Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 World Series Preview

The Texas Rangers are back in the World Series for the second straight season and hungry for the title. The St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series for the first time since they won in 2006. They have already feasted on two of the best teams in baseball's regular season and are ready for more.

The Rangers have had little trouble in making their way back to the World Series for the second straight season. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays three games to one in the American League Division Series and the Detroit Tigers four games to the two in the American League Championship Series. In the series with the Rays they did it with strong pitching, especially from the bullpen, and timely hitting. Each of the four games was settled by two runs or less. In the ALCS, they brought out the whipping stick. Most notably, a new October legend was born, as Nelson Cruz broke the records for home runs (6) and RBIs (13) in a postseason series and was awarded the ALCS MVP.

The Cardinals followed the same unbelievable path they rode into the postseason. After catching the Atlanta Braves from 10.5 games back on August 25th to gain the wildcard seed, they beat down the top two seeds in convincing fashion. The Philadelphia Phillies, owners of the best record in MLB during the regular season with 102 wins were no match for the Cardinals pitching staff in the National League Division Series. Then the grudge match everyone was expecting in the National League Championship Series, turned into a bullying of the Milwaukee Brewers. They took control of the NLCS from their NL Central rivals with a display of fantastic hitting in the middle of their lineup and a superb bullpen performance. The Cardinals also had an October star emerge in third baseman David Freese (.545, 3 HR, 9 RBIs) easily winning him the NLCS MVP.

Notable Postseason Stats:
  • Rangers OF David Murphy has a 1.047 OPS during the postseason while hitting .391
  • 8 of Nelson Cruz's 9 hits have gone for extra bases (6 HR, 2 doubles)
  • Rangers top regular season starter C.J. Wilson has an 8.04 ERA and whopping 1.85 WHIP
  • Pujols, David Freese and Matt Holliday have done serious damage (1.211, 1.315 and .976 OPS respectively)
  • After Chris Carpenter (3.71 ERA) the remaining 3 Cardinals starters have ERAs over 5.74
  • Each team has stolen 7 bases which leads all teams for the postseason
The Matchups:

At the Plate: The Rangers hit, hit and hit some more, consistently all season. The Cardinals have one of the most feared hitters of all time in Albert Pujols and a complimentary cast on a roll. Advantage - Slight edge for Rangers, just too much 1 through 9.

Starters: The Rangers rotation has not been very good as a whole and quite frankly neither has the Cardinals starters.  Advantage - Slight edge for Rangers based on regular season performance.

Bullpen: Has been a major strength for both teams so far. Advantage - Rangers, only because they are a little deeper.

Manager: Ron Washington may be loved by his players, but even they would admit that his best day is Tony LaRussa's average day. Both men have been questioned thus far in the playoffs, but Washington will have to manage at least 2 games with NL rules. Not good, Advantage - Cardinals

Prediction: When all is said and done, the Cardinals only real advantage is home field and even that will not be enough to overtake the Rangers. I think the Rangers have too many powerful weapons, so if one guy is down another picks up the slack. Expect the Rangers to take Game 1 or Game 2 in St. Louis, then two of three in Texas and celebrate their first World Series Championship at Busch Stadium. Texas Rangers in six.