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2011 World Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers

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What do you get when you take a team that with spring Training odds of 22-1 and match them up with a team at 18-1? Nothing other than the 2011 World Series with the surprisingly still alive St. Louis Cardinals taking on the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers.

St. Louiswas pretty much dead in the water when Adam Wainwright went down in Spring Training. They were more than dead when September began and they were 10 games out of the National League wild card race. Had the Braves simply gone 11-17 in their final month we wouldn’t be talking about the Cardinals chances… but they didn’t… and we are.

Had Adam Smith ever been in the same room with Tony LaRussa, no doubt the skipper would’ve taken a few flying fists to the forehead. Hands-off he is not. However, his insanely hilarious amounts of over-management in the regular season all came together in the postseason. Seemingly every move LaRussa made came up aces. He could’ve benched Pujols, started Mark Rzepczynski at first and no doubt alphabet man would’ve gone 3-4 with a knock. Is it better to be lucky than good? Cards fans don’t care, they have a shot to win it all… and odds are your team doesn’t.

In order to get it done they will have to defeat the Rangers and their lineup of monsters. TheTexaslineup is a bunch of honey badgers. They don’t care who’s on the mound, they are going to eat them up. They will need every run given that the ERA of their starting pitchers in the ALCS was an abysmal 6.59. Granted, they will be taking on a Cardinal team who’s starters posted an even worse 7.03 ERA. The Cardinals do have a bona fide ace even though Chris Carpenter is banged up; however he compares favorably to the Rangers rotation of good-not-great options. Taking a look at the probable starters you can clearly see a lot of maybes in the group. Everyone listed below is capable of stepping up and hurling a gem, however the probability of anyone not name Carpenter pitching a game for the ages is quite low.

Game 1: Wed. in St. Louis: C.J. Wilson vs. Chris Carpenter
Game 2: Thu. in St. Louis: Colby Lewis vs. Jaime Garcia
Game 3: Sat. in Arlington: Derek Holland vs. Edwin Jackson
Game 4: Sun. in Arlington: Matt Harrison vs. Kyle Lohse

Despite having the best player on the planet in Albert Pujols, the aforementioned Carpenter, and home-field advantage, the Cardinals find themselves in the familiar position of fighting an uphill battle to the title. The reason? Well, beyond Carpenter the Cardinals rotation boasts one #4 starter after the next; mediocre at best pitching and the fact that the Rangers can mash andSt. Louishas a dangerous situation on their hands.

It’s somewhat silly to examine the lineups against each other since they don’t, you know, face each other, so I won’t, but I will say that both teams have no problems leaving the yard. The Rangers have the hottest hitter on the planet in Nelson Cruz to go along with perhaps baseball’s most naturally gifted in Josh Hamilton. Add to that, talented table setters and the dangerous Adrian Beltre and home-run threat Mike Napoli. Runs won’t be at a premium for the Rangers. They will throw up 6 and dare you to beat them. So far no team has, but the Cardinals are no slouches in the run production department. Cruz may be the hottest andHamiltonmay be the most gifted, but there is no question that Pujols is the best player in baseball and one of the best all-time. His running mates are nothing to sneeze at either. Matt Holliday is in the top 2 or 3 outfielders in the game, Lance Berkman has enjoyed a career renaissance this season and David Freese, Rafael Furcal, and John Jay can all be counted on to contribute. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in saying that scoring won’t be an issue; it will come down to which staff can keep the other team below 5 runs. One thing to watch is how the southpaw-heavy Rangers deal with the southpaw-crushing Cardinals. We may very well be in for a series where bullpens account for 75% of innings pitched.

Speaking of bullpens, neither team would be where they are without very good ones. Both the Cardinals and Rangers heavily relied upon their ‘pens to get them out of jam after jam… and they did just that. Does either of them have anything left in the tank? This close to the finish line, I say adrenaline will carry them the rest of the way, but it’s another area to keep an eye on. If it comes down to a matter of bullpens, I prefer the Rangers. Not to say the Cardinals ‘pen is bad, but they are pitching way above their heads. Never mess with a winning streak though and they may be able to keep it up for another week.

Despite what the national media and pseudo-comedians will tell you, this should be a very good series. Baseball seemingly can’t win. A series of pitchers duels is panned by critics for being “boring and uninteresting,” while this, a series with all the offense you can handle, I’ve heard referred to on national television as “a mockery of a once great game.” I didn’t touch on which team is better defensively (The Rangers) because I don’t believe these games will hinge on a bad defensive play. I also didn’t talk much about the managers, so allow me to do so. Tony LaRussa is a Hall of Fame manager known for his inability to leave anything alone. He is a classic over-manager and from all accounts, proud of it. .When it works, he looks like a genius, when it doesn’t, he looks like the duffer at the driving range with a golf ball swinging from his hat bill, swinging with a straight jacket on, breathing only out of his left nostril. So far, it’s been working, will it continue? That’s up to the players, there’s only so much a manager can do. These are all professionals who are very good at their craft. On the other hand Ron Washington comes across as someone you would see hanging out with Lamont on Sanford & Son. What you don’t see is a great baseball mind that has spent countless hours sitting with Nolan Ryan just talking shop like two expert philosophers discussing a treatise. Perhaps that’s giving Washington too much credit, but he has guided a Texas Rangers team that previously had never won a playoff series, to back to back World Series appearances… and when all is said and done this season, their first World Series title.

 Texas in 6.

Discussion

4 Responses to “2011 World Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers”

  1. ” I didn’t touch on which team is better defensively (The Rangers) because I don’t believe these games will hinge on a bad defensive play.”
    ~I guess an argument can be made for Game 2.

    I, for one, have thoroughly enjoyed the first four games and the variety it has given us. We’ve seen Pitching Staff Duels (Games one and two); A remarkable comeback (Game 2); Offensive Explosion (Game 3, both sides); Superstar Performance on the BIG stage after being chastized in the media (Game 3, Pujols); and an absolute Pitching GEM from the current #4 starter (Game 4, Rangers);

    Proves you can dissect and predict all you (speaking more so to the National writers, at this point)want, but there’s a reason they still play the games.

    Here’s hoping for a Game 7!

    Posted by Bobby Digital | October 24, 2011, 1:09 pm
  2. “Ya Big Dummy”…..great Sanford reference by the way.

    Also, remember when I thought that Rasmus deal was a steal for the Cardinals because of the pitching they’d be getting? They would not have been here if not for that deal. However, I think you do indeed need to build a team to be competitive for the long haul, and many will argue Rasmus has the tools you’d want….but somehow…the Cards have made it, and a great run.

    I really like both teams, so, unlike the ’04 series where Boston vs Cards had me not watching because I couldn’t decide whom to root for, I’m enjoying each and every micro-managing sequence shown by both managers in an effort to prove who is the “Top Dog” of “The Big Show”.

    Hoping for the Cardinals in 7.

    Posted by Bobby Digital | October 24, 2011, 1:15 pm
  3. CARDINALS in SEVEN!!!!

    Posted by Bobby Digital | November 1, 2011, 12:29 pm

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