Cardinals To Win Series
Firstly, Rangers fans should be delighted by the headline – my 2011 predictions have been execrable (according to this blog, the series opens in Atlanta tomorrow night with the Red Sox as the visitors – or maybe it’s in Boston; maybe I got the All-Star Game wrong too).
Worse still I have a great affection for Ron Washington, his third base coach Dave Anderson, and his Game One starter C.J. Wilson. Beyond that, there is no love lost between me and Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa. The purist in me is offended that the regular season is so irrelevant that what it proved was the fourth best team in the National League is my pick to win the Series. And I happen to hate team catchphrases and don’t particularly care about whether the Cardinals’ flights are happy or morose.
Nevertheless, here are a few points that made this forecast unwelcome but necessary. You know that dreadful Cardinals’ starting rotation? Its post-season ERA is a nauseating 5.43 – and the Rangers are at 5.58. That anemic St. Louis line-up with the pitcher and the relief pitchers and a few popgun bats off the bench all hitting? It’s batting .288, getting on base at a .345 rate, slugging .448, for an OPS of .793. The awe-inspiring Texas line-up so deep with the DH that Boomstick Himself hitting way down there in the seventh? .259/.330/.434/.764. Having thus far played one more game than the Rangers, the Cardinals have outscored them 62 to 55.
Speaking of Boomstick, what if that tweak in Game 6 of the ALCS, that seeming oblique injury, merely hinders Nelson Cruz in the Series? What happens to a slugger who can’t twist his body fully without searing pain? Cruz has been fragile enough that to begin with his health is always in doubt. Worse still, there are probabilities in play here, and if your performance in the Division Series was 1-for-15 with no homers and no RBI, and then your performance in the Championship Series was 8-for-22 with six homers and 13 RBI, your performance in the World Series is much likelier to look like the first set of numbers than the second.
The DH “thing”? The Cardinals led the majors in hitting on the road, finishing third in road home runs behind only the Yankees and Red Sox. The Cardinals, thought to be comparatively weak sisters at the plate, basically led the National League in every offensive category except home runs, and struck out the fewest times in the NL. To be fair, Texas struck out even less – 48 times less – but without pitchers hitting the stat is slightly deceptive for comparison purposes. Cardinals’ pitchers struck out 111 times as batters during 2011, meaning their eight position players (and pinch-hitters and DHs) only struck out 867 times in total.
Then there is the little matter of the efficacy of starting three lefthanders against the Cardinals (in point of fact, if all three games scheduled for Arlington are played, St. Louis would face the three southpaws in a row). I appreciate the fact that the Cardinals did better against righties than any other NL team (and overall sit behind only Texas throughout the sport), and I’m aware that the key to beating the Cards this year has been to make Lance Berkman bat from the right side, where he is useful but not a force. But it still strikes me as inherently dangerous to offer Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, a blossoming David Freese, and Allen Craig the opportunity to face the likes of Wilson, Holland, and Harrison. To me the play is to bag one of the lesser two and opt for Alexi Ogando, rather than waiting for Holland to blow up again and then going and getting Ogando. Against lefties in the post-season the Cardinals battered Cliff Lee, were bewildered by Randy Wolf, and held their own in a loss to Cole Hamels.
The bullpens have both been superb – the Cardinals’ particularly – and the fact that neither team had to go to a seventh game in the LCS means both sets of relievers are likely to be fresh. If there is one intangible in Texas’s favor in this series, it’s that they’ve faced Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski this year, with some success. In fact they hung a loss Rzepczynski as recently as July 23, even though the Eyechart Man was effective against David Murphy (0-2) and Mitch Moreland (0-1) in four appearances. As images of Rzepczynski nearly getting Pujols killed Saturday night dance in the heads of Cardinals fans, it is trivially noteworthy to remember that his loss in Arlington nearly three months ago resulted from his own throwing error on a Moreland sacrifice.
So if you want to get an exotic wager in on the weirdest thing that could happen in the World Series, it would be Rzepczynski blowing an inning, or a lead, or a game, by picking up a bunt and running face first into Pujols for a solid E-1 and possible concussion.
Of course, just picking the Cardinals is an exotic enough wager.
I’m a little astonished that you did an entire column on the World Series and the match ups, without even mentioning the Cards’ biggest plus: Chris Carpenter. Two starts, a likely 2 wins…that means the Rangers, who will be battling the stigma of not having home field, will also have to win 4 of the remaining 5…
“Stigma” implies blame or shame of some sort. It’s not the Rangers’ fault that they don’t have home field in the Series. That has everything to do with Bud Selig’s desire to juice up the All-Star Game with putting home field advantage on the line.
A better word would be “burden” or “disadvantage.”
I hope you’re right Keith. I predict Rangers in 5 but I want the Cardinals to win. The Rangers aren’t hamstrung this year by Cruz (bad pun) like last year and they won’t have to make the decision of having Vlad’s bat (good– sometimes) or Vlad’s defense (bad– at AT&T anyway). Their bullpen is much better this year. Ogando and Adams in particular. But the only thing I got right this year was saying in March the Yankees should trade for Doug Fister. Cubs over the Red Sox in the World Series would have been a good prediction– if it had been for 2014. Everybody had the Red Sox and/or Phillies. But Cubs?!
Just keep telling yourself: The state that foisted Dubya and Rick Perry upon the world doesn’t DESERVE a World Series championship! And sheesh, get over the LaRussa/Pujols thing with Glenn Beck already. That nutjob is off Fox Snooze, so why bother? Besides, I’m firmly in the Whitey Herzog camp when it comes to discussing the best Cardinal manager of the last 50 years, but nobody can deny the outstanding job Tony’s done this season.
Thanks Keith, for dooming the Cardinals with your prediction. Why couldn’t you just pick the Rangers like everybody else? I don’t like Tony LaRussa either and I am a diehard Cardinal fan, but that is no reason to hate on the team. What does your good friend Bob Costas think of your Cardinal hate?
While we’re bashing catch phrases, could we at least all agree that we don’t have to suffer through that annoying “beast mode” nonsense? And come on, Keith, the regular season is what it is, teams shouldn’t get bonus points in the post season because of games they won in April and May. It comes down to who performs when it really counts. And Keith, I think that LaRussa is kind of the Ying to your Yang – you both are baseball nerds and aren’t afraid to let someone know that you disagree with them. Go Redbirds!
One more for Stan!
By all logic, the Rangers should win. But then, the Rangers’ President knows what it’s like to play for team who logic dictates should lose the World Series.
A former big league ball player and sportscaster I know once told me LaRussa is the biggest Horse’s a__ in the game. Still, can’t say I am a big fan of the Strangers either, guess I’ll just root for McCarver to lose his voice.
I think either way, you win.
Keith, did you hear that? That was the sound of my heart breaking…Dammit Man! All this time I thought you were the perfect man (politics and sports-my passion). As a Texas girl, it pains me to see my favorite politico & sports junkie, go against my beloved Rangers-EVEN if, you’re probably right. Damn you man! You’re breaking my heart. XOXOXO – Annie
What was LaRussa thinking when he yanked Motte and brought in Arthur Rhodes? He might as well have gone with Arthur’s brother, Lonesome.
It breaks my heart that Keith has little love for the Cards. LaRussa and Pujols speaking at Glen Beck’s Warmacht rally broke my heart as well. Both side are not equally broken, as I admire your politics a lot more than I love baseball.
All in all, the TEAM of the Cardinals did an amazing job overcoming their managment and winning the series. You have to ask yourself: What does it mean when the team’s morale turning point is a meeting called, not by management, but by the starting pitcher and the ace hitter?