You know, I’ve been looking at the match ups for the 2011 World Series, that pits the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Texas Rangers, since about an hour after the Cardinals recorded the final out in the NLCS against the Brewers and I have to tell you…..these teams are pretty evenly matched and, I don’t know about you, but I am having a difficult time separating them or picking a winner if you will.
Don’t get me wrong….I’m betting on St. Louis. I mean, almost 40 years as a fan and several years being a correspondent of theirs, I really don’t have a choice. But the reality of it is this series, on paper, looks to be very competitive. Over the past several days I went position by position to try to see which team has the edge but it seems to me I’m going in circles. Perhaps you can help…..and remember; I’m a Cardinal’s correspondent and have been watching them closely all year long. I can’t say the same for Texas. In any event, here’s what I come up with:
Yadier Molina (.305, 14 HR’s-65 RBI’s) vs. Mike Napoli (.320, 30 HR’s-75 RBI’s)
Molina is coming off a career year in all three major categories (BA, HR and RBI’s) while his defensive is still the best in the majors from where I sit. His rifle for a right arm not only cuts down would be base stealers at an alarming rate (50%) but he revolutionized throwing behind runners leading off of first base. (He has 14 pickoffs of runners leading off of first in the past two years while the next closest catcher has 6. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said about two weeks ago that Molina is “the most underrated Cardinal, and we wouldn’t be where we are without him”…those words ring true for sure.
Napoli has an eye popping 30 HR’s in just 113 games play and in just 369 At Bats, that’s impressive. That being said, I’m not sure how much playing time he’ll get as he might be sharing time with Yorvit Torrealba (.279, 7 HR’s, 37 RBI’s). In Torrealba you get better defensive and with Napoli you obviously get more run production. Ranger manager Ron Washington will have to choose carefully who he starts. Edge: Even
Albert Pujols (.299, 37 HR -99 RBI) vs.Michael Young (.338, 11 HR’s- 106 RBI’s))
It’s funny how Pujols hits .299, 37 homers and drives in 99 and everyone is saying “What wrong with Albert?”….the answer is nothing. Did the whole contract situation get into his head? Maybe….thru the entire year he looked to me like he was pressing a bit. He finally showed some flaws in that power swing he has. Here’s a little help for the Rangers, you want to get Albert out? Pitch him inside or down and away…that’s it….if you pitch him belt high or up, you are taking a big chance he puts that pitch into orbit….say around the planet Neptune.
Young is obviously is a star in his own right. Along with that astronomical .338 average this 35 year old drove in a career high 106 runs while hitting just 11 HRs, to me, that proves he too is a clutch hitter. He also tossed in 41 Doubles for good measure. Edge: Cardinals
Ryan Theriot (271, 1 HR- 47 RBI’s) vs. Ian Kinsler (.255, 32 HR-77 RBI’s)
The Cardinals will flip flop second baseman. Ryan Theriot will play second vs. LHP while Skip Schumaker (.283, 2 HR-38 RBI’s) will probably play vs. RHP. Both have been clutch for St. Louis this season (key hits in key situations) while playing well defensively. They do not, however, stack up offensively to Kinsler.
Kinsler has a 30-30 year (32 HRs-30 SB’s) and that’s mighty impressive. He also contributed 34 Doubles and 4 Triples while batting an ordinary .255. That being said, he is batting .297 in the month of October. This guy is big threat with a bat in his hand. Edge: Rangers (big)
David Freese (.297, 10 HR- 55 RBI’s) vs. Adrian Beltre (.296, 32 HR’s- 105 RBI’s)
Perhaps the tightest match up out of all the positions. Don’t let Freese’s regular season stats (albeit .297 is nothing to sneeze at) fool you. David is nothing short of a superstar on the rise. He possesses excellent power to all fields (especially right-center), plays a good third base and I agree with manager Tony LaRussa when he said several weeks ago Freese is “one of the guys you want up there when the game is on the line”.
Freese is also coming into this series white hot. After winning the NLCS MVP, he is hitting an eye popping .425 in October and hit .545 in the NLCS with 3 HRs as well. The Rangers’ pitchers absolutely must respect him or he will make them pay big time.
Beltre is another who had a huge season while playing just 124 games, which seems to be a recurring theme with the Rangers. Anyway, He had his biggest offensive year since 2004 (when he had a mind blowing year…..334, 48 HR’s and 121 RBI’s). Beltre is another who has proven to be a bona-fide run producer in just about all of his 13 year career and at just 32 years old, he still can be for a while. Edge: Even
Raphael Furcal (.231, 8 HRs-28 RBIs) vs. Elvis Andrus (.279, 5 HR’s-60 RBI’s)
The numbers for Furcal are skewed a little being he spent considerable time on the disabled list earlier in the year. That being said, other than an occasion long ball Furcal (in my opinion) has been a bit of a bust since the Redbirds acquired him. He hit .222 as a Cardinal in the regular season and just .136 in the NLCS. This speedster is going to have to step his game up as a “table setter” for the big bats in the line up if the Cardinals are to be successful in this series.
Andrus, on the other hand, had a solid year for the AL Champs. At .279, he also contributed 27 Doubles as well as 37 Stolen Bases. But perhaps the stat that most caught my attention about him was his strikeout rate, which was 1 strikeout every 14.2 At Bats. With stats like that, he seems to me as a prototypical upper line up batter. Edge: Rangers
Matt Holliday (.296, 22 HR’s- 76 RBI’s) vs. Josh Hamilton (.298, 25 HR’s-98 RBI’s)
Albeit perennial All Star Holliday missed some 40 games due to a variety of injuries, he was still able to put up a good season statically. Finally near 100% healthy, Holliday quietly tore up the Phillies and Brewers pitching. The 6’4”, 235 pounder was 12 for 32 (.375) combined in the two playoff series. Holliday is a much better off speed pitch hitter than a fastball hitter and can smack a ball the other way (rightfield) when necessary (as he did several times in the NLCS). He’ll bat either clean up or in the fifth spot depending on if there is a lefty or a righty on the mound for Texas. Regardless, he is a big out the Rangers must get in order to be competitive.
I have a little confession to make about Hamilton. I have to tell you, there is a little part of me that roots for this guy every time I see him play. With everything he has overcome in his life (drug addiction), I can’t help it. But I digress, Hamilton is coming into this series after hitting .364 in his last 7 games and, like Holliday, the Cardinals must get him out consistently because he is capable of being a one man wrecking machine. Edge: Even
Jon Jay (.297, 10 HR’s- 37 RBI’s) vs. David Murphy (.275, 11 HR’s-46 RBI’s)
The speedy Jay was flirting with a .350 batting average earlier in the year but has tailed off a bit since. (He’s hitting just .216 in the month of October) and he looks to be in the same boat as SS Raphael Furcal as he must step his offensive game up. He will most likely hit second in the line up and will need to get on base for the Cardinals’ 3 or 4 main power hitters. If he can do that? The rest is easy as Jay, who has an average to below average arm, can “go and get them” defensively as good as anyone in the league.
Murphy hasn’t played a full season yet (he has not played more than 138 games) but his numbers are impressive regardless. He is a career .280 hitter and hit 17 HR’s in 2009 so you know he has some pop in his bat. He comes into this series off a big ALCS where he was 7 for 17 (.412). Edge: Even
Lance Berkman (.301, 31 HR’s-94 RBI’s) vs. Nelson Cruz (.263, 29 HR’s- 87 RBI’s
Berkman, who was recently named “Comeback Player of the Year” and rightfully so, has been an intricate part in the Cardinals year as well. He provides nice protection for Albert Pujols and/or Matt Holliday in the already stacked lineup. He should spend most of this series in rightfield albeit I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him DH and have Allen Craig, another young rising star, play right. In any event, the combination of Berkman and Craig provide St. Louis with potent RF/DH combo.
I’ve always like Cruz, this guy hits with big power and, like Pujols except the other way around, the Cardinals must pitch this guy down in the zone. They should not, under any circumstances, pitch him at the belt line or above because he too has made a habit of launching pitches up in the zone. Cruz is another one who has yet to play a full season (injuries) yet has 106 careers homeruns in just 3 years. Big power, dangerous hitter and plays defensive as well. Edge: Even
This department is pretty close too. In fact, during the regular season the Rangers had a team ERA of 3.79 while the Cardinals team ERA was 3.74. How is that for evenly matched?
Neither team had the 19, 20 or 21 game winner, but the Rangers had a pair of 16 games winners (C.J Wilson and Derek Holland) while the Cardinals had just one pitcher (Kyle Lohse) that won 14 games.
I believe the Cardinals have the best starting pitcher of both teams (bonafide big game pitcher Chris Carpenter, even though its rumored he has a sore elbow) while the Rangers, overall, have the better staff. Edge: Even
If you would have asked me several months ago, I would have told you the Rangers have a far superior bullpen to the Cardinals especially with the acquisition of shut down reliever Mike Adams, but I have to think twice about that being the Cardinals bullpen basically carried the team thru the entire NLCS against the Brewers. Pro-tem closer Jason Motte is probably equal to that of Rangers closer Neftali Feliz (2-3, 32 Saves-2.74 ERA) as Motte retired 22 of the 23 batters he faced in the NLCS with a light up the radar gun fastball. (99 MPH). Edge: Even
Mitch Moreland may play a little first base in this series. Moreland had a decent year (he only played 134 games) and probably could have had gaudier numbers (.259, 16 HR’s and 51 RBI’s) if he didn’t miss some 25-30 games. Speedy OF Craig Gentry could also see a good amount of playing time as he hit .271 in the regular season and swiped 18 bases. They also have veteran Endy Chavez (.307 in 87 games) and Esteban German who was picked up not long ago as a back up infielder and is 5 for his first 11 At Bats.
The Cardinals bench is comprised of Adron Chambers who was playing Triple A ball just a few weeks ago, Nick Punto, who hit .278 in limited action, Daniel Descalso, an adequate fill in, back up catcher Gerald Laird, who just .232 for the season and rising star Allen Craig. I hesitate to put Craig on the bench because as I stated earlier Craig will either DH, Play Right Field with a remote chance he will be playing Leftfield too. Regardless, Craig has to be in the line up in some capacity, this kid has too much talent to leave on the bench. Edge: Rangers
I have great respect for Ron Washington. He just lets his players play and tries to stay out of the way. He also earned my respect by coming clean (no pun intended) on the whole random drug test that he was going to failed and admitted to it before the test was taken. That’s a stand up, class guy and like I said I respect him for it.
That being said, LaRussa has been to this dance before….several times…..and experience in the World Series is, like mastercard, priceless. Edge: Cardinals
Cardinals in 6….C’mon, as I stated in my introduction, I’ve been a Cardinal fan for almost 40 years and a correspondent for the last several…..cant go against my own team.
In any event, thanks for reading and enjoy what should be a great series!