After nearly seven long months of baseball, only two teams remain on the quest for the sport’s ultimate achievement: A World Series Title. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers took very different routes to get to this point, but both teams are quite similar when you take a good look at this matchup.
The Rangers were expected to be here. They lost to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 World Series, and apart from the addition of Adrian Beltre and loss of Cliff Lee, this roster hasn’t changed much at all. Texas is the first AL team to win two consecutive pennants since the Yankees pulled off four straight 10 years ago. They had a stranglehold on the AL West for the majority of the regular season. The Cardinals, on the other hand, were considered a lost cause in late August when they trailed the Milwaukee Brewers by 10.5 games in the NL Central. It was difficult to tell before the season how things would play out in the new and improved NL Central, but the early loss of Adam Wainwright was considered too tough of a blow to overcome by many people (including myself). But here they are. St. Louis eliminated the mighty Phillies and Brewers to appear in the 18th World Series in franchise history.
Not the Phillies, not the Red Sox. It’s the Cardinals and Rangers. Gotta love the unpredictability of Major League Baseball. After the jump, I’ll break down the 2011 World Series and make my prediction.
The starting rotation has proven to be the main weakness of both of these teams during the postseason. Texas’ staff posted the third most quality starts in all of baseball during the regular season (99), but C.J. Wilson’s lone quality start is the only one for this team in the playoffs. Carpenter, Jackson, and Garcia each have a postseason quality start under their belt, but the Cards rotation as a whole has been inconsistent. The fact of the matter is that you never know what you’re going to get out of the starter on any given night for either of these teams, and nobody is going to scare you once you get past Carpenter and Wilson. With that said, I think there is a much better chance of Garcia, Lohse, and Jackson stepping up than there is for guys like Colby Lewis and Derek Holland to do so.
This is like choosing between filet mignon and prime rib. You can’t lose. We’re talking about two of the very best bullpens in all of baseball here. With names like Motte, Feliz, Salas, Ogando, Feldman, Dotel, and Rzepczynski (otherwise known as scrabble), these bullpens provide depth, electricity, reliability, and consistency. Don’t be surprised if this series is won or lost in the bullpens.
You might not want to miss a single pitch with these offenses at the plate, because both have the ability to change a game with one swing of the bat at any time and in any situation. Both the Cards and Rangers have found themselves in quite a few slugfests down the stretch, and both have produced runs at a prolific rate. Nelson Cruz is becoming the new Mr. October with a 6 HR/13 RBI ALCS, and David Freese has emerged as a star in St. Louis after winning the NLCS MVP. Napoli and Molina are two excellent hitting catchers, while Pujols/Holliday/Berkman vs. Hamilton/Young/Beltre is a powerful matchup in the middle of these orders. Both clubs finished top-5 in runs and batting average during the regular season, but I think the Rangers have a bit more depth from top to bottom in their lineup.
Unfortunately, this category isn’t even close. The Rangers had a team UZR of 25.9 during the regular season, while the Cards fielding brought them down with a -29.8 UZR. The Rangers have range (haha) that the Cards simply do not, but they do tend to make some mistakes in the field in terms of errors. As far as baserunning is concerned, Texas stole 143 (5th most in MLB) bases in the regular season and have stolen seven in the postseason, while St. Louis stole 57 (2nd worst in MLB) in the regular season and has stolen seven in this postseason as well. Even thought the Cardinals attempted about half as many steals as the Rangers, they were thrown out just six less times. That’s bad.
You have to give Ron Washington a lot of credit for leading his AL team to great success with sort of an NL style, but Tony La Russa is a postseason genius. He has 33 years, six pennants, and two World Series Championships to his name, and ranks third on the all-time postseason wins list by a manager. His track record is incredible, and he has pushed all of the right buttons to get the Cardinals to this point. Love him or hate him, the guy wins.
Cardinals in 7
Home field advantage will be more important than many people realize, and I have a hard time imagining the Cardinals falling short with all the momentum on their side. At this point, it seems like they’re destined to win the World Series, and they have all of the right pieces in place to make it happen.
Feel free to head over to our flagship site, Call to the Pen, for some extra insight on the 2011 World Series.