October 18, 2011

Breaking Down the 2011 Fall Classic

By - Kris Fletcher

The whole theory that the World Series is a meeting of baseball's hottest teams, and not necessarily the best teams, is certainly alive and well.

The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees finished with the best records in each league, yet they didn't survive the first round. Can you guess which teams are tied for the most wins in baseball since September 5th? Why it's the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers of course.

Photo by: Patrick T. Fallon
It's really no coincidence that these are the two clubs that the final series of the season comes down to. They're the two playing the best baseball at the right time.

Texas appears to be the favorites. They won more games during the regular season while playing in what remains the superior league. Their relievers have better pure stuff than the St. Louis relievers. They have better team speed, which makes a much bigger difference in October than at any other time of year. They also have the experience and initiative of having lost the World Series just last season.

However, anyone who expects the Cardinals to be overmatched and swept simply hasn't been paying attention to one of the most entertaining postseasons in recent memory.

Photo by: Jeff Roberson
Besides, these clubs are a lot more similar than you may think:

- Both had potent offenses during the regular season. They ranked among the majors top five in runs scored, while finishing with the fewest strikeouts in their respective leagues.

- Both relied heavily on their bullpens to reach the World Series. Texas' rotation had a 6.59 ERA and zero wins during the American League Championship Series, while St, Louis' rotation had a 7.03 ERA and one win during the National League Championship Series.

- Both had an unlikely League Championship Series MVP who began the series hitting in the No. 7 spot: Nelson Cruz for the Rangers, and David Freese for the Cardinals. In fact, Cruz has not batted higher than seventh in the playoffs despite an American League Championship Series in which he became the first player in history to belt 6 homers and drive in 13 runs in one series.

Photo by: Getty Images
- Both teams clinched the pennant with blowout victories in Game 6: Texas throttled Detroit 15-5, and St. Louis hammered Milwaukee 12-6.

One would think this series will be decided by starting pitching. Which is ironic considering that both squads starting rotations are averaging fewer than 5.0 innings per start in the postseason. Conventional wisdom says, the team who's starters step up, wins.

No doubt the most compelling player on baseball's biggest stage will be Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. He's responded to the pressure of a contract year by hitting .419 with 2 home runs and 10 RBI in the playoffs. If he decides to sign elsewhere following this season, another world championship may be his parting gift to the St. Louis faithful.

Photo by: Jeff Roberson
I think the series will go at least six games, and I like Texas to win it. Mainly because on paper, they just have the better team. Having said that, with St. Louis holding home-field advantage, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them pull the upset if they manage to get back to Busch Stadium for Games 6 and 7.

After all, there's no need for a "happy flight" when you're already in your own backyard.


  1. There's NO WAY Pujols leaves if the Cardinals win the series. For that reason I'm going St. Louis in 7, because if he doesn't come back I'll die. :)

  2. I like Houston. In 3.

  3. First off, I'm a Cardinals apologist - let's get that out of the way.

    Secondly, I don't think they'll beat Texas.

    Thirdly, I didn't think they'd make the playoffs. Or beat Philadelphia. Or Milwaukee.

    I've watched my team win a title and 3 NL pennants, but no Cardinals team has been more fun to watch than this club.

    Still don't think they'll beat Texas...

  4. I'm going with the Rangers in 6. Cardinals have put together a magical run, but I think they fall short. Reminds me of what the Rockies did a few years back. That didn't end well either.

  5. Seems like St. Louis is destined to win it, so I'll go with Texas in a sweep. Lol

  6. I really think the series will go 7 games, so i give St. Louis the nod. They're tough at home. I'd rather see Texas win it though, because Josh Hamilton is my favorite player.

  7. No way you can pick against St. Louis at this point. They've pretty much been playing playoff baseball for two months now. They win it in 6.

  8. Come on Todd. You think they're going to win, you just don't wanna say it aloud and jinx it.

    The old reverse psychology on one's self. Lol

  9. I think the Rangers have something to prove having lost the World Series last year. I'm going Texas in 5.