Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cardinals and Rangers Square Off in 2011 World Series

2011 World Series Preview

The Texas Rangers from the American League and the St. Louis Cardinals from the National League will square off in the 2011 World Series starting Wednesday, October 19, in St. Louis. The Cardinals received home field advantage on the strength of the National League winning the All=Star game this season. Home-advantage teams hold a 20-5 edge in the fall classic since 1985.

The two teams share many similarities, with the most glaring being the number of power hitters up and down their lineups. Neither team has exceptional starting pitching, but both have sound, deep bullpens, though the Rangers are arguably the better of the two even though the St. Louis bullpen worked more innings than the starters in their six-game win over Milwaukee in the NLCS.

There are big differences in other areas, however. The Rangers, an expansion team founded in 1961 as the Washington Senators and moved to Arlington, Texas in 1972, are in their second World Series. They were there for the first time last season and are making the return trip after losing to the Giants, four games to one. The Cardinals are one of the most storied franchises in baseball, with a deep and successful history. This will be their 18th trip to the World Series, with ten wins.

Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa is one of the most successful managers in the history of the game, while Ranger manager Ron Washington is in his fifth season as manager of the Rangers.

Games one and two will be played in St. Louis, with games three through five - if necessary - in Texas. If the series goes to a game six or seven, those would be back in St. Louis. This series figures to offer plenty of hits, runs and excitement. It's a fairly even match-up on the field, though the Cardinals have a decided edge with LaRussa calling the shots.

Texas Rangers

Ian Kinsler
The Rangers took out wild card Tampa Bay in the opening playoff series and then topped Detroit, four games to two, advancing to the World Series for the second year in a row.

Pitching is not a priority for Texas, as they possess one of the most talented lineups in the game, starting with leadoff hitter and second baseman Ian Kinsler, who caught fire late in the season, ending up with the team lead - tied with Adrian Beltre - in home runs at 32. Kinsler socked 11 long balls in September, providing even more punch to a murderer's row type of lineup. Always a threat to steal, Kinsler swiped 30 bases in 2011. He also led the Rangers with 121 runs

Adrian Beltre
Michael Young, the most versatile of all the Rangers, had a banner year, leading the team with a .338 batting average - third highest in the AL - and 106 RBI. Young can play just about any position in the field, and has been used at first base, third base and at second.

Third baseman Adrian Beltre had a very productive season with a .296 batting average, 32 homers and 105 RBI. Shortstop Elvis Andrus normally bats second, hit .279 with 37 steals and 96 runs. Catching duties are handled either by Mike Napoli, who batted .320 over the course of the season, or Yorvit Torrealba, a less-potent batter.

The outfield is manned by Josh Hamilton in center, Nelson Cruz in right and David Murphy in left. All three have solid hitting credentials and can hit for power. Mitch Moreland will share first base and DH duties with Young and also has power to spare. The Rangers had 210 home runs as a team, second in the majors to the Yankees (222).

Cruz obliterated the record books in the ALCS, swatting six home runs, to go with 13 RBIs and a .364 batting average. He was the series MVP.

Josh Hamilton
Despite the lack of emphasis on pitching, the Rangers had the fifth-best ERA in the league, at 3.79. The Rangers have enough live arms in their starting rotation and come into the World Sereis well rested. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA) will go in game one, Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95) in game 2, Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40) in game 3, and game four starter will be Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39).

The Ranger's bullpen was strengthened with the addition of Mike Adams, acquired from San Diego at the trading deadline. Adams is one of the best middle men in the game. He worked 27 games for the Rangers with a 2.10 ERA and 25 Ks in 25.2 innings. Closer Neftali Feliz saved 32 games in 38 chances.

St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols
Chris Carpenter
St. Louis is the National League's wild card entrant, finally getting past Atlanta on the final day of the season on the strength of Chris Carpenter's 2-hit shutout in Houston. The Cardinals ousted the heavily-favored Phillies in five games, on a three-hit shutout by Carpenter over the Phillies' Roy Halladay and took out the Brewers in six.

Carpenter will go to the mound in game one, followed in game two by Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56). Kyle Lohse is slated to open game three and Edwin Jackson will start game four. The Cardinal pitching staff was hampered by the season-long loss of Adam Wainwright, but persevered to finish six games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central.

The middle of the Cardinal lineup is packed with power, beginning with perennial all star Albert Pujols, who had an average season - for him - socking 37 home runs and driving in 99 runs while batting .299. Surrounding Pujols are a couple of veteran sluggers, right fielder Matt Holliday(.296, 22, 75) and Lance Berkman (.301, 31, 94).

The Cards also have a number of young hitters with power, including outfielder Allen Craig, who hit .315 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI in 75 games, and third baseman David Freese (.297, 10, 55). Yadier Molina is probably the best defensive catcher in the game and he had an excellent season at the plate, batting .305 with 14 HR and 65 RBI. John Jay hit .295 and is the regular center fielder. Freese was the NLCS MVP, with three homers and nine RBI.

The Cardinals generally hit for a high average and have plenty of power to challenge the Rangers' pitching. If Pujols, Berkman and Holliday hold their own, the Cardinals stand a fighting chance, though late relief has been an issue all season. Fernando Salas led the team with 24 saves and Jason Motte is the regular middle-to-late reliever, though both have had their share of rough outings. Salas blew six saves, Motte, four, with nine saves, though in the playoffs, especially against Milwaukee, it was the bullpen which produced the heroes for St. Louis.

No comments: