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