck series. You would think that the Rangers should run away with them as they have better hitting, better fielding and are an overall better team then the Cards. But you can’t count the resilient red birds as they have been on the cusp of elimination to many times this year and have a way each time to come out on top. If they can get two or even three great starts from Chris Carpenter than they have a puncher’s chance, on the other hand as long as the Rangers continue to do what they did just to get here, then they should take down the Cards. I have to go with the Rangers in 6 because it seems that their lineup is just too strong and they can overcome the Cardinals in every other department.

Rangers in 6.


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