July 17, 2019

Clearing The Bases

October 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The 2011 World Series is upon us with the Texas Rangers representing the American League, not a shock, and the St. Louis Cardinals doing the same for the National League, quite a shock.  The Rangers were considered the best all around team in the AL for most of if not all of the season.  Yes Yankee and Red Sox fans, they were a better overall team than you.  The Cardinals however were considered an afterthought for most of the season until the Braves collapse allowed them to capture the wildcard spot on the last day of the season.  It doesn’t matter now how each team got there now, only how they play over the next 7-10 days.  Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Starting Pitching:  Both teams won their league’s championship series without a dominating performance from their starting pitchers.  The Cardinals seemed to be happy if their starter could give them 3-4 innings, preferring to play matchups with their bullpen for the majority of the games.  The Rangers had a little more length out of the starters, but used their bullpen just as effectively as St. Louis.  Chris Carpenter would seem to be the best SP in this series, is on normal rest right now, and will almost certainly pitch games 1, 4, and 7.  The Rangers will try to answer with CJ Wilson, but he has had three sub standard starts in a row and may not be up to the task, perhaps he is feeling the pressure of not only the playoffs, but of his upcoming free agency.  None of the other starters for either team are fantastic although Jaime Garcia and Derek Holland are capable of pitching a gem at any time.

Edge: Cardinals

 

First Base:  Albert Pujols versus Michael Young/Mitch Moreland

What can you say about Albert Pujols?  He got off to a very slow start this season but picked it up during the stretch drive and has been almost impossible to get out during the playoffs, simply he is the best player in baseball, should be given the Barry Bonds treatment and walked whenever possible.

The Rangers will go with Young at 1B in St. Louis and probably Moreland in Texas.  Young is a doubles machine and seems to embody what a professional hitter should be, while Moreland is the definition of a hot/cold hitter, dangerous when he’s on, an easy out when he’s not.

Edge: Cardinals

 

Second Base:  Nick Punto versus Ian Kinsler

This is a mismatch no matter how you look at it.  Punto’s best assets is his defensive prowess.  He’s not much of a hitter and batting before the pitcher in St. Louis won’t change that.

Kinsler seems to be the spark that lights the Rangers offense.  His average hasn’t been all that impressive this season but he can still hit and hit for power, he is also a threat on the bases as he can steal a base or two if not paid attention to.

 

Shortstop:  Rafael Furcal versus Elvis Andrus

Furcal has been the steadying influence the Cardinals were looking for when they acquired his services from the Dodgers.  Now he’s not the player he used to be, but he’s not an automatic out either.  Still has a strong arm but does tend to lose focus at times and not make the routine plays.

Andrus also can have problems with the routine play.  His best asset is his speed, he’s a threat to run every time he gets on base.  Has limited to no power.

Edge: Even

 

Third base:  David Freese versus Adrian Beltre

Not as wide a margin between these two players as you might think.  Freese has always had the ability to hit the ball, it was just his ability to stay healthy that has been in question.  He was the MVP of the NLCS, and for good reason, he was just a monster at the plate, making an already dangerous lineup even better.  Many questioned why manager Tony LaRussa constantly rested Freese this season, perhaps he knew this performance was coming.

Beltre also had question marks, in that many wondered if he would have a good year when it wasn’t a contract year, well, question answered, as he had a very good year, and also been a dangerous hitter at the plate in the post-season, including three HRs in one game versus the Rays.  Beltre won’t get cheated on his swings and is more of a long ball threat than is Freese, but neither team will want the other at the plate with the game on the line.

Edge:  Rangers

 

Outfield:  Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Lance Berkman versus Josh Hamilton, Daniel Murphy, Nelson Cruz

Most thought Berkman was just about washed up when he signed with the Cards, but he proved everyone wrong with an MVP like season, he won’t win it, but should be in the top 10.  His performance early in the season carried the Cards while they waited for Albert Pujols to start hitting, unlikely they are where they are without Berkman.  Holliday is one of the best hitters in baseball, but how healthy his wrist is, could have a bearing on how big an impact he has in this series.

Hamilton is in the exact same situation as Holliday as his groin is also hindering his offensive ability, he has also been neutralized against lefties.  Cruz however was a dominant force in the ALCS seemingly hitting a HR every other AB.  He has been moved up in the order, but still, expect the Cardinals to be much more careful pitching to him than the Tigers were.

Edge:  Rangers

 

Catcher:  Yadier Molina versus Mike Napoli

Molina is not the best of hitters although he’s not inept either but he is a very good defensive catcher with a rifle for an arm.

Napoli is the exact opposite a very good hitter with power who is far from a defensive genius, but not a liability either, sort of like Jorge Posada was for the Yankees in his prime.

Edge: Rangers

 

Bullpen:  The strength of both teams and they will surely come into play in this series as neither manager is afraid to play the matchup game.  The Cards were criticized when they traded OF Colby Rasmus for Edwin Jackson and a couple of bullpen arms, but in hindsight it certainly seems to have worked out.  LaRussa is sure to give them a workout this series, except possibly when Carpenter is pitching.

The Rangers are loaded with power arms in the bullpen and can make a nine inning game six if the starters can get that far.  Closer Neftali Feliz is throwing the ball as well as he has all season and new additions Mike Adams and Koji Uehara made a weakness into a strength although Uehara hasn’t been as good as advertised since coming from Baltimore.

Edge:  Rangers

 

Tangibles:  Well the Cardinals do have home field advantage and there is a good chance that most of the games in St. Louis will be played in frigid conditions, not exactly ideal for baseball.  Then there is St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa who may rub people the wrong way but is no doubt one of the best managers in baseball history and has certainly pushed all the right button this post-season.

 

Prediction:  Cardinals in 7

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