2011 World Series Texas Rangers v. St. Louis Cardinals Preview

Posted: October 19, 2011 by Kodi in MLB

Texas walked away with their second consecutive ALCS Championship

While the St. Louis Cardinals are back in the fall classic for the first time since 2006

But the real question is which team has the advantage?

The St. Louis Cardinals will face off against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium Wednesday to determine which team will become the 2011 World Series Champion but each team has come from very different paths. Texas is returning to the World Series after losing to the San Francisco Giants last year and is looking for redemption, while the Cardinals are in the World Series for the 3rd time in 8 years.

Both teams are extremely hot but the Rangers have been lost by the Cardinals unbelievable come from behind streak to even make the Postseason. The Cards were 10 ½ games behind the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves as of August 25 and went 23-8 to finish the season and capture that final postseason spot. The Cards made it despite losing Adam Wainwright for the entire season in spring training to Tommy John surgery.

St. Louis was expected to get trounced by the uber pitching of Philadelphia but shocked the world when Chris Carpenter outdueled Roy Halladay and the Cardinals won the decisive game 5 in Philly 1-0. From Philadelphia the Cards moved on to the Brewers who were favorites to win the series, since they did finish ahead of St. Louis in their division. Milwaukee couldn’t put it together and lost to the Cardinals in 6 games and now the 2011 St. Louis team enter the WS with an eerily similar storyline to 2006.

The Cards got through the Brewers by depending on a solid bullpen and the little engine that could, David Freese. Freese  was 12-22 with 7 runs, 3 doubles, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts while hitting .545/.600/1.091 and played phenomenally but more credit needs to be given to the Cards bullpen. The bullpen ranked 21st in the regular season with a 3.95 ERA but posted a 1.58 ERA against the brew crew. Huge midseason acquisitions of RPs like Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel gave Manager Tony La Russa the ability to make 28 pitching changes in the series. He played the match-ups against the Brewers and played them well.

Texas beat the ALs comeback team, the Tampa Bay Rays, in 4 games a feat that the Phillies couldn’t do against the Cardinals. The Rays stayed hot and beat the Rangers in the series opening game but then lost the next three games by just 4 combined runs. In game 4 Adrian Beltre cranked 3 HRs and launched the Rangers into the ALCS for the second straight year. A solid pitching staff and versatile lineup allowed Manager Ron Washington to sit back and relax, knowing that his team is powerful from top to bottom.

The Rangers thought that they may be facing the Yankees yet again but the Detroit Tigers shocked everyone by relying on Justin Verlander and Delmon Young to get past the pinstripes. The Tigers were sitting dead in the water when Rangers SP Alexi Ogando pitched a gem and Verlander was pulled after the 5th inning. Detroit’s fate was sealed because they weren’t going to win this series by losing one of Verlander’s starts.

Nelson Cruz must have been inspired by Beltre’s game winning performance against the Rays because the 31 year old RF had a series. He hit a HR in 5 of the 6 games against Detroit including 2 in game 2 meaning he finished the series with 6 HRs. He had just 2 other hits, both were doubles, in the series other than his HRs but it didn’t matter because he knocked in 13 RBIs. He had 8 hits, all of them were extra base hits, in 22 at bats, scored 7 runs, walked 2 times and struck out just 4 times on the way to hitting .364/.440/1.273.

These teams are uncannily similar with a mix of power and pitching, which makes it difficult to determine who will walk away victorious. The Rangers were 19-6 in the month of September while St. Louis was 18-8 and in October Texas is 7-3 while the Cardinals are 7-4. So clearly we aren’t able to just pick the hottest team because both squads are playing exceptionally well. Instead we will break them down position by position in hopes of finding who has the deeper bench and more talent.

Catcher:

Texas will likely have Mike Napoli behind the plate most of the time because the Cardinals have home field advantage because of Prince Fielder’s HR in the All-Star Game. Napoli has played predominantly at DH for the Rangers while Yorvit Torrealba took over most of the back stop duties. Napoli is having his best offensive season hitting 30 HRs, 75 RBIs, with a .320 batting average.

St. Louis has one of the best defensive Catchers in the MLB who can completely eliminate a team’s running game. Yadier Molina has a tremendous ability to call a game and gets a lot out of the Cardinals rotation but he’s no slouch offensively. He doesn’t have numbers near the slugging Napoli but he did hit .305 with 14 HRs and 65 RBIs.

Realistically this is a toss-up between an offensive slugger and a defensive mastermind but I think that this game is going to have its fireworks and I’m not talking about throwing Elvis Andrus out at second. I am giving the edge to Texas and Napoli because I think that the extra bat in the lineup is what makes this Rangers lineup scary.

1B:

Texas began the season with controversy circling the contract negotiations of 1B Michael Young and there was even speculations of moving him in a trade. Luckily for the Rangers they decided to keep him and he had one of his best years at the plate. Young hit .338 with 11 HRs and 106 RBIs but spent a lot of his time as a DH during the season. Young will likely play 1B during the games in St. Louis but the Rangers will bring Mitch Moreland in the game at home. Moreland is a great second option for Texas that hit .259 with 16 HRs and 51 RBIs and will likely be a situational pinch hitter for the games at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis also had some drama surrounding their 1B Albert Pujols who is in the last year of his contract and was unable to come to an agreement during Spring Training. Pujols had a “down year” hitting .299 with 37 HRs and 99 RBIs which seems to be a great year by anybody but the machines standards. Pujols makes pitchers worry and improves the lineup around him and although he started the season slow he has looked fantastic in the last few months, especially October.

It doesn’t matter if Pujols had a down year by his standards because by baseball standards he still has an incredible impact on games. Pujols is a series changer and Michael Young is just another guy that can produce near the end of a lineup. The Cardinals have a clear advantage here and if they do win the World Series it will likely because of something Albert Pujols did and if they lose it’s because of something he didn’t do. Look for some long balls in this series and there is nobody who wants it more than Pujols, because there’s nothing like a couple World Series jacks to bring to the bargaining table when he’s signing a new contract in the off-season.

2B:

Texas has a great 2B in Ian Kinsler but he just hasn’t swung the bat well in the postseason so far. He has just 11 hits in 40 at bats with 6 runs, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 9 RBIs and 2 stolen bases in 3 attempts. Kinsler hit 32 HRs during the regular season with 30 stolen bases and a career high 121 runs scored. He is a very talented player but hasn’t come through consistently in the October/November games. Hopefully Kinsler has a better World Series than he did last year when he was 3-16 with a single extra base hit, steal and hit .188/.316/.250.

The Cardinals will be welcoming back Skip Schumacher to 2B after he missed the entire NLCS with an oblique injury. He wasn’t missed against the Brewers but was a big help in the series against the Phillies going 6-10 with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs. Theriot doesn’t have the power like Kinsler does but he is an offensive upgrade from Ryan Theriot. If Manager Tony La Russa is forced to take Schumacher out due to a tweaked injury Theriot isn’t a terrible option, unless he’s running on the basepaths.

Although Kinsler hasn’t pulled through in the clutch thus far he is bound to perform closer to his career averages. He hasn’t won the Rangers any games but he hasn’t lost them any with his glove either and his below average games are on par with either of the Cardinals options. Texas has the advantage at 2B and the likelihood of them winning this series just increases if Kinsler can get his shit together.

SS:

The Rangers have a great young SS in Elvis Andrus who is phenomenal on the basepaths when he can get on them. He hit .279 with 5 HRs and 60 RBIs but this October he is 8-39 with just 4 runs scored and 1 steal in 3 attempts. Andrus needs to get on the basepath to challenge one of the best defensive Catchers in all of baseball; he did steal 37 bases during the regular season. He was another young player who didn’t show up for the Rangers last year in the World Series, hitting .176/.286/.176 and stole just 1 base.

The Cardinals have gotten a spark from a trusty veteran, SS Rafael Furcal, who is 33 but doesn’t want to play like he is. Furcal isn’t going to blow you away with his bat but he can produce effective numbers from the SS position. His defense hasn’t been impeccable this October but has picked up his team in some big spots and shown flashes of great play. The fact of the matter is that he’s still a 11 year vet who isn’t nearly as young or explosive as Andrus.

Both of these players have the ability to add some juice to their teams but I think age will play a factor and the probability leans towards Andrus being more effective than Furcal. It could easily swing the other way but youth shall prevail. The fact that Andrus was in the same situation last year will help him learn how to hone in his emotion and come through for his team.

3B:

Although Adrian Beltre is 32 yet he had his 2nd best season of his career while with Texas this year. He hit 32 HRs, knocked in 105 RBIs, scored 82 runs and hit .296/.331/.561 in the regular season. He had just 25 walks the entire year but only struck out 53 times. Beltre hasn’t played in the postseason since 2004 and has had a good series and a bad one. Against the Rays he was 4-15 and hit 3 HRs in one game but against Detroit he was 6-27 with 3 doubles and 2 RBIs but struck out 10 times. Beltre clearly still has pop in his bat but a minor injury has hampered his play. The Rangers are hoping that Beltre could shake it off and get back to what he’s been doing all season long.

David Freese has been a solid 3B for St. Louis this season and he literally carried them on his back during the Brewers series. He was awarded the NLCS MVP award for his performance, 12-22 with 7 runs, 3 doubles, 3 HRs, 9 RBI, 2 walks and 2 strikeouts while hitting .545/.600/1.091. Freese played like a completely different player in the NLCS but it’s highly unlikely that he’s able to keep such a pace. Freese was hurt during the year but hit .297 with 10 HRs and 55 RBIs. His replacement was Daniel Descalso who hit .264/.334/.353 in 326 at bats but hit just 1 HR and knocked in 28 RBIs.

Something tells me to pick the hot hand, David Freese, over the slumping Adrian Beltre but I think that there will be a huge regression by the Cards 3B. I am giving the edge to Beltre simply because he has been performing at a higher level for a lot longer than Freese and his current streak was just a flash in the pan while Beltre is revitalizing his career. Not to mention that Adrian Beltre is one of the best defensive players at his position recording just 11 errors in 112 games while Freese had 12 errors in just 88 games.

OF:

Josh Hamilton is one of the greatest stories in baseball today, the guy was literally an addict out of baseball after being a number overall pick. He got clean and rededicated himself to the sport he loved and luckily for the Rangers they were the team that gave him a shot and he rewarded them with a 2010 AL MVP award. Hamilton was battered with injury this season just as he has in years past but was still very productive. He had 25 HRs, 94 RBIs in just 121 games and hit .298/.346/.536 but this year wasn’t considered his best. Hambone hasn’t had a performance like he did against the Yankees in the ALCS last season, 4 HRs, 7 RBIs, 3 stolen bases and 8 walks while hitting .350/.536/1.000 but that gives us perspective of what he’s capable of.

David Murphy is one of those players on the Rangers who doesn’t blow you away with his talent and can be lost in a lineup with a bunch of big names. Murphy isn’t going to make or break the Rangers chances at winning the WS but they do need him to improve from his stats last year. In the WS against the Giants last year Murphy had just 1 hit in 7 at bats but this year he is going to have more plate appearances and has to make the most of it.

Nelson Cruz is un-fucking-believable. Can we move on? Cruz won the ALCS MVP after going berserk hitting 6 HRs and knocking in 13 RBIs against the Detroit Tigers. Cruz is a 30 year old who usually hits 7th in a powerful Rangers lineup but can he keep it up? It doesn’t matter if he even cuts those numbers in half, if Cruz hit 3 HRs for 7 RBIs in the World Series I think Texas fans will be happy.

Lance Berkman is a 13 year veteran who left the Houston Astros to join the Yankees last season in hopes of making it to a World Series. The big puma didn’t make it with New York but after signing with the Cardinals he is where he hoped he would be before his career ends. Berkman was the comeback player of the year scoring 90 runs, hitting 23 doubles, 31 HRs, 94 RBIs, walked 92 times and struck out 93 times while hitting .301/.412/.547. Berkman however can’t put it together in the postseason going just 8-38 thus far with 1 HR and 6 RBI in 11 games. Berkman’s only other World Series appearance happened with the Astro’s in 2005 and he was just 5-13 with 6 RBIs in 4 games.

Jon Jay is in his second year at the big leagues and seems to have found his stroke. He isn’t going to overpower you with his bat but his defense is solid and he hit .297/.344/.424 with 10 HRs, 37 RBIs and 28 walks but showed his inexperience striking out 81 times. Tony La Russa may have to hope that this 26 year old kid can keep his shit together under the bright lights of playing in a World Series.

The Cardinals have a healthy Matt Holliday back after he missed 38 regular season games with a variety of different ailments. Holliday was still able to score 83 runs, hit 36 doubles, 22 HRs, 75 RBIs, walked 60 times and struck out 93 times while hitting .296/.388/.525. It was one of the worst seasons in his career but it was all because he couldn’t stay healthy. Holliday wasn’t 100 percent in the series against Philadelphia and had just 9 at bats but he was swinging a hot bat in the series against Milwaukee. He was 10-23 with 6 runs, a HR, 5 RBIs and hitting .435/.500/.652 and could have been NLCS MVP if it wasn’t for Freese.

Both Holliday and Hamilton are some of the best OFs in the game and they have shown us what they can do but neither have a great track record in the World Series. Last year in the World Series Hamilton was just 2-20 with a solo HR and absolutely no productivity hitting .100/.143/.250. Holliday made it to the World Series in 2007 with the Rockies and he faired a little better than Hamilton, going 5-17 with 1 HR, 3 RBIs and hitting .294/.294/.471. Although neither blow you away, rest assured they are both going to try to bounce back in the second WS appearance. I think that this match-up is a wash but believe that Hamilton is relied on more than Holliday is and he is more likely to stand out, especially since Holliday is just coming back from injury.

I think that the way the Rangers are playing right now there OF crew is better than St. Louis but it’s not a lock. Obviously both of these teams have talent on their roster but I feel that Texas has more reliable talent that are explosive and can win games with their bats. The Cardinals need to have Holliday come through and Berkman to get out of his slump because if they aren’t explosive offensively then St. Louis has no chance.

Pitching:

The Texas Rangers have a solid rotation, even after the departure of Cliff Lee, relying on some young talent. C.J. Wilson had a great regular season going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA but the Rangers are 1-2 in the three games he’s started this postseason. He has thrown 15.2 innings and allowed 21 hits, 16 runs, 14 earned, walked 8 struck out 17 but he has given up 6 long balls. Ron Washington is counting on Wilson to turn it around in game 1 against Chris Carpenter.

The Rangers oldest SP is 32 year old Colby Lewis who was 14-10 during the regular season but has the ability to strike out some free swinging Cardinals. 26 year old Matt Harrison was 14-9 in his first full season as a SP and posted a 3.39 ERA during the regular season with 129 strikeouts. Derek Holland is 25 and during his first full season as a starter was 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA but struck out 162 batters. The Rangers have the perfect balance of some young 30 year olds lead the rotation that has two solid SP on the back end.

The Rangers have a lot of depth in their bullpen and it is frighteningly similar to their starting rotation, age wise. They have a flamethrowing 23 year old Closer in Neftali Feliz who it normally set up by a 40 year old Darren Oliver. The Rangers also have a 28 year old Mark Lowe and a 35 year old Yoshinori Tateyama. Feliz had 32 Saves in the year pitching 62.1 innings and striking out 54 while allowing just 42 hits and only 4 HRs but did walk 30 batters in the regular season. Oliver pitched 51 innings and allowed just 3 HRs and walked only 11 while striking out 44 and posting a 2.29 ERA.

St. Louis has Chris Carpenter and not much else in the starting rotation and it could lead to their ultimate demise, unless this series turns out to be a slugfest which could happen. The 36 year old Carpenter was 11-9 during the regular season with a 3.45 ERA but struck out 191 batters in 237.1 innings of work while walking just 55. Carpenter has been the Cardinals rock in the postseason this year starting 3 games and St. Louis won all three. He threw a decisive complete game shutout against Roy Halladay and the Phillies in game 5 of the NLDS. Other than that game Carpenter has won but has also given up 7 runs, all earned, in just 8 inning of work. He could be exposed and that wouldn’t bode well for St. Louis since the rotation behind him is iffy at best.

Kyle Lohse is a 33 year old who was14-8 on the season with a 3.39 ERA but struck out just 111 in 188.1 innings of work. Lohse isn’t the type of pitcher that can dominate a lineup like Texas’ but he can come in there and manage a game when the offense is behind him. Jaime Garcia was 13-7 during the regular season with a 3.56 ERA but has lost both of his postseason starts posting a 3.86 ERA against the Phillies and 7.27 ERA against the Brewers. Edwin Jackson was a huge mid-season acquisition for the Cards from the Chicago White Sox. He was 5-2 after coming to the NL and posted a 3.58 ERA but he has been shaky in postseason play. He won his first game against the Phillies but got lit up for 6 earned runs in 6.1 innings against the Brewers.

The Cardinals are lucky enough to have a deep solid bullpen that Manager Tony La Russa has relied on heavily throughout the postseason. The Cards got a 37 year old Octavio Dotel from the Toronto Blue Jays in the middle of the season and he has become a reliable option for St. Louis to turn to in close games. He has appeared in a couple of games for the Cardinals this October and recorded Ws in both games. Mark Rzepczynski was also acquired from Toronto and he has been a great middle reliever who has stepped up big this postseason. The biggest surprise in St. Louis has to be Jason Motte, who stepped up later in the year to become the Cards Closer and he has thrown heat ever since. Motte has pitched 8 innings this postseason allowing a single hit, no walks, striking out 7 and recording 4 Saves.

The Texas Rangers clearly have the advantage when it comes to pitching which is exactly why there is so much pressure on the Cardinals offense. Realistically if St. Louis doesn’t put up big number this is the Rangers series to take because they have a more reliable pitching rotation than the Cards. St. Louis has a great bullpen but if you’re a Cardinals fan you don’t want another round robin of pitching like there was in the Milwaukee series.

This series isn’t the most intriguing to casual baseball fans but this could be a very entertaining World Series and will likely be a lot closer than most think. Texas is the clear cut favorite but St. Louis has the weapons to make this a series and steal a few games. I am still going to side with Texas even though they may play 4 games on the road but I think they close it out in 6 at home in Arlington. The Rangers have worked extremely hard after being shut down by the San Francisco Giants pitching last year and are ready for redemption.

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